The UK’s responsible gambling charity GamCare reported that its helpline received an influx of calls following Paul Merson’s interview on ITV’s Good Morning Britain (GMB) show on Tuesday.
Paul Merson is a former Premier League footballer who has had lived experience with gambling addiction.
During an interview, on GMB on Tuesday, the former footballer opened up about his experience with gambling addiction and the harmful impact it had on his family and loved ones.
Merson broke down in tears during the interview after revealing he relapsed on his gambling addiction during lockdown last year. Despite this, the former footballer said he was on the “path to recovery.”
Speaking about his experiences with gambling, Merson revealed he began gambling at the age of 16 as an Arsenal schoolboy trainee. According to Merson, his habits were nurtured by a locker room culture that treated gambling as a casual pastime.
Merson admitted that at the height of his career in the 90s he had lost £7m due to his combined gambling and alcohol addiction.
An influx in calls to GamCare
Shortly after the interview, the charity GamCare reported a “sudden influx” of calls to the service.
According to GamCare’s announcement, one caller told the advisor that Merson’s interview “hit home” and encouraged him to call the helpline. Meanwhile, another caller said, “the interview had resonated with him and made him realise that his own gambling was problematic.”
One of GamCare’s helpline advisors praised Merson’s interview, explaining that his story is “synonymous with many of the calls the charity had received over lockdown.”
The charity noted that issues such as relapsing into gambling during the pandemic, losing house deposits due to gambling-related debt, and how blocking software had been helpful have been regularly cited by callers over the past year.
Anna Hemmings, Chief Executive at GamCare said: “The sudden influx of calls we have received following Paul’s interview highlights how important it is to speak up on issues around gambling, to help tackle the stigma and ultimately to reduce gambling related harm.
“We know how difficult it can be for people to speak publicly about gambling – their own or someone else’s – and it is encouraging to see public figures such as Paul come forward on Good Morning Britain and to see the positive influence it can have on others seeking help.
“We urge anyone who is struggling with gambling to contact us on the National Gambling Helpline. We want you to know we are here for you, we understand and we can help. If you think someone you know needs support, please get in touch.”
The charity explained that during the 2020/2021 year, GamCare received over 41,000 calls to the National Gambling Helpline, a 9% increase compared to the previous year.
A total of 43% of contacts were made up from online chats, up from 37% the previous year, with callers indicating they were increasingly concerned about privacy in the home.