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How gambling addiction has gripped women in the United Kingdom

It was Christmas Day in 2018 when things came to a head for Bev. By her own admission, it had been “a lovely day”. “Everything was hunky dory,” she says. “There was no reason why I should have gambled, but in my head - in a gambler’s head - it was Christmas Day, so you couldn’t possibly lose. I told myself that they wouldn’t do that to you on Christmas Day.”

Within 90 minutes, the 59-year-old from Newcastle had gambled away £5,000. “I emptied my husband’s bank account,” she tells The Independent. “I even borrowed money from my daughter claiming I had an urgent bill that needed paying. I lost the whole lot - and then I took an overdose.”

The UK is home to one of the biggest gambling markets in the world, generating a profit of £14.2bn in 2020. Historically, gambling has been classified as a problem that largely affects men, but research by GambleAware from January this year revealed that the number of women treated for gambling had doubled in five years, with up to a million women at risk of experiencing gambling-related problems. It added that this figure may only represent a small proportion of the women experiencing harm linked to gambling.

Bev’s problems with gambling began about 16 years ago. “I entered a competition on a popular television website and a gambling pop-up appeared and I thought, ‘I’ll have a go at that’,” she said. Prior to this, she had never gambled: “It just wasn’t something that interested me. It felt like throwing money away.”

After depositing £10, she quickly won £800. “I couldn’t believe the money was mine to keep,” she says. “I then started depositing more and more and that £800 was gone very quickly. After that, I was hooked.”

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