On Friday evening I was at Northern Stage to see Gamble by Hannah Walker. This was to be an exploration of the online gambling industry based on conversations with experts and experience of being in love with a compulsive gambler.
The gambling industry is worth an estimated £14.3 billion, and has the highest rate of suicide of all addictions, between 250 and 650 people a year. Recently, there were calls for the government to enforce stricter regulations on the industry, and a landmark study published by GambleAware in March 2022 has shown that gambling addiction could be nine times higher than the betting industry claims.
While I’m aware many people gamble without issue, the ‘small’ number of those that will become addicted is still vast. Awareness is needed, and the topic to be talked about in the same breath as other other addictions like Alcohol or Drugs and awareness of support made more readily available.
Hannah brings a comedic take on this serious subject as someone that has felt the effects of being with a compulsive gambler. She does brilliantly to describe the ways online gambling companies entice people to gamble and continue gambling even when ’the fun has stopped’. This is done through a loudmouth host urging us ’Dont Go’, seducing us with flashing lights, and ‘free money’.
We are reminded that these companies aren’t discriminatory and want you all not to stop. I wasn’t aware that this is also a prevalent issue within the deaf community, and the integration of BSL into the performance was brilliant. Interpreted and acted out by Faye Alvi, this didn’t just accompany the performance, it was made very much part of the performance to great effect.
Walker takes us through a narrative, from Bingo halls, to casinos to online gambling. She shares this story in an American accent that almost gives this story a third person perspective. I would of liked to have seen a lot more of the fallout from the discovery her partner was a compulsive gambler, and how she was left feeling from it, and the other side of a story often unheard, the unsuspecting partner.
For me it is that end of the show that is the most profound. Real life interviews with those that work within the industry, those that gamble and with Walker herself, whom is a partner of a gambler.
I appreciate its a personal experience and may be difficult to share in a raw maybe more hard hitting form but if we are looking to talk about the subject more openly we need to do so about the realities that lie within it, which we got a little of towards the end. However, I mean in no way to diminish her experiences and choice of presentation of it in this show. It’s obvious that since starting the show, her investigations and research have led to her understanding more about the addiction and with that her perception.
Hannah Walker said, ‘This is a significant national issue and it’s not going away. There is still a huge taboo around gambling and compulsive gamblers often feel deep shame that prevents them from seeking support from friends, family and health professionals. It’s so important that people understand that compulsive gambling is an addiction; it has nothing to do with someone’s character.’
The show was followed by a post-show discussion with Dr Matthew Gaskell, Clinical Lead and Consultant Psychologist for the NHS Northern Gambling Service which shared the reasons why this industry really needs to be independently regulated.
Now finished at Northern Stage, a filmed version will be screened in London to gambling industry professionals in conjunction with Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones OBE, director of The National Problem Gambling Clinic.