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GamCare has launched a seasonal campaign urging the public to be aware of “signs that someone may be struggling with problem gambling over the Christmas period”.

During the festive period, GamCare aims to remind audiences of its helpline services offering treatment support for vulnerable people who may be at risk of gambling harm.

Christmas 2019 saw GamCare’s Helpline record an 18% increase in referrals into treatment prior to the first COVID-19 national lockdown – with staff also reporting an increase in safeguarding issues around the festive period.

GamCare advisers warn that during Christmas, the vulnerable will feel financial and social anxieties that will compound their mental health difficulties leading to harm.

Furthermore, an early December payday can add extra temptation to gamble with other triggers including the influence of alcohol, changes in routine and an increase in sporting events to bet on.

“With more financial and family pressures, we know that the festive holidays can be a tough time for people trying to control their gambling,” said Fiona Macleod, Director of Clinical and Communities.

“During December, along with an early wage, there are more sporting events in close succession, heavy advertising from gambling companies, coupled with many people having free, unstructured time away from work.”

The festive campaign is launched following new research by GamCare that in the lead up to Christmas over six million Brits know someone with a gambling issue.

Of utmost concern, one in five Brits (20%) have used either their Christmas pay or bonus on placing a bet, with 8% saying they do it regularly. A quarter of Brits (25%) have regretted placing a bet before.

GamCare reminds audiences that its help and support are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week from the National Gambling Helpline over the festive period.

Common signs of troubled behaviour include being withdrawn, sleeping disorders, mood swings and lying about their financial circumstances.

“We are always here to listen and support you when you might feel you have no other options. A message of hope – that is essentially what we’re giving people. Our phone line is open 24/7 over the Christmas period,” Macleod concluded.

“In lockdowns, we have seen an increase in people opting for our live chat option. We want to remind people that this is still available if privacy is a concern.”