Gambling Addiction: Why it has grown

More opportunities; few restrictions

Gambling Addiction: Why it has grown

Over a very short period of time, the opportunity to gamble has grown. This has been without there being additional controls or restrictions from the days when people had to physically go to a casino or high street betting shop or to use the slot or fruit machine in the local pub.  The internet has brought gambling to anyone who has a Wi-Fi connection and a smartphone, computer or laptop. People can now gamble seven days a week, twenty four hours a day, without even leaving their home. 

Mass marketing of gambling

The other area that the Government has not restricted is the mass marketing of online betting, encouraging people to “have a go,” luring people in to bet with free spins, bonus prizes and then, after they have been hooked, to start using their own money.   In recent years there has been a notable shift in online betting and gambling companies sponsoring very high profile events, Premier League football teams and now even venturing into sponsorship in motorsport and particularly in Formula 1. 

The rise of betting companies as sponsors raises ethical concerns. Gambling, by its very nature, involves risk and the potential for addiction. Therefore, the association of F1 or a Premier League football club, for example, could send conflicting messages especially with the respective sports’ efforts in trying to promote responsible behaviour on and off the track or playing field. There is a growing concern that this mass marketing, advertising and sponsorship is having an impact on a younger population which is being encouraged to place that first bet by all the means that are  at the unchecked marketing teams’ disposal.

The two types of gambling

Gambling falls into one of two types, it being either chance based or skill based.  When you gamble you are taking part in an activity that actually is more likely to result in  losing money with possibly the odd chance of winning money.  An example of chance based gambling would be playing the lottery or bingo  because everyone who has entered has an equal chance of winning or losing so it is an even playing field.  Skill based gambling allows players to use tactics or techniques that may sway the odds in their favour. For example, in horse racing or football, past results and data can help change the odds in the gambler’s favour but basically any sport or sporting event you will be able to place bets on. 

The first online casino was established in 1994 and since then they have escalated in number, without restriction, and basically provided websites where players can play both traditional and new casino games which are all down to chance. The problem with gaming online is that it can be kept secret. Previously a gambler would have had to visit a high street betting shop or casino; now it is possible to gamble while at work, on the bus or train or at home with the new work from home culture. It is always more likely to result in losing than winning and it is a fact that every casino game has odds more favourable to the provider than the player. This holds true for both online games and casinos you can walk into, so the myth that there are better odds online is completely false.  

Chance only determines the outcome of any game, there is no play method or pattern that affects whether a game is likely to result in a win or loss. Modern gaming machines use computer technology to operate their functions. Slot machine outcomes are determined using a built in Random Number Generator which is a mathematically based programme that selects groups of numbers to determine which symbols are selected to produce a winning or losing outcome. Each symbol is chosen randomly and the selection of that symbol is not influenced by outside factors like previous outcomes of the winning or losing history. Therefore the common notion that  “I have put so much money in this machine it’s got to pay out soon,” is wrong.  This can often lead a player to spend more money and time playing than they intended to, hoping for a jackpot payout.

One of the most common gambling addictions is to online slot or fruit machines. The games are very fast even though there have now been imposed maximum spin speeds. Online there is still a lot of flashing lights and noise associated with play which all adds to the very act of betting and the increased levels of dopamine that the brain is producing and the pleasurable effect we feel if we are winning or losing .  

Scratch cards, which are widely available in supermarkets and petrol stations, provide another game of chance that is very popular. This is a form of gambling that creates one the most common addictive problems for many people.  The odds of winning on any scratch card are about 3/1 but the catch is that these are the odds of winning any prize not the top prize.  There is no way of knowing how many of the top prizes there are, or if they have already been won.  

It is very common if you win something to reinvest the funds into more scratch cards and never to walk away with any monetary winnings in your hand.   The possibility of winning the Euro lottery is 1 in 139 million, while the national lottery statistics are 1 in 7.5 million.  The odds were better before they added another number to the ticket and increased the number of balls. If you consider that in the UK there are similar odds of of being struck by lightning as winning the lottery, you can see what you are up against.

Help for gambling addiction

At The Haynes Clinic we have noticed increased numbers of enquiries from people who have become developed a gambling addiction and don’t know where to turn for help. The increase in addiction is directly related to the ability to gamble from home with such ease and the constant bombardment through advertising in all forms of media to “have a go.”  For some people it will have started from boredom and the initial gambling “high” has enabled them to escape from their feelings. For others they have seen the hype as a solution to their economic demise and have ended up chasing their losses.

There is a free, confidential support group called Gamblers Anonymous and a local meeting to your home address can be found by inputting your postcode into their website.  The Haynes Clinic offers free assessments over the phone or face to face at the Clinic if you would like help with a gambling addiction.