Story by Amelia Beckett
The mother of a woman from Leeds who took her own life after falling into huge gambling debts is calling for more support for other females.
Kimberley Wadsworth died aged 32, after struggling to reach out for help.
The latest figures from the Gambling Commission, show the number of women gambling online in 2020 rose at double the rate of men.
Kay Wadsworth, Kimberly's mother, said: "She kept it to herself. She was such a beautiful, vivacious young girl who loved life. And when she walked into a room it lit up.
"But what she didn't say and tell people was how low she felt. But her father died suddenly at fifty-seven from a heart attack and I don't think she ever got over it. Addiction can happen to anyone."
Matt Gaskell, the Consultant Psychologist who leads the NHS Norther Gambling Service in Leeds has said that the way sites are advertising directly targets women.
He said: "Gambling is becoming more and more appealing to women in the way it's marketed and advertised.
"And it might start as something for a bit of fun and excitement or perhaps as a sociable thing but it can become increasingly isolating and solitary.
"The products are more and more addictive and I think women are probably gambling more and more for reasons of escape." As Kimberley continued to spend, one betting site made her a 'VIP' offering her free incentives to continue gambling.
In 2018 Kay arranged for her to see a clinical hypnotherapist. But Kimberley never made it.
"I'd struggled to know how to get her help so I arranged that appointment. But later that day she texted me saying she wasn't going.
"It's too late for me mum, she said. And that was the last time I heard from her."
She is now fighting alongside Sheffield based charity, Gambling With Lives, to help women get the support they need alongside calling for a ban on adverts and 'dangerous' VIP schemes, which typically require customers to spend a minimum of £1,000 per month.
"These adverts they're all over primetime TV", she said. "Pretty pinks and purples targeting women."
Where to get help if you are struggling:
Read about gambling addiction, its effects and treatment options, and where to get help.
This leaflet is for anyone who is worried about their gambling and the families, partners and friends of anyone whose gambling has become a problem.
A confidential counselling, advice and information service for people affected by a gambling dependency, including family and friends of compulsive gamblers.
Gamblers Anonymous (UK)
Provides information about a fellowship of men and women who have joined together to do something about their own gambling problem.
Gambling With Lives
Gambling with Lives was set up by the families and friends of young people who had taken their own lives as a direct result of gambling to support others.
In October, rules changed to ensure bookmakers make sure customers can afford what they are betting before they make a customer a VIP.
Gambling companies must assess whether there is previous evidence of harm or addiction, and make a senior manager personally responsible for the schemes, and they will be accountable when they go wrong.
Kay feels that the change did not go far enough, she said: "If I can't get through as Kimberley's mum then what is the point in speaking about it?
"We have to get the message out there, particularly to women, that if you know anyone struggling, there is help out there.
"Every day I miss her. So if I can stop another parent going through losing a child then I've achieved what I wanted to do. And I'm doing it for Kimberley."
A spokesperson for Betting and Gaming Council which represents the industry said: “During the pandemic, the number of safer betting messages on betting websites has more than doubled, while the number of direct safer betting interventions where any player has been spending more time or money betting than they did before Covid has increased by 25 per cent. In addition, at least 20 per cent of our members’ TV and radio advertising are safer betting messages.
“Under new rules we introduced last year, our members’ social media adverts must be targeted at over-25s, unless the website can prove they are accurately reaching over-18s, while search engine ads must make clear they’re 18-plus - and include safer betting messages.
“We have also drawn up a new code of conduct for the use of VIP schemes, which has led to a drop of 70 per cent in the number of VIPs.
“According to the Government, the rate of problem gambling is 0.5 per cent and has been stable for the last 20 years, while Gambling Commission figures suggest that the problem gambling rate for women is 0.1 per cent.”
A major government review into current gambling laws is underway, with the call to evidence having ended in March. Online restrictions, marketing and the powers of the Gambling Commission will be looked at, to examine in detail how gambling has changed over the past 15 years.
The review will continue throughout 2021.