“I self-excluded from the major online casinos but there was always a new company I could open with and some of them don’t make it easy to self-exclude,” says Michael, a bricklayer from Glasgow, who started betting on football and greyhounds when he was 15, before developing a serious gambling addiction.
“I’d never even been to a casino but once I started playing roulette on FOBTs(fixed-odds betting terminals) in the bookies it became a serious addiction and the only way to satisfy it was to play more – mainly through online casino accounts,” he says. “I lost control, I was wasting the majority of my money every month.”
Hundreds of thousands across the UK are faced with similar gambling addictions, which have only been exacerbated by the explosion of betting apps, with the number of problem gamblers up more than 50% since 2012.
“Gambling is everywhere – on your phone, tablet, computer – 24/7, 365 days a year; constantly in your pocket or by your bed,” says Jack Symons, co-founder of gambling exclusion software Gamban. “People are finding it increasingly difficult to quit as it’s such a powerful and addictive source of stimulation and escapism. It’s like a drug … it’s difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it first-hand.”
Faced with this challenge Michael, like 10,000 of the UK’s 430,000 problem gamblers, turned to software to help kick the habbit. Gamban blocks more than 40,000 gambling sites and applications from users’ devices, and, by using a live database, it also removes the gambling element, skins betting, from e-sport games.
“It was the best thing I ever did, allowing me to cut out the online casinos from my life,” said Michael. “I felt I would go through the rest of my life slipping up every now and then until I installed Gamban on my laptop.”
Since Tony Blair’s liberalising reforms, the gambling industry has been able to not just meet, but to stimulate demand. Unlike many other developed countries, high stakes games are available anywhere on your smartphone in the UK. Through adverts, push notifications and bonus offers, these apps constantly remind you to have a flutter. When the opportunity to relapse is a mere click away, many people find it incredibly difficult to give up gambling.