The Dark Side of Sports – Can Betting on The World Cup Lead to Gambling Addiction?
As World Cup betting reaches an all-time high, so does gambling addiction. All over the world football fans were glued to their television sets with excitement as France won the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The World Cup final is the single most watched sporting event in the world.
For many of the fans, it’s a fun and exciting time, but for a gambling addict the results can be devastating.
World Cup betting is a billion-dollar industry and gambling addiction is on the rise. Brits were expected to bet an estimated 2.5 billion pounds ($3.31 billion) on the 2018 World Cup. World Cup viewers in the UK were exposed to almost 90 minutes of betting ads during the tournament. And adults are not the only ones that are involved. It is estimated that 25,000 children under the age of 16 are addicted to gambling. With the surge of online sports gambling, it has become easier for gamblers to place bets from home or with their smartphones. Online retailers and bookmakers are taking full advantage of the opportunity to profit. As profits grow, so does gambling addiction.
The Lure of Advertising Fosters Gambling Addiction
Advertisements for online betting more often than not show people having fun and illustrates the joys of winning. These bookmakers also showcase long-shot bets that are very unlikely to come to fruition — think bets on a particular score at halftime or a certain player scoring the first goal of the game. The truth is that the advertiser represents the company, not the consumer. Advertisers tend to use “dark nudges” to entice viewers to bet more. While in reality such events are extremely hard to predict and much less likely to happen. Problem Gamblers say that these triggers are making it even more difficult to stop or moderate their compulsions.
The advertising is also affecting young people. The Gambling Commission estimates that some 70 percent of children have seen gambling ads on social media and these minors are developing gambling-related problems than any other age group. Research also suggests that problem gamblers typically develop these behaviours during their teenage years. Part of the problem is that gambling- like alcohol- is socially acceptable. Children are being exposed through television and online media advertising to images and messaging that makes gambling appear to be exciting and fun.
What is Gambling Addiction?
Gambling addiction, also called gambling disorder or compulsive gambling, is a very powerful process addiction. It is the uncontrollable urge to keep gambling despite the negative consequences it has on a person’s life, finances or relationships. A Gambling addict can be anyone; from the grandmother down the street, to a successful businessman, to a young person with a smart phone that loves football.
Gambling addicts are willing to risk anything of value in hopes of getting a larger payoff. Similar to drugs and alcohol, gambling stimulates the brain’s reward system, leading to increases in dopamine. The person who has a problem with addictive gambling, will continually chase bets that lead to losses, hide their behaviour, deplete their savings, accumulate debt, or even resort to theft to support the addiction. Often the betting begins in small increments and then over time the bets increase. The addiction is driven by a relentless hope of winning, while imitating false feelings of power and control. There are many people who gamble just for entertainment and don’t get addicted. They are not addicts. The addict can’t stop. Addicts will max out credit cards, take out personal loans, and rack up a lot of debt to feed the addiction. The non-addict can walk away without it damaging their entire life or mental state.
Professor David Nutt, one of the world’s leading experts on addiction said, “Gambling addiction is not a failure of will, it is a brain disorder that is preyed upon by the gambling industry.” The addiction changes the brain because it releases dopamine over and over in response to the anticipation of betting and winning. The brain gets used to the patterns of dopamine being released, which creates a craving. Professor Nutt conducted MRI studies on the brains of gamblers and found that the brain became highly activated during the wins. The brain reacted similarly to the anticipation. So, it’s not just the winning that counts it’s also the action of gambling. The combination of the anticipation and the wins makes it even more addictive.
Compulsive gambling is a progressive illness. The urge to gamble can become overwhelming. Most people with gambling problems say they lost control over how much time and money they spent gambling and ignored other responsibilities. They knew they had problems, but only gambling seemed important.
Gambling addicts often struggle with severe depression, shame, guilt, anxiety and remorse. After the 2014 World Cup betting, four suicides in Hong Kong were found to be related to football betting. In the UK, a young successful accountant at PWC with his whole life ahead of him was driven to suicide over his gambling addiction.
What Are the Signs of Gambling Addiction?
Several signs indicate when normal enjoyment of gambling transitions into a problem.
- Being preoccupied with gambling, such as constantly planning how to get more gambling money
- Needing to gamble with increasing amounts of money to get the same thrill
- Trying to control, cut back or stop gambling, without success
- Feeling restless or irritable when you try to cut down on gambling
- Gambling to escape problems or relieve feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety or depression
- Trying to get back lost money by gambling more (chasing losses)
- Lying to family members or others to hide the extent of your gambling
- Jeopardising or losing important relationships, a job, or school or work opportunities because of gambling
- Resorting to theft or fraud to get gambling money
- Asking others to bail you out of financial trouble because you gambled money away
- Using drugs or alcohol while gambling or as a replacement for gambling
How Can Gambling Addiction Be Treated?
The main thing to remember is that with help, the addict can get better. The sooner the problem is identified, the better the chances of recovery. Gambling addiction is certainly challenging, but many people are able to overcome their illness. Treatment for compulsive gambling could include therapy, medication, and support groups. It may involve an outpatient programme or a residential treatment programme. Treatment for substance abuse, depression, anxiety or other mental health disorders may also be part of the treatment plan for compulsive gambling. It will depend on the individual’s needs and resources.
How Can I Help the Gambling Addict?
Gambling can have a serious impact on the addict as well as their family members and friends. It can be challenging to confront someone about a gambling problem. The best thing to do is to start by asking the person if the problem exists. Often times addicts are in denial about the problem. The best way to start is by letting them know (in a kind way) that you are genuinely concerned about them. When talking to someone with a gambling problem, remember to be honest and have compassion. Talk about how you are feeling and what you have noticed. Ideally open communication will not trigger an argument.
Sometimes people with gambling problems are relieved the subject was brought up because they want to talk about it. Although, others may not be open to talking because they feel ashamed and can become defensive. Try not to take it personally. If a person lies about having a problem, you can still tell them that you care and give them information on where to get help.
Get Help at The Dawn Gambling Rehab Thailand
If you or someone you love is struggling with a gambling addiction, The Dawn Medical Rehab and Wellness Centre can help. Regarded as one of Thailand’s leading addiction treatment and wellness centres, we offer highly personalised and intensive gambling addiction treatment programmes. Our programmes are custom-made to meet each client’s unique needs. We use cutting-edge treatment modalities and provide personalised care to treat gambling addiction as well as treat co-occurring disorders like drug and alcohol addiction or mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. See our contact page to reach us by email or call +66 63 048 4877 for immediate assistance.