The COVID-19 pandemic saw changes in attitude and behaviors that impacted various industries. Online gambling is one sector that has experienced mostly positive shifts due to the pandemic. Some studies indicate that online gambling has spiked since the pandemic started. When the coronavirus began spreading globally in early 2020, a majority of regions went into lockdown. Many people found themselves with a lot of free time due to non-essential services shutting down. The cancellation of sports events coupled with the closure of betting shops and physical casinos forced gamblers to turn to online options.
Online casino games, poker, lotteries, and virtual games saw an exponential increase in numbers. As people spent most of their time indoors, the demand for entertainment rose, and internet gaming solutions were convenient options. Although the pandemic might have worked out well for gambling operators, a particular issue has been raining debates across the industry and among health experts – gambling addiction. The argument is that people with too much time on their hand’s frequent gaming websites more than they normally would, which exposes them to an increased risk of problem gambling.
Risks to Vulnerable Individuals
The biggest concern about the rising use of online gambling sites during the pandemic is that persons who are susceptible to addiction can be easily triggered. COVID-19-related lockdowns had severe implications. People lost jobs, some families and friends couldn’t see each other for months, social activities were interrupted, and so on. Some individuals had the misfortune of hunkering down alone. So, it’s not surprising that depression, anxiety, and boredom levels rose dramatically. Some gamblers spent more time and money online as coping mechanisms. Other people took the opportunity to see what online gambling had to offer for the first time.
Increased screen time translated to higher exposure to aggressive marketing by online casinos and other sites. With the pandemic causing extreme stress, online gambling provided an escape. Depressed and anxious individuals can easily develop a gambling addiction because they might use games as outlets. Another reason for concern is that people had too much free time. Hence, gamblers could spend several hours a day on betting websites. The fact that online gambling services are available 25/7 doesn’t help.
It is why the gambling industry takes measures to protect vulnerable people, with some countries implementing regulations. For example, licensed operators are required to provide responsible gaming tools to help reduce the risk of gambling-related harms. Lucky Days Casino is an example of a regulated platform that champions safe gambling. Check out the Lucky Days review by Vienne Garcia for more information about the site.
The Impact of Problem Gaming
A player with a gambling addiction can have various challenges. Money troubles are the obvious outcomes that people think of when they hear about addiction. An addicted player can indeed spend cash needlessly on various products. Individuals can end up in debt as they sometimes spend money that they don’t have. However, gambling-related harms cover a wide spectrum. Conflicts with family, friends, and acquaintances are common issues. A problem gambler may lie, defraud and cheat to get money or hide the addiction, consequently, ruining personal and professional relationships. Persons already dealing with mental health issues like depression and anxiety can end up far worse than they were due to primary gambling-related harms like financial constraints. Frustration from gambling losses can leave players prone to destructive behaviors like excessive alcohol consumption or substance abuse.
Problem gambling is not a new subject. Since the advent of online gambling sites, there have been debates about whether the platforms have a higher addiction risk compared to brick-and-mortar casinos. The discussion attained new heights due to the unprecedented situations that most people found themselves in. Gambling regulators have always been attentive about minimizing threats of problem gaming. Top jurisdictions like the UK, Malta, Gibraltar, and Kahnawake have provisions for responsible gaming. Regulatory bodies require operators to offer advice and tools to help gamblers prevent or address addiction.
Most regulated platforms have a variety of features. Deposit limits let players set the amount that they can transfer daily, weekly, or monthly. It prevents gamblers from spending more than they plan to. Players who believe that they need time away can choose from different options, such as self-exclusion. Depending on the feature, you can opt to take a break for a few days, weeks, or months. A reality check is one of the latest offerings. It reminds you of how long you have been playing to avoid spending too much time on a gaming platform.
Responsible gaming also requires operators to provide contact information to support organizations. Thus, you can expect to find links to local helplines, Gamblers Anonymous, and industry-recognized agencies. A casino’s licensing might influence the support bodies it partners with. Gambling websites include self-assessment guides to help customers evaluate their activities if they suspect they might be in trouble.
Problem gambling is a crucial health hazard that has raised considerable concern during the COVID-19 pandemic. With untethered access to online casinos and a lot of free time, gamblers were, and remain, at high risk of gambling-related harms as the pandemic stretches on. Although many regions are out of lockdown, the behavior shifts caused by confinement warrant a closer look. Research into the adverse effects of the pandemic on gambling activities is still limited, so more investments are necessary to better understand the circumstances. Regulatory authorities also have to be strict about requiring operators to implement safe gambling policies that protect consumers and, especially, vulnerable persons.