Cleaning Up airs every Wednesday on ITV at 9pm. The drama stars Sheridan Smith as Sam, a single mother who is a cleaner on a zero hours contract in Canary Wharf, London. Sam is in debt and has separated from her husband, Dave (played by Matthew McNulty) and one of the reasons behind their split is her gambling addiction. The show is one of the only TV series to address the issue of female gambling. Express.co.uk spoke exclusively to GamCare, who were consultants on the show and spoke about problem gambling amongst women.
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Why do women gamble?
GamCare operates the National Gambling Helpline and offers information, advice and support for those who suffer from problem gambling.
The charity worked with show writer Mark Marlow, producers and cast members during the production and filming process of Cleaning Up.
Although men are more likely to gamble than women and experience problem gambling, women are also affected according to the Gambling Commission.
The latest report in 2016 stated that 62 per cent of men gamble compared to 52 per cent of women.
According to the Problem Gambling Severity Index, problem gambling prevalence was 0.5 per cent, with men being more likely than women to be classified as problem gamblers (0.9 per cent and 0.1 per cent respectively).
However, for Cleaning Up, creator Marlow was more interested in female problem gambling.
Speaking to press, including Express.co.uk at the series preview last year in London, Marlow said: “I saw the connection between the way traders operate in the market, they are essentially kind of gambling with other people’s money and when I realised that theme was there, I then realised that’s what Sam’s problem should be and I really needed to look into the causes behind gambling.
“We did some research, we spoke to GamCare and spoke to some women who had come through problem gambling so I needed to get into the skin of certainly why women gamble as opposed to men.”
Actress Sheridan Smith added: “I got to know a lot about it. The weird thing was when we started filming that was when I realised how many [gambling] adverts were actually on. All the time, especially during the day, sort of shiny, glossy adverts.
“It’s an important topic at the moment. We’ve all seen the bingo and casino ads on TV. There are a lot of women who are struggling with debt and gambling addiction. I think it’s a really important story to be told.”
Catherine Sweet of GamCare told Express.co.uk: “For many people, gambling is not a harmful activity, but for some, it can become a serious problem.
“We believe it’s important for people to properly understand the risks associated with gambling, and for them to be able to access timely advice and support to prevent a problem developing.
“With the expansion of gambling opportunities and the introduction of new technologies, many people who would not have ‘traditionally’ gambled are now taking part, including more women.”
Why is Sam gambling?
In Cleaning Up, Sam is in denial about her gambling addiction and refuses to admit she has a problem.
Her gambling problem has led to the breakdown of her relationship with her husband Dave and built up huge debts.
Ever since then, Sam has been caught in an endless cycle of problem gambling, refusing to seek help.
Her job insecurity as a cleaner on a zero hours contract and the ongoing custody battle over her two daughters Alice (Kristy Phillips) and Lily (Anya McKenna Bruce) are also likely to contribute to her addiction.
Sam’s overall life situation is most likely what pushes her into participating in insider trading.
Insider trading is the trading of public company stock or other securities by individuals who know information that is not available to the public.
From insider trading, Sam and Jess (Jade Anouka) will be able to pay off their debts and have the potential to make thousands if not millions.
Executive producer, Jane Featherstone said: “I was really interested in the idea about the city as a gambling entity and this character who was going to swap one form of gambling for another form of gambling and it explores all of that.
“Making the programme, you realise just how much of it is online and social media. It’s everywhere now and probably in the last three years it has become so prevalent.”
Sam’s gambling problem is very clear as every free chance she gets, she is playing on a gambling app on the phone, even at work.
Sweet from GamCare explained: “Overall, a greater percentage of female gamblers who currently access our services disclose that online gambling is more problematic for them as opposed to offline activities.
“Women often juggle multiple roles and responsibilities, but the internet offers 24/7 access to gambling activities.”
She added: “In our experience, many women who experience gambling problems are influenced by difficult emotional experiences in their past.
“Gambling gives a chance to temporarily escape from difficult thoughts and feelings. It can also offer some ‘me’ time.
“Problem gamblers often tell us that they feel isolated, and online gambling is usually quite solitary which makes it easier to hide if a problem develops.
“A preoccupation with gambling can also lead to a lack of interest in maintaining relationships and a lack of motivation to engage in work or social activities, alongside issues with finances which can have a detrimental impact.
“The more isolated someone becomes, the harder it can be to reach out for support, even from family and friends.”
Tonight’s episode will see Sam tempted to gamble the money she and Jess made last week.
Will she betray her friend and lose everything? Viewers will have to tune in to find out.
Cleaning Up airs every Wednesday at 9pm on ITV
If you are affected by issues in the above article, you can contact GamCare on 0808 8020 133 or you visit their website at www.gamcare.org.uk