It used to be the case that those who wished to gamble would do so in a local betting shop, at a racetrack, or in a casino. However, things have changed dramatically in recent years with the advent of the internet, and now it is possible to gamble at any time of the day or night provided the gambler has a device that can access the internet and the available funds to use. This has led to a massive rise in the number of individuals being affected by gambling addiction. But what is internet gambling addiction?
Online gambling addiction is on the increase in the United Kingdom. Often referred to as a ‘hidden’ or ‘secret’ addiction, those who gamble online can now do so from the comfort of their own homes. The smartphone and other devices have made it possible for gambling to be carried out in private, on the daily commute, on a lunchbreak, or while in the company of others on a night out. And with internet access and speeds becoming getting better all the time, there is virtually no place in the British Isles where one cannot get online.
According to the Gambling Commission, online gambling accounts for one-third of all gambling that currently takes place in Britain, making it the largest gambling sector in the country. Statistics have revealed that from April 2015 to March 2016, online gambling operators took in £4.5 billion in gross gambling yield.
Programme director of the Gambling Commission, James Green, said of this increase, “Our latest statistics have shown that with the growth in online gambling, the industry is increasingly taking a creative approach to using technology to engage consumers. As the online sector grows, operators will also need to demonstrate that they are taking an equally innovative approach to ensuring gambling is safe for all online consumers.”
While most people who gamble do so in moderation, there are some for whom the activity becomes all consuming. Those who develop a gambling addiction may crave the adrenalin rush experienced whenever they gamble, and it is this feeling that becomes so addictive.
What is internet gambling addiction and who does it affect? Well, the reality is that absolutely anyone can be affected by an online gambling addiction. As mentioned a little further up in this piece, the only requirement is access to the internet and a bank account with funds in it. Moreover, the idea that any type of addiction affects a specific type of person is a complete non-starter. In truth, gambling addiction can affect anyone regardless of the person’s age, gender, race, religion, background, and socio-economic status.
When it comes to online gambling, there is an age stipulation that those opening accounts must be over 18. However, as the process is done remotely, nothing stops underage individuals from opening accounts in the name of another person, provided they have their details. It is difficult to police everyone who opens an online account for gambling, so this means that it is increasingly common to see teenagers affected by internet gambling addiction as well.
When it comes to internet gambling, the risk of addiction is quite high, particularly because it is all too often done in secret. In contrast to gambling in a casino or a betting shop where staff may notice when an individual appears to have a problem, online gamblers can partake in betting at any hour of the day or night without anyone else realising what they are doing.
As with any other type of addiction, a gambling addiction can have devastating consequences for the individual as well as the people closest to them. As there are no physical side effects of this particular illness, it is often the case that the addiction will be at the late stages before loved ones even realise what is going on.
There is a need to have constant access to funds, which can often become problematic when the addiction has progressed. The more the person gambles, the more he or she will find him/herself in financial trouble. It is often the case that gambling addicts borrow from family members, friends and even lending institutes as their own available income dwindles away. Some gambling addicts have been known to re-mortgage their property without the knowledge of their partner as they try to chase down their losses.
Most problem gamblers are often under the impression that a big win is just around the corner and that if they just keep on gambling they are sure to win back enough money to repay their debts and more. This rarely happens; it is more likely that the affected individual will continue to gamble and rack up even more debts, placing him/herself under even more stress. As you might imagine from what we have just written, a gambling addiction can quickly lead to mental health problems such as chronic depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts.
Another aspect of the illness that we feel we must mention is the fact that gambling addiction and substance misuse often go hand in hand. In a 2013 study by St Michael’s Hospital, it was found that there is a significant link between gambling addiction and substance abuse. The study discovered that between ten and twenty per cent of those with substance abuse problems also had significant gambling problems. Struggling with both a gambling addiction and a substance abuse problem can lead to serious negative consequences for the individual as well as his or her immediate family and friends.
All addictions, whether to a chemical substance or a specific activity, are classed as illnesses of the brain. Fortunately, there are many programmes designed to treat such illnesses. In the case of a gambling addiction, it is necessary for the individual to develop certain strategies to help him or her avoid gambling. When this comes to traditional gambling addiction, it would mean avoiding casinos, betting shops, racetracks, etc. Nevertheless, it is not as straightforward for an online gambling addiction.
The temptation to go online is much stronger, and as technology advances and increasingly more things become available online, it is tough to avoid computers and other devices that can access the internet. Impulse betting will always be a problem for those who have suffered with an internet gambling addiction, so for that reason, it is a good idea for sufferers to engage in a fully comprehensive recovery programme with qualified counsellors and therapists.
To this end, there are many programmes designed to treat those with a gambling addiction. Various organisations such as the NHS, local support groups, charities, and private clinics offer excellent programmes to help those who want to overcome an internet gambling addiction for good. To learn more or for additional information, feel free contact us here at UKAT today.
(Gambling Commission) New figures show online gambling is largest gambling sector in Britain
(Science Daily) Links made between problem gambling and substance abuse, and lack of treatment options