Gambling addict 'bombarded' with online ads during lock-down
Gambling addict mother who was left suicidal after racking up debts of £70,000 says she’s being ‘bombarded’ with online ads for betting sites during lockdown
- Kelly Field, 36, from Merseyside, was spending £500 a day at height of addiction
- Says she’s been ‘bombarded’ with ‘pink and fluffy’ betting ads since lock-down
- At rock bottom, Kelly blew a £1,600 overdraft in under an hour and was suicidal
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
A gambling addict mother who was left suicidal after racking up debts of £70,000 has criticised betting firms for ‘bombarding’ her with online ads for betting sites since lockdown began.
Kelly Field, 36, from Merseyside, from St Helens, Merseyside, racked up debts playing bingo and other casino games online and at its worst, her gambling addiction cost her £500 a day.
She told BBC News that she’s being ‘bombarded’ with ‘pink and fluffy’ advertisements for online betting sites since lockdown began, and that the gambling industry is ‘really trying to coin in’ on the coronavirus crisis.
Kelly Field (pictured) , 36, from Merseyside, from St Helens, Merseyside, racked up £70,000 debts playing bingo and other casino games online
At rock bottom, Kelly blew a £1,600 overdraft in under an hour, while already thousands in debt, however is now paying off her debts over time
‘I’m being bombarded,’ said Kelly. ‘These pink, fluffy ads are flashing up all day, every day.
‘Maybe I notice them now because we’re indoors more, but it feels like the gambling industry’s really trying to coin in on the lockdown.’
The mother-of-one, who was the inspiration for ITV drama ‘Cleaning Up’, was drawn into the world of gambling after visiting an online casino in 2010 while she was signed off from work for stress.
In the popular new series, Sam, played by Sheridan Smith, (pictured) works as an office cleaner, while battling a serious debt problems due to her gambling addiction
At rock bottom, Kelly blew a £1,600 overdraft in under an hour, while already thousands in debt.
Kelly told she’s being ‘bombarded’ with ‘pink and fluffy’ advertisements for online betting sites since lock-down began
Kelly admitted she was losing more than £500 a day at the height of her addiction and would hide it from her partner, son and friends
Speaking in a video for Leeds and York PFT, she told: ‘You lose touch with reality it’s just digits on a screen, the money’s not money.
‘I was suicidal, I used to get in the car and think, “I’ll just drive into a tree and end it”, because you see that as the only way out. ‘
Kelly admitted she was losing more than £500 a day at the height of her addiction and would hide it from her partner, son and friends.
The waitress funded her addiction by taking out ‘credit card after credit card’ but admitted that many turn to criminality to fund their habit.
She told The Mirror: ‘I funded my addiction by taking out credit card after credit card and maxing them all out. I got overdrafts and spent all our savings. But people do turn to criminality. I see it all the time.
The waitress funded her addiction by taking out ‘credit card after credit card’ but admitted that many turn to criminality to fund their habit
‘You’re so stuck in the debt and so filled with shame, you feel you can’t speak to anyone or tell anyone. You can see why lots of people decide suicide is the best option.
‘When you’re in that state of absolute turmoil you just can’t see how you’ll ever get help and break the vicious cycle.’
She eventually got the help she needed in 2014 and is now paying back the debt she owes at a rate of £300 a month.
The mother was the inspiration for Sheridan Smith’s character in ‘Cleaning Up’, and used her experience and struggles with gambling addiction to help writers and producers at the show develop Smith’s character.
Chief executive of the Gambling Commission, Neil McArthur told the House of Commons Public Accounts committee this week that about 15 per cent of gamblers were now spending more time gambling.
She eventually got the help she needed in 2014 and is now paying back the debt she owes at a rate of £300 a month
Kelly was the inspiration for ITV series ‘Cleaning Up’. In the popular new series, Sam, played by Sheridan Smith, (pictured) works as an office cleaner, while battling a serious debt problems due to her gambling addiction
Recovering addict Tony, who served a three-year prison sentence after stealing from his employer to feed his addiction, also spoke with BBC News, telling his tweets about gambling mean that he regularly receives targeted ads.
He told he will ‘always be an addict’ and feels he has to remain vigilant now more than ever.
Lazaros Gonidis, a University of Kent psychologist and an expert on addiction, has commented on the risks during COVID-19 lockdown for those with existing and previous gambling problems, and the responsibility of online gambling operators to protect vulnerable individuals.
He said:’There is no doubt that these unprecedented circumstances are proving to be very challenging for all members of our society. However, the current conditions of social distancing, working from home, or being furloughed can put some of us at risk more than others.
Advice on avoiding gambling during lock-down
Lazaros Gonidis provides the following advice to gamblers with previous pathological gambling problems or those who consider gambling online for fun, which could help them stay on top of their gambling habits.
1. When you feel the urge to gamble online then use that as a motive to go for your daily walk or exercise instead.
2. If you do decide to gamble, make sure you keep a record of how much money and time you spend on gambling daily. Research has shown that gamblers lose track of money and time spent on gambling.
3. Stay in touch with your friends and peers, and discuss with them your thoughts of gambling. Social distancing should not be social isolation and having support can make a big difference.
4. Keep your mind busy. Finding alternative mental stimulating tasks can be very beneficial in order to suppress thoughts of gambling. If being online is inevitable then seek online activities that will help you overcome the urge to gamble.
5. If you feel you are losing control of your gambling activities do not hesitate to seek expert advice. BeGambleAware.org is a very good place to start.
‘One such high risk group is pathological gamblers. As we stay at home more it is inevitable that we will spend more time online, hence being exposed to advertising more than usual.
‘It is therefore vital that gambling advertising is being closely monitored and people with previous history of gambling problems are protected from being targeted by such ads. ‘
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has communicated with major online gambling operators reminding them of their responsibility to look after the wellbeing of players.
Lazaros went on: ‘This proactive initiative is aiming to also prevent new players from developing pathological gambling habits.
‘People who gamble in online casinos have higher chances of being pathological gamblers compared to people who get involved with sports betting.
It is therefore vital that all relevant authorities and online casino providers keep a ‘close watch, and protect people with previous history of pathological gambling. Furthermore, new inexperienced players should also be protected.
‘A recent ban in the use of credit card for gambling purposes was a step towards the right direction but more measures could be required now that most of us are exposed even more to digital forms of entertainment than usual.’
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