We need to talk about problematic gambling

Gambling has been around for centuries and while it’s no secret that many people navigate to it as a form of entertaining, problematic gambling can lead to financial struggles, mental health problems and conflicts within relationships.

One of the biggest concerns however, is that gambling is still heavily advertised and even accessible to minors via loot box purchases on popular online games. It’s important to have an open and honest conversation about this topic and consider the consequences gambling, in all forms, can have on our society.

The Prevalence of Gambling in Society

According to a 2020 report by Statista, the global gambling market was valued at over $465 billion. In the UK, the estimated revenue from gambling operators was over £14 billion in 2022.

Furthermore, according to the latest statistics from the Gambling Commission, the adult gambling participation rate in the UK was at 44% for the year 2021. These figures highlight the widespread nature of gambling in the UK and the need for increased awareness about its growing impact on individuals.

Are Regulations Around Gambling Sufficient?

Many countries require licenses and regulations for gambling activities, but there are still areas where gambling is unregulated.

For instance, In the UK, gambling is regulated by the Gambling Commission under the Gambling Act 2005. The act ensures that gambling remains fair, safe, and free from criminal activity. The commission is responsible for granting licenses to operators, monitoring compliance with regulations, and enforcing penalties for non-compliance. The act is supposed to covers all forms of gambling, from online gaming to sports betting.

However, despite the act, there is still a need for better enforcement and regulation to protect vulnerable individuals from the harmful effects of compulsive gambling. Online gambling, in particular, can be challenging to regulate, making it easier for vulnerable people – including minors – to develop a problem. Despite the introduction of services including ‘Gamstop’ and other self-exclusionary measures, emphasis is on the individual to enact such measures.

The Impact of Problem Gambling

Gambling addiction is a tough road to walk alone. It can profoundly impact individuals in ways they may not even realise. One of the most significant effects of gambling addiction is the psychological toll it can take on the individual. It’s not uncommon for those struggling with gambling addiction to feel anxious or depressed – especially on a losing streak or when they’re unable to gamble.

The financial burden of gambling addiction is another painful reality many people face. Debt, bankruptcy, homelessness and suicide are all harsh realities of compulsive gambling.

But another challenging aspect of gambling addiction is the impact it has on loved ones and the breakdowns in relationships. It’s not just about the money lost; it’s also about the trust that is broken and the secrets that are kept.

Elisabeth Dantendorfer who operates the addiction treatment service CATCH Recovery, believes problematic gambling may be on the rise due to recent global events.

“The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with the cost of living crisis may turn individuals to seek alternative means of income, further perpetuating the problems we already face around gambling and other compulsive forms of behaviour”.

Protecting the Vulnerable

Unfortunately, certain vulnerable populations, such as low-income individuals and those with mental health issues, are more likely to develop a gambling addiction. This can exacerbate their financial and emotional struggles, leading to increased poverty and reduced quality of life. To make matters worse, gambling operators can target these vulnerable populations with email promotions, further perpetuating the cycle of compulsive behaviour.

Mitigating the Risks

Prevention and education need to play a more significant role in protecting vulnerable people from the devastating consequences of problem gambling. Existing measures do not go far enough in protecting the most vulnerable people in our society.

  1. Set limits: Setting limits can help to reduce the desire to chase losses, but for those with a problem, creating new accounts on other sites and benefiting from welcome bonuses is an easy workaround.
  2. Seek support: If you are experiencing problems with gambling, it is crucial to seek support. This can be through professional help, counselling, therapy, or support groups.
  3. Be educated about the negative effects: Education is also a vital aspect of tackling the problem of gambling addiction. You may be unaware of the risks associated with gambling or underestimate your susceptibility to addiction.
  4. Take breaks: It can be helpful to take regular intervals from gambling, particularly if you are experiencing stress or financial difficulties. This can help you regain control and avoid relying on gambling to cope with these issues.
  5. Avoid triggers: Identify the triggers that lead you to gamble and take steps to avoid them. This may include avoiding certain social situations or environments and finding alternative ways to manage stress and anxiety.

As a society, there are also ways we can work together to reduce the effects of gambling. Firstly, education and awareness campaigns can be implemented to help people understand the risks associated with gambling and the importance of responsible gambling. This can include information on recognising problem gambling behaviours and where to seek help.

Secondly, further regulations and policies can be implemented to ensure that gambling operators operate fairly and responsibly. Also, support services such as counselling and helplines can be made more available to those struggling with problem gambling.

Finally, we can work to reduce the stigma associated with problem gambling. We do this by promoting an empathetic attitude towards those who struggle with gambling addiction. We should also provide them with the resources they need to seek help without fear of judgment or shame.

The Bottom Line

Overall, the effects of gambling on individuals and society can be profound. It is essential to raise awareness about the potential dangers of gambling and to take steps to prevent gambling addiction.

We must continue to work towards better regulation and enforcement of laws to ensure that people can enjoy gambling safely and responsibly. By doing so, we can help prevent the negative impacts of gambling on individuals and communities.



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