Euro 2020: Tournament caused spike in gambling problems, says charity, which warns of return of live sports

·2-min read

The Euros caused a spike in gambling problems, a charity has said.

Calls to the National Gambling Helpline went up by 28% during the tournament, compared to the same time period last year.

Gamcare, the charity that runs the service, says the return of live sports this summer is leading to a rise in dangerous gambling behaviour.

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The charity's chief executive, Anna Hemmings, said: "Certainly people who've had gambling issues in the past tell us that it really impacts on their ability to watch sport. Partly because it's triggering and partly because of (gambling companies') sponsorship and advertising."

Over half of the helpline's advisers say they've spoken to a recovered gambler who relapsed during the Euros, with some saying people reported going to extreme lengths to gamble again.

Some callers said they had been to place a bet on the football in disguise because they had previously asked bookmakers to ban them.

Other callers spoke about using their children's phones to avoid gambling blocks they have placed on their own devices.

"If you've got a consistent run of matches and different sporting activities going on, that's a risky time in terms of gambling escalation. It's easy for gambling to get more frequent and for longer sessions," added Ms Hemmings.

Matt Burgiss is a recovered gambling addict. He tried to kill himself after spending all his savings and getting into debt.

He said: "There was a lot of guilt and shame. Ultimately, I believe that's why I then attempted. I felt the only way to get out of it was to kind of stop myself."

Mr Burgiss managed to get the help he needed to stop gambling through therapy but said he worries about relapsing when football games are on TV.

"There might be the odd time I avoid watching a match because I know that day particularly it might just trigger me. It might put me in a place where I want to gamble again," he added.

Ms Hemmings said lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic have accelerated an online gambling crisis and she worries that the return of the Premier League season and a summer of live sports will be a catalyst for more people's gambling to get out of control.

She advises using blocking software to stop access to certain websites and also suggests that people with addictions ask betting shops to prevent them from entering.

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