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Sports mental health charity reports increase in sportspeople seeking help for gambling addiction

Mental health charity, Sporting Chance have said that there has been a “massive increase” in the number of sportspeople seeking help for gambling addiction since the first COVID-19 lockdown.

With the pandemic putting a stop to many sports, CEO of Sporting Chance, Colin Bland has said that people have found new ways to gamble. Speaking to Sky Sports News, he said: “We've seen people changing what they bet on and not being able to stop at times when they've wanted to.

"The first lockdown saw professional sport stop, so there was a big switch away from gambling on sport to gambling online. "There was a move to casino games and playing games online. There had to be a change because there was no sport to bet on, so we have seen a massive increase in people with problems."

Another way the pandemic has allowed the issue of gambling addiction to proliferate is the reduction in face-to-face education. Alongside an increase in the number of sportspeople seeking help, there has been a rise in professionals’ requests for education.

"I think one of the other effects of the pandemic and one of the impacts we've seen is access to players," Bland said.

"Because everyone is trying to return to sport in a very COVID-friendly way and minimising contact with players, things like education and access to player welfare have reduced slightly.

"There's people who have got into problems during the pandemic because of the fears they have around their career, for example, and then the amount of education and the amount of contact they have with people who can signpost them to help has been reduced.”

Although the pandemic has allowed for a clear rise in gambling cases, the issue has been around much longer than COVID-19.

"It has actually been on the increase over the last decade and there's all sorts of anecdotal evidence as to why that might be," Bland said.

"Going back to Tony Adams' days when alcohol was a big thing in the playing population, I don't think any current player in football could have that lifestyle and perform as well as they have to today.

"We also know there's an awful lot of drug testing so people can't use substances, so gambling does seem to be a very common symptom."

Author: Charlie Farmer