acquiesce - December 14th, 2020

Is the Internet Contributing to the UK’s Gambling Addiction Problem?

Although an online gambling addiction is extremely similar to a regular gambling addiction, the two can differ. In this article, we will be taking a look at whether the internet is contributing to gambling addictions in the UK. 

It used to be the case that in order to gamble, you had to physically go to a casino or bookies to place your bet, whereas nowadays it is possible to gamble from the comfort of your own home via your smartphone, laptop or tablet thanks to the internet. This makes the process of gambling far more accessible for the general public, it is literally a click away. 

Not only has it made gambling incredibly easy, it has also made gambling easier to keep hidden from others. Bets can be placed in a matter of seconds whilst at work, waiting for the kettle to boil or even on the toilet. Whilst online providers do have to encourage users to gamble responsibly, through the likes of gambling self exclusions, many experts still argue that the ease of which someone can gamble online is making the issue in the UK much worse than it needs to be.

The danger of this is that the individual will begin to associate making a bet with everyday tasks, making gambling appear more casual and disguising the serious risk factor that is involved every time a bet is placed. 

A recent study led by Aston University Psychology Professor, Richard Tunney, revealed that the number of bets made via a smartphone was higher and done more frequently than those who go to a casino or bookies. This is because users tend to check their phones regularly throughout the day, and as they do, they often place a bet or are looking for the next opportunity to potentially win money.

The study also found that even after repeated losses, mobile gamblers continued to play on. This is due to the common design principle in mobile gaming that encourages engagement, consisting of a mix of small wins, ‘near misses’ and losses.

According to Ofcom the UK communication regulator, on average, people in the UK now check their smartphones every twelve minutes of the day. This means some people could be placing up to 80 bets a day, as mobile phones are becoming more and more prominent in everyday life, the access we have to these online bookies is more direct than ever. 

Online gambling doesn’t just affect those who already have a gambling problem but it is also influencing children as young as 11 to engage in gambling style behaviours. According to the Gambling Commission, gaming can be a route into betting, with almost 1 million young people exposed to gambling through ‘loot boxes’ in popular video games or on smartphone apps.

The issue with online games and apps is that there is no clear line when it comes to what is and isn’t considered to be a form of gambling. Loot boxes unlock features such as characters, avatars, weapons or outfits within a game and players can often trade, bet and sell these to others in the hopes of getting better ones.

Despite laws stating that any sites offering betting facilities must have a licence and shouldn’t target children, the commission found that 10% of 11-16 year olds had participated in this type of gambling before, often without realising they were engaging in gambling.

Having such easy access also makes it much harder to avoid playing/betting. Whereas once upon a time you had to avoid heading to casinos, bars or other physical gambling locations, now every device with internet access becomes a potential casino.

The advertisement of gambling online is also very prevalent on many websites, with links to gambling sites offering enticing deals such as ‘five free spins’. This means even when users may be trying to avoid online gambling sites, the temptation follows them through ads, and targeted marketing activity. This is also the case on television, especially when it comes to watching live sports, where betting adverts appear within almost every ad break, along with betting providers also being extremely prominent in terms of shirt sponsorships. 

According to the June 2020 report from the Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group, with the growth of online gambling there has also been a significant growth in online gambling addictions/problems. The Gambling Commission estimates that there are 395,000 problem gamblers in Great Britain, with 1.8 million more gamblers at risk who may also be struggling to manage their gambling habits.

How Online Gambling Affects Relationships

It is also important to remember that online gambling doesn’t just affect those doing the gambling, but their friends and families too. It is commonly the case that friends and family aren’t aware of their loved one’s problem until it has spiralled out of control and the individual is in large amounts of debt, and really struggling to go any extended period of time without placing a bet. This can create strains on relationships, and potentially even cause them to fully break down. This is why help for those that are struggling is so important, and can be the first step to overcoming the addiction . 

How Online Gambling Affects Children and Young People

As aforementioned, online gambling can also affect children as young as 11, who are found to be engaging in gambling style behaviours. According to the Gambling Commission, gaming can be a route into betting, with almost 1 million young people exposed to gambling through ‘loot boxes’ in video games or on smartphone apps.

The issue with online games and apps is that there is no clear line when it comes to what is and isn’t considered to be a form of gambling. Loot boxes unlock features such as characters, avatars, weapons or outfits within a game and players can often trade, bet and sell these to others in the hopes of getting better ones. 

Despite laws stating that any sites offering skins betting facilities must have a licence and shouldn’t target children, the commission found that ten percent of 11-16 year olds had participated in this type of gambling before.

Unfortunately, children and young people are far less likely to consider the long term consequences of gambling and can easily become addicted without them or their parents realising, particularly when their peers are doing the same thing.

If you are concerned that you or someone you know has a problem with gambling, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our friendly team who will be happy to answer any questions and discuss the treatment options available. 

Made by Statuo