The report shares the story of a UK hairdresser who was already suffering from gambling harm for years when the global pandemic hit and she found herself binge-gambling after a brief pause. She was not eating or sleeping properly, and help was not easy to find.
Losing 2-Years’ Wages in 4 Hours’ Wagers
The Mirror reported on the shocking story of Christine Tolaini – a 39-year-old hairdresser from the UK – who lost two years’ salary’s worth of money in just four hours. Tolaini was reported as suffering from problem gambling for years, with the problem getting worse in her thirties. As per the report, she had turned to professional help in August 2017, and a few times after that as well. The large amount was lost when she had continued gambling after winning a £50,000 (approximately $58,000 at the time of writing) jackpot in Rainbow Riches – the mobile phone game.
In total, Tolaini has lost around £70,000 (approximately $81,294) within the span of four hours. The report says that she had spent about £100,000 (approximately $116,149) in the game for the five years she was playing it – some of it was from winnings, but some of it was from savings and credit cards. Currently, she’s around £60,000 (approximately $69.6 thousand) in debt over 20 credit cards.
However, Tolaini seems to be trying to stay clean, and the Gamblers Anonymous (GA) fellowship in the UK seems to be helping her in that. She was reported recalling multiple times in which she was seeking help by medical professionals and disappointingly couldn’t find adequate support for years. So, when she had maxed out all of her credit cards in 2021, she reportedly sought Gamblers Anonymous. The meetings, Tolaini commented, were predominantly attended by men, however, she added that more women are starting to attend the meetings as well.
More Women Develop Problem Gambling in UK
Correlation doesn’t mean causation, so the increased number of women in GA meetings doesn’t – by itself – necessarily mean that more women are starting to develop problem-hambling behavior. It might mean that simply more of the women affected by problem gambling is starting to go to meetings. However, the Mirror’s report does outline a GambleAware survey, according to which, 25% of female gamblers aged in the 18-year-old to 49-year-old range, were expecting to spend more in the coming months, with around 12% saying they had already started.
This comes in the face of global increases in the cost of living in general, with the UK not being spared by this. The case with Tolaini is probably neither the first, nor the only one, and the stigma surrounding problem gambling is definitely making it difficult to gauge how bad the situation truly is. Whatever the numbers, though, more voice needs to be given to those who can help, and easier access should be offered to those who need it. This much is universally true.
The UK, however, has been known to move slowly when it comes to gambling reforms, with multiple delays plaguing its gambling white paper. The review of the UK’s 2005 Gambling Act was launched all the way back in 2020, a full 15 years after the legislation’s launch, and even back then it was in dire need of overhaul. Amid continued political turmoil, other aspects of implementing changes in the gambling sector have also been pushed back.
A key update to the regulation of customer interaction requirements, as well as guidance on how to deal with advertising and giving bonuses to customers with clear indications of harm was pushed by last month’s deadline by a full seven months, all the way to February 12, 2023. Tolaini was reported as having a period of abstinence, which was broken thanks to exactly this problem: she was still exposed to advertising and was still receiving tempting bonuses in her accounts, resulting in her starting back up her problem gambling behavior and leading to the story in the Mirror’s report.