Gambling debt is a major concern in the UK, but there is a way out of it. Recent statistics are at odds with the official number of people with a gambling addiction and could be anywhere between hundreds of thousands to 1.5 million. 

Read on to learn more about gambling debts, and more importantly, how to get out of gambling debt.

What Is Gambling Debt?

Gambling debt is when the act of gambling leads to debts in other aspects of life. Punters in the UK can’t really have a debt with a gambling company because casinos, bookmakers and online sites do not provide credit to gamblers. Instead, the debt occurs because the player is trying to fund a gambling habit and wagering what they can’t afford to lose (breaking the golden rule of gambling!).

Most gambling debt occurs because a player chases their losses. This is when a player bets what they can afford to play but ends up losing. Instead of walking away, they continue to gamble just to get their money back, which can lead to further losses. 

How Common Is Gambling Debt in the UK?

The extent of gambling problems and gambling addiction in the UK is not fully understood and even official polls don’t seem to agree on a figure. YouGov is a gambling awareness charity that recently completed a survey that suggested 2.7% of people in the UK had a gambling problem. Yet, The UK Gambling Commission estimates the number to be much lower at 0.7%.

In either instance, it means there are hundreds of thousands of people with an addiction to gambling and are vulnerable to gambling-related debts. Even more concerning, the same study, which has been reported in The Guardian, found that almost 50% of people with gambling addiction don’t seek the help they need.

What Measures Prevent Gambling Debt?

The UK Gambling Commission is one of the most significant organisations responsible for enforcing laws to keep players safe. Some of their rule enforcements restrict gambling advertisements, such as making them not appeal to underage players. 

Casino sites also help players monitor their spending by promoting the use of daily or weekly limits. These are when a player pre-determines how much they can deposit into their account in a specified timeframe. By doing this, it prevents them getting caught up in the moment and trying to chase losses with what they can’t afford to lose.

One of the latest developments in UK gambling laws is banning credit cards. As of April 2020, it became illegal for bookmakers and online gambling sites to accept credit card deposits. This is a way of trying to make sure that players are only gambling with money they already own instead of gambling with credit, which is considered more dangerous. 

COVID-19 and Gambling Debt Worries

When COVID-19 struck and people were forced to stay home, there were grave concerns about how many more people would turn to gambling. The reasons more people may gamble more during COVID lockdowns was because:

  • People were bored at home
  • There were no sports to be on so they turn to 24/7 gambling opportunities at casino sites
  • Gambling on video games became a hit (eSports gambling)
  • Households had lost income and some people may try to replace it by winning bets

Around Europe various measures were put in place to mitigate the chances of increasing gambling debt. For example, in Spain gambling advertisements were curtailed during their lockdown. In the UK, there was talk between politicians of a blanket daily limit of £50 which never materialised.

Interestingly, The UK Gambling Commission has found that the initial concerns may not have unravelled as we thought. People who gambled already may have gambled more by trying new products and services, but the number of people gambling doesn’t appear to have increased significantly. 

An example of a debt solution that requires the help of a professional is an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA). This is an agreement that consolidates as many creditors as possible and requires you to make a single payment that gets shared out to all of them each month. It typically lasts five years and is meant for people with bigger debts.

But an IVA can help you wipe off thousands of your debt in the end. Learn more about IVAs and how you could benefit! 

How to Get Out of Gambling Debt?

As mentioned earlier, gambling causes debt rather than a type of debt. You might have used loans or credit cards (before the credit card ban) to fund a gambling habit. If you lost the money and can’t pay back your loans and credit card payments, you now have debts to pay.

Thankfully, there are ways to get out of debt in the UK without paying back all you owe at once. You can use debt solutions to repay the debt in a more comfortable way and avoid legal proceedings. These debt solutions may be free or you can arrange them yourself, but some may require paid-for services from an insolvency practitioner.

What Gambling Debt Charities Are Out There?

One of the best gambling debt charities in the UK is called GamCare. Their website offers a number of resources for people who have gambling problems to discuss their issues with other people and offer advice and support. You can also speak with a professional over the phone and get help. Their number is 0808 8020 133 and it is free to call every day at any time.

Along with this gambling debt charity, you might also want to get assistance from a UK debt charity like Step Change or National Debtline. They can provide you with free debt advice and even help to arrange some debt solutions for free.

Further debt help can be found here on MoneyNerd!

About the author

Scott Nelson

Scott Nelson is a financial services expert, with over 10 years’ experience in the industry, including 6 years in FCA regulated companies. Read more
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