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Coronavirus: Gambling addicts ‘at greater risk during lockdown’

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Coronavirus: Gambling addicts 'at greater risk during lockdown' 2

There has been no Premier League football since 9 March

Gambling addicts may be at greater risk during the coronavirus pandemic despite a lack of top-level sport, the leading UK charity for problem gamblers says.

GamCare has noted more people seeking to end self-exclusion schemes that stop them accessing online betting.

In the UK, football is suspended indefinitely and there will be no horse racing until the end of April at least.

“It is too early to see if problem gambling is on the rise,” said GamCare chief executive Anna Hemmings.

“What we do know is that contributing factors to the addiction, such as financial distress, isolation and boredom, are increasing with Covid-19 and the Government measures.”

While calls to the charity’s helpline have declined during the lockdown, GamCare believes that it could be due to people not having the privacy to access help while confined to their homes.

“One of the things that is coming through as a concern for people is that there are other people in their household and it is much more difficult to have confidential conversations at the moment,” Hemmings told BBC Sport.

“One of the things we would emphasise is that we are available 24/7 and also we have live chat facility and online treatment.”

It is not yet known when Premier League football or horse racing will return, with the season’s first four Classics – including the Derby, originally scheduled for June – already postponed.

Bookmakers, for whom football and horse racing make up 75% of the UK sports betting market, have reported that gambling levels have “plummeted” in recent weeks. However, access to online casino games and markets on ‘virtual’ computer-animated sports events are unaffected.

The industry has introduced measures, such as a ‘whistle-to-whistle’ ban on television advertising, to promote safer gambling in recent years. In response to the coronavirus outbreak, they have pledged to step up messaging on safer gambling