GamCare is a UK based organization that provides support, information and advice to problem gamblers. The service is provided free and GamCare is funded from voluntary contributions made by gambling operators through the Responsibility in Gambling Trust (RIGT). Traditionally the counseling was provided over telephone and through face to face consultations. Recently GamCare has added a new initiative, which is offering counseling over the Internet. This initiative is called NetLine.

NetLine came in the news when UK Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe visited GamCare to check out its functioning. He expressed special interest in NetLine, given its novelty. The procedure is very simple and is open to problem gamblers and their family or friends. Those desirous of assistance have to access the GamCare web site and click the “speak to an advisor now” button in the NetLine section of the main page. The caller is required to give a screen name and is put in touch with an Advisor in a secure room. The advisor listens to the caller and offers advice and reading material. The reasons for problem gambling can be complex. The advisors are trained to discover the underlying reasons in each individual case and offer suitable therapy.

A lot of people are showing interest in consultations through NetLine. GamCare has already attended to over 30 clients through the Internet. There are two reasons cited for the popularity of this mechanism. One of course is the anonymity that is absent in the face to face discussions. However the anonymity factor is present in telephone counseling as well. NetLine scores over telephone because it allows users to check out what they have written before they send the message. This enables them to find the right words and also carefully consider what they have written. GamCare has revealed some demographic details about the clients seeking assistance through NetLine. Women prefer NetLine to the other mechanisms of consultation. The spread in age of women is more than that of men. The age distribution for women is skewed over 50 whereas the age distribution for men is skewed under 30.

The minister’s visit to GamCare was in connection with the ongoing discussions with gambling operators. The government has asked the operators to raise the contributions and meet the targets to RIGT or face a tax on gambling revenue. The minister said that in this background he wanted to be updated on exactly how the funds are being spent. The government is under constant barrage from the anti gambling lobby. The National Centre for Social Research conducted a survey that revealed that about 300,000 persons in the United Kingdom are direct victims of problem gambling. The Daily Mail carried an article claiming that one-third of the online gambling web sites failed to prevent underage gambling. Whereas the veracity of the claim is being disputed, one thing is certain. GamCare has its work cut out.