Last night Andy and I were at a casino for the annual Christmas party. I have only been to a casino once before, probably in the early 1990’s, and I have never had any interest in gambling ….so the whole evening was something of a revelation.
The tables were really busy with people, most of whom had a look of absolute determined concentration. The lights were low and the croupiers were super slick in their delivery of chips …and even more so in their collection of cash payments. And oh, the cash that crossed those tables! In the space of about five minutes I saw one man lose about £600. It was so quick! Time after time fistfuls of cash were handed over, swept up by the croupier, and pushed down a hole in the table. Given a few chips, the gamblers placed them quickly, certainly it appeared, without much thought, and seconds later they were also swept up by the croupier. It was like watching a car crash. I was in part horribly fascinated …and also desperately sorry for the losers. I didn’t see many people winning.
Andy reassured me that it was the gamblers choice of course, no one was making them do this, and, as we have no idea of individual circumstances, perhaps they could afford to gamble/lose so much. But the point was, it didn’t even seem to be that pleasurable. And surely spending £600 that quickly should give you something.
This morning, with it still on my mind, I did a bit of research and it seems that gambling (particularly online gambling) is a major problem in this country. Of course it is, the advertising is everywhere, and it’s so easy to place bets; be it from phone, tablet, or laptop.
Last year it was reported that in the UK, 2 million people were addicted to gambling. I would personally bet, (excuse the pun) that the real figure is a lot higher than that. Take the fixed odds betting terminals, (FOBT’s ) that are found in betting shops. The player can bet up to £100 every twenty seconds, and they are widely known as the crack cocaine of gambling because the hit is so quick (but doesn’t last long). Pressure from anti gambling groups has induced the government to take steps to reduce the maximum bet from £100 to £2, and this will hopefully be implemented at some point during 2019. But until then, this problem is an issue for people all across the UK…and the sad thing is these machines, (up to four in any betting shop), are often being used by those who can least afford them.
Football/sports betting is another huge problem. During the last week the big betting companies agreed to stop showing their incessant advertisements during live games. Whether that is going far enough remains to be seen, considering that the age group most affected by sports betting is young men aged 16-25. Alcohol and tobacco advertising were very big in the 1970’s and 80’s on players shirts …and this has been largely been replaced in the twenty first century by betting advertising.
The ease with which one can bet on live sports events whilst watching them on TV, or phone makes gambling easier and more attractive than ever. They add to the excitement of the game in play and offer the promise of immediate reward.
“There are really only two classes of people for whom gambling has a certain logic: those who can well afford their losses and those who can’t afford not to win because they have no reasonable prospects of making money otherwise.” Guardian Editorial
Whilst football and sport advertising is of major concern, there is also a ‘hidden’ problem of online bingo sites that are now so prevelant. Online bingo has a particularly massive female following. The colourful advertising for these sites shows happy people enjoying life and interacting with others. The sad reality is that sometimes it is the very opposite: Gamblers spending hours a day online, spending money they can’t afford, taking their credit cards to their limits and ending each day in a state of misery and despair. It’s not just bingo, online gambling generally (Poker for example), is becoming hugely popular with people who would not dream of going into a betting shop normally.
So who is most at risk of becoming addicted to gambling… and why? Is there something about people wanting to so radically change their lives/circumstances that the the promise of a quick (presumably big) win outweighs the risk? Secrecy is certainly a big element. Keeping the addiction a complete secret from friends and family, gamblers may continually deny their problem. It can therefore be extremely difficult to identify a gambling addiction and help family or friends.
There are a number of supportive groups out there for those who wish to seek help. And help is desperately needed ; More than one in ten players who play are at risk of addiction.
Suicidal thoughts are not uncommon in people who are experiencing debt following gambling online. Psychologists report that gambling is experienced differently for men and women. It is thought men gamble for a cocaine-like rush, whilst women seem to experience a numbness / detachment.
Whatever the scale of the problem, there is help available and admitting that there is a problem is the first step towards recovery.
If you are experiencing symptoms of addiction, try the following steps:
1. Pay important bills on payday before gambling,
2. Remove yourself from risky gambling situations where you can.
3. Don’t ignore debt, seek help from The National Debtline
4. Try and see gambling as fun rather than a money making activity.
5. Don’t take cards with you when you are gambling and agree a set amount of cash to spend and stop when that has gone.
6. Finally, talk to someone. Be it a counsellor, a friend or a family member. Admit to someone you need a help.
Other support available:
GamCare offers free information, support and counselling for problem gamblers in the UK. It runs the National Gambling Helpline (0808 8020 133) and also offers face-to-face counselling.
National Problem Gambling Clinic If you live in England or Wales, are aged 16 or over and have complex problems related to gambling, you can refer yourself to this specialist NHS clinic for problem gamblers.
Gordon Moody Association offers residential courses for men and women who have problems with gambling – email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01384 241292 to find out more.
Gamblers Anonymous UK runs local support groups that use the same 12-step approach to recovery from addiction as Alcoholics Anonymous.
Support is also available to people who are worried about someone else’s gambling: GamCare gives support and help to friends and family of people who gamble compulsively.