Gambling addiction on the rise during pandemic lockdown
A website for drug addicts seeking help says site traffic increased 46% during the pandemic.
Problemgambling.ie claims that the lockdowns have led many people to switch from traditional sports betting to slots and online poker.
Barry Grant, who manages the website, is an addiction counselor.
Last year the first lockdown started in Ireland after the Cheltenham Festival.
Exceptionally, the website has gone silent. There was “tumbleweed” which he calls “weird”.
Then the traffic to the site started to increase again.
People who would traditionally have bet on sports – many of which had been canceled – had switched to online poker and slots.
“If you go from sports to casino it can be very dangerous because it’s a whole different ball game with higher intensity and a lot of people have issues when they go from sports betting to casino betting.”
“Boredom was a factor,” he says, “a lot of people were made redundant or received PUP payments”.
He says people have started to experiment with placing bets elsewhere.
Unlike alcoholism or drug addiction, gambling does not affect the body’s physical tolerance.
However, people who contact problemgambling.ie are in serious crisis.
“They missed a lot of mortgage payments, they might owe money to money lenders, they might have run out of credit cards, they might have stolen from their employer, about one in five people with a gambling addiction will steal his employer. “
Waking up can often be a point of crisis where a partner threatens to drive the person out of the house.
Barry Grant said he would encourage people to get help before the crisis point.
“No one wakes up and starts the first day with a flutter and ends up getting addicted to gambling, that just doesn’t happen more than a person who gets addicted to alcohol with their first drink,” he says.
Eoin Coyne sought help with his gambling addiction seven years ago.
Placing bets consumed his thoughts and actions from the moment he woke up in the morning until the last thing in the evening.
“In the shower, I thought about what I was going to bet on, going to bed at night, I thought about the next day, thinking about the day that had just been, how much I had won, how much I had lost.”
Eoin mostly placed his bets in stores, but online betting was starting to take off on smartphones and he was moving in that direction.
It was time to sort things out.
“I just didn’t have the capacity to handle what I was doing.”
Access to smartphones and devices is attributed to an increase in the number of young people betting online, especially teenagers.
A 2019 European Schools survey found that 10% of the Irish population were problem gamblers and just over 5% were problem gamblers.
Problem gambling among teens was 14%, less than half of that number of girls was binge-gambling (4.5%).
It found that problem gambling among Irish boys was 7.6% and 2.8% for girls.
Barry Grant expects these numbers to increase due to restrictions around Covid-19.
“There are many online payment platforms out there so there are many ways for a youngster to start playing online we are all stuck on screens all day so I would be surprised if we didn’t see an increase” , he said.
There have been calls for a gambling regulator in Ireland for some time now. It is also part of the Program for Government.
In a statement, the Justice Department said work was underway on drafting legislation to develop “the necessary modern licensing and regulatory arrangements for the gaming industry.” .
He said Minister James Browne hopes to present proposals to the government this year.
He adds that it is planned to publish the general outline of this bill and to finalize the appointment of the director / CEO designated for the new statutory regulator of games of chance this year.