Gambling Addiction on the Rise in Lockdown
The Covid-19 pandemic, lockdown, and social distancing protocols have led to a rise in many mental health-related issues. There has also been a distinct rise in the number of cases of gambling addiction all across the world.
Executive Director of the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio, Derek Longmeier, that 1 out of 10 Ohio residents who gamble have suffered from gambling addiction-related problems over the course of the pandemic. He also believes that at least 10% of this group would clinically qualify as suffering from gambling disorders.
Longmeier believes that this issue is mainly because people can’t go to movies, restaurants, or spend on entertainment. So they have some free money to gamble. He points out the unprecedented rise in the sale of lottery tickets over the past months as evidence for his theory. He also believes that stimulus checks also provided people with some extra financial leeway to spend in casinos.
Even amidst the Covid pandemic, many casinos with online platforms have enjoyed record-breaking profits due to this increasing trend of spending money on gambling.
According to Longmeier, Ohio’s gambling helpline manages nearly 500 calls per month on average. But this number had shot up significantly when casinos started re-opening over the last few months with limited capacities.
Longmire is also very apprehensive about the impact of Senate Bill 176, which has allowed online sports gambling in casinos. According to him, sports better are at a higher risk of developing an addiction than other gamblers. The easy access to online sports betting will increase the risk exposure of a larger number of Ohio residents.
Usually, men between the ages of 18 and 44 years experience a problem with sports betting. Nearly 1 out of every four sports better has some form of a gambling disorder.
Longmeier is not opposed to sports betting expansion in Ohio because of its economic benefits. But he believes that there needs to be adequate information about problem gambling support on all promotional material for these platforms. He also suggests that machines like instant electronic bingo devices used in club rooms need to be regulated by gambling regulating authorities.
But there are some warning signs for developing a gambling addiction. Gambling addicts are usually secretive, depressed, and have unstable unexplained financial gains or losses. Gambling should be a form of entertainment using surplus disposable income. When one starts gambling, their daily requirement, it can be taken as a sure sign of a gambling disorder.
But it is not only Ohio and the USA where gambling addiction is rising. The National Gaming Control Board of Papua New Guinea is also aware of the problem. They have recently approved a multi-million dollar casino project but are simultaneously conducting massive awareness programs about the signs and treatments for gambling disorders.
The casino industry is a huge revenue earner, but governments must be aware and take action regarding the issue of gambling disorders among their citizens.