Gamblers Anonymous: Overlooked and undermined?

Warwick Bartlett Gamblers Anonymous
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Warwick Bartlett, chief executive of Global Betting and Gaming Consultants, highlights a lesser-known but longer-standing, successful and self-funded alternative to Gamble Aware – but whose existence is threatened by competition from this state-backed leviathan.


If you were an addictive gambler and recognised with the help of your family and friends that you needed help, where would you go to get the best possible help? I would suggest that the advertising would lead you toward Gamble Aware. They have an impressive website that advertises the National Gambling Helpline. However the long established Gamblers Anonymous is where I would go. I like the simplicity of the website, less talk about research, and more about helping you solve your problem gambling.

Gamble Aware, a charity is funded by the gambling industry. From April 2019 to March 2020 they received £10m. Among the top donations are GVC’s donation of £1.4m, William Hill’s £1m, Bet365’s contribution of £868,000 and Sky Bet’s £705,000.

Gamble Aware currently asks all those who profit from gambling in Britain to donate annually a minimum of 0.1 percent of their annual gross gambling yield (GGY).

Gamble Aware is the UK Government’s go to charity where contributions should be made and they occupy prominent promotion on the Gambling Commission website. The Gambling Commission directed £9m of funds to Gamble Aware last year.

Apart from directing addictive play gamblers to the various charities who will provide help Gamble Aware spends significant sums on research and has 40 projects either running or about to be commissioned.

The less prominent Gamblers Anonymous was formed 56 years ago, and runs 200 meetings across the UK and takes no money from gambling companies, government or anyone except its members who are all addictive gamblers. This organisation is entirely self-funding.

I talked with Ian the Public Relations officer for Gamblers Anonymous. He said, “The starting point is that addictive gamblers are never cured, and we approach our members to achieve gradual results taking one day at a time, all our expenses are paid for by the members, and over the years we have achieved good results.”

The website is clean and simple. There is a find a meeting tab where you enter your postcode and an address near you is found where you can join a meeting. There are also some useful tips to guide members to a process that helps rid them of the urge to gamble.

Gamblers Anonymous is an organisation that deserves to survive but like any enterprise faces competition from a centrally planned organisation where huge sums of money pour in every year. Some of that money is spent on promotion, a good idea because they need to get to the people that require help. But Gamblers Anonymous does not have that financial clout. Nevertheless they still manage to hold 200 meetings throughout the UK.

Recommended ways to avoid the first bet: a collaboration of experience.

Going into gambling establishments (for any reason) is a huge risk and one you don’t need to take. Toilets can be found elsewhere and self-exclusion can be accomplished online.

Avoid carrying money as much as possible: some members use a single card so that their partners/family/friends can keep track of where the money is spent; others get receipts; in this way everything can be accounted for.

Make sure you attend meetings regularly and frequently: at least once a week, but in the early days you will really appreciate more.

Barriers are extremely useful, the more hurdles you have to jump before being “able” to bet, the less likely you are to do it.

Let your loved ones know about all debts! This can seem a horrendous task to the new member, but read Page 18 of “Towards 90 days”, it will explain more. Every day, first thing in the morning, look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you will not gamble that day and congratulate yourself each night if you don’t.

Register with online self-exclusion schemes, this makes it extremely difficult to place a bet even when your addiction wants you to.

Share – The more you can tell the room, the more the room can help you. Remember, there will likely be someone in the room that has lived through what you are experiencing.

Avoid ways of getting hold of money secretly; this includes handing over your I.D. (to avoid withdrawing money over the counter in-branch). Sometimes it can even mean handing over anything you could pawn; like jewelry and log-books to cars.

Never have access to accounts you don’t need access to; this includes knowing login details to online banking.

One call or text is all it takes to speak to another G.A. member.

Not sure if something is right?: ask! If you have a question, phone someone; text someone; it is not advisable to wait until your next meeting.

Your addiction wants secrecy and solitude! Try not to give yourself time and opportunity to gamble, this can mean keeping loved ones informed of where you are and how long you’ll be there etc.

Make sure you cancel any running bets and close all betting accounts. (having a partner a family member present while doing this will help avoid a slip here).

Only you know how conniving and devious you were, adopt as many safeguards as possible to counteract this.

Unhappy with life?: give us just six weeks. In just six weeks attending G.A. we believe your life will have changed dramatically for the better; after all, what have you got to lose?

Someone strong – Handing over your finances to a loved one that will forcefully question why you “need” money will really help you. Not being trusted with money is hard but very beneficial at the beginning. No-one is saying this is forever.

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