The Bavarian State Office for Gambling Addiction is to launch PlayChange, a new platform to help those suffering from gambling harm access help online, this week.
Developed in partnership with the German state’s Ministry of Health and Social Care, PlayChange will go live on 15 July.
“Those affected can get help quickly, easily, and above all, anonymously on PlayChange,” Health Minister Melanie Huml said. “This is an excellent addition to our existing counselling services and a big step forward in addiction counselling, which we offer to citizens in the Free State of Bavaria.”
The service allows citizens to register anonymously, then contact a counsellor via email, messenger or chat service, as well as arrange telephone appointments. This, Huml said, would make it easier for problem gamblers to seek help, as by doing it anonymously, it removed the shame that many felt as a result of their issues.
She added that in light of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, the platform would also provide a safe way for problem gamblers to get initial advice from professionals at a time when social distancing is still in effect.
The State Office for Gambling Addiction (Landesstelle Glücksspielsucht/LSG) will operate PlayChange, which was developed over a year for a cost of around €36,000 (£32,276/40,699), and can be accessed via desktop or downloaded as a mobile app.
Based on surveys conducted between 2011 and 2017, there are an estimated 70,000 people in the state that show signs fo problematic gambling behaviour. Of this number, around 33,000 display behaviour consistent with gambling addiction.
The LSG, established in 2008, already provides a host of treatment options for these individuals and their families, at more than 70 points of contact throughout the state, including 22 specialist centres. It has guaranteed funding of €8.7m, covering the period from 2020 to 2023, from the Ministry.
PlayChange is designed to complement these “analogue” services, Huml said, by providing a digital alternative, as part of the state’s efforts to play a “pioneering role” in digital addiction counselling and prevention.