Gambling addiction – what is it?
Gambling addiction is tough to control for many people. Yet, a small percentage of people have no inclination to gamble. They can walk past a casino without the slightest urge to bet. Some people have no problems having the occasional bet, using expendable income frugally. However, another sector of the population can feel themselves get carried away. Perhaps after betting a bit much, these people manage to “reel themselves in” and stop wagering. This is when gambling addiction needs to be addressed.
All of these examples are, on differing levels, display that the majority of people don’t have a severe gambling problem. But, the ones that do suffer from even mild gambling addiction need swift help.
Gambling addiction increasing
However, over the past few decades, there has been a significant increase in people who struggle to control betting impulses. Perhaps it’s the ease of betting or the interactive nature of modern-day wagering. Today it often feels like the line between gaming and gambling is blurred. So, with such a highly entertaining product, it’s very easy for people to get carried away while having fun. But, of course, the thrills end in tears for the people who can’t stop, bet too big or chase losses.
For those easily addicted, gambling is a recipe for disaster most of the time. But what factors contribute to a person’s likelihood of developing a gambling addiction, can it be curbed, and what can be done to prevent it?
Factors that contribute to gambling addiction
- An addictive personality: While this is not proven beyond doubt, many believe that certain people are more likely to get addicted than others. So, whether it be cigarettes, alcohol, sex or even extreme exercise, these people will struggle to stop easily when gambling.
- Financial pressure: The financial status of problem gamblers can vary wildly. Some people who are in a bind and need money compound their problems by trying to gamble to earn. Most of the time, this is futile. That’s because while they might have a big win here or there, making a living from gambling is very tough. In fact, unless you have an edge in a game of skill it’s highly unlikely. On the flip side, people with substantial expendable income sometimes never feel the pain of losing until they go way too big.
- Depression: Undiagnosed depression can lead to many attempts at filling the “void” you feel inside. It would be risky sex, binge drinking, or developing a gambling addiction.
- Thrill seeker: Sometimes, those constantly seeking an adrenalin rush come across gambling. When this happens they can get addicted easily as the rushes come quickly and on-demand.
- Stress: Recreational gambling often begins as an intended stress reliever. The irony, of course, is that if the gambling becomes compulsive, it can induce far more stress than there was pre-gambling.
- Modern technology: As mentioned earlier, it’s easier to get addicted to gambling nowadays than 30 years ago. With access to tons of online casinos and sportsbooks, 24/7 on your mobile, tablet or p.c, resisting the urge for “a quick flutter” can be incredibly tough for those addicted to gambling. A few decades ago, all you had to do was make sure you didn’t drive to the casino or walk by a betting shop. It has become close to impossible for loved ones looking to keep tabs on those with a propensity to gamble too much.
Are there any ways to combat gambling addiction, or at least to mitigate the damage it causes?
Well, calling a hotline and getting counselling is a good start to help gambling addiction. And there are, of course, self-exclusionary programs that some online casinos and sportsbooks subscribe to that after you put your name down, you will be barred from playing at affiliated betting sites. The problem with this is: if someone wants to gamble, they will. If they’re excluded from 75% of online betting sites, they will just find the other 25% that will accept them – whether they are legal or not.
Change in mindset
A permanent change of mindset for a compulsive gambler is difficult to achieve. Short of moving to a deserted island with no internet, the temptation will always be there. Also, what do you do with the people that simply can’t or won’t change? Do we give up on them, or is there any other way to help them?
Would educating gamblers to become better be another method of helping them? We get problem smokers to “cut down” or change to lower nicotine brands. We encourage people with drinking problems to switch to alcohol-free alternatives. What about educating gamblers or offering alternatives?
How about educating gamblers to increase risk intelligence? To start, let’s explain risk intelligence – it’s the skill to estimate probabilities in order to make educated assessments correctly. First of all, this wouldn’t apply to online casino games with a set RTP (Return to Player) percentage but rather to games requiring some degree of skill.
All the top gamblers in the world have high-risk intelligence, but unfortunately, in the general population, it’s incredibly rare. For example, the flipping of a coin – we all know that it’s basically a 50-50 chance. So if the “house” offered you three times your money for unlimited flips, this would be a fantastic bet in clinical gambling terms.
However, as things get more complicated, we seem to lack the inherent ability to dismiss the “noise” and correctly predict the probability. But, with certain games of skill, such as poker, blackjack, sports betting, and horse racing, there are databases of information that can help. Indeed, poker and blackjack probabilities are set in stone – with enough studying, one can maximise their winning chances.
Of course, it might not be enough to win consistently or even show a profit (although it is possible to succeed), BUT at worst, it would slow the losses and let punters “hold their own” when battling against casinos or sportsbooks. At the very least, it would be more value – stretching your gambling kitty further.
Any improvement to your Risk Intelligence should improve your long term play in any game of skill.
Common Sense with game choice
Getting the most out of your gambling can sometimes mean making your finances last longer. If the end result will be losing, then why not stretch the process out longer? This makes players lose less over a more extended period. An easy way for casino players to achieve this (and to have a better chance of winning) is to choose online casino games with a high RTP (return to player) percentage. This is the percentage of turnover that the casino returns to winners over a long period.
So you see, the casino games WILL show a profit for the betting establishment, but some are more profitable than others (i.e., the ones with lower RTP%). So make sure to choose one with a high RTP%, or even better yet, as mentioned above, specialise in a game of skill and become better at it.
Common Sense with finances
Perhaps all finances of problem gamblers should be handed over to trusted family members. That way, they can allocate a certain amount which has to last a deemed period before being replenished.
Online casinos could perhaps have an option where second party verification from a nominated family member is needed before withdrawal. Then, to go one further, this family member would be notified after a significant win.
Maximum bets could be set before playing, or even play for fun would be enabled if a monthly float has run dry.
Alternatives to gambling
Fantasy football leagues, free contests, video games, charity work or hobbies. It’s all worth trying to see if something can replace the endorphin rush of gambling.
Common Sense with bonuses
It’s positively sinful to start at an online casino without a first deposit bonus. Some even offer large second or third deposit bonuses. The odds will still be against a player, but their chances of winning may be increased – and the playing time they get for their initial deposit is longer.
No quick fix
The bottom line is that there is no easy solution to the issue of problem gambling. Therefore, the first port of call should always be counselling for all affected parties. However, for those that keep falling into a destructive cycle, perhaps the best way would be to minimise the damage.