The global pandemic has the entire world on lockdown, and while some industries are suffering, others are flourishing. With brick-and-mortar gambling venues closed, people are spending much more time in online casinos. Since most sporting events have either been cancelled or postponed, betting enthusiasts have searched for other ways to entertain themselves.
Despite a drop in sports betting, online casinos have recorded a staggering increase in the number of active players. Based on many reviews and surveys performed by the Gambling Commission, the interest in online casinos has peaked since the lockdown began.
With this spike came concern from mental health institutions and gambling charities, who believed the lockdown would create more gambling addicts. Unfortunately, according to research, they weren’t wrong. As many as 12% of people who spent weeks in confinement due to the pandemic stated that their gambling habits worsened, while 46% experienced anxiety symptoms.
How the Lockdown Has Fueled the Online Gambling Industry
With the world still in lockdown, people began feeling the consequences of spending too much time at home. Experts raised concerns about those with mental health issues and addictions, especially in the gambling sector. With venues closed, passionate gamblers turned to online casinos.
While some people managed to keep gambling casual, others succumbed to the pressure of social distancing, anxiety, boredom, and even personal conflict, which led to the development of gambling addiction. Moreover, the pandemic left many people without financial support, as companies ran out of business.
Financial troubles were one of the main reasons people turned to this easy way to earn money. Playing online slots and other casino games seemed like a simple solution, especially to people with a gambling problem. The lockdown also led some recovering addicts to relapse and take up gambling once again.
According to research, 50% of gamblers reported that the lockdown harmed their income, which prompted the rise in the number of online gamblers. Overall, we can conclude that COVID-19 had a positive effect on the online gambling industry, while potential gambling addicts were put at risk.
Most Common Symptoms of Gambling Addiction
Just like any other addiction, problem gambling also has specific symptoms that will come out on the surface. To protect yourself from gambling addiction, you should be aware of the following symptoms:
- Incessant thoughts on how to win more money gambling;
- Continually wagering increased amount of money to feel the same thrill;
- Unsuccessfully trying to control your urges to gamble;
- Experiencing feelings of anxiety, depression, guilt;
- Trying to recoup lost money by gambling even more;
- Lying to people around you to hide your gambling habits, thus jeopardizing relationships with important people in your life;
- Getting loans or stealing money to continue gambling.
Unlike casual gamblers who can accept losing in online casinos or sportsbooks, people with gambling addiction do everything in their power not to lose, even if that means gambling even more.
That’s why it’s called addiction (or compulsion) — people feel the need to recover the money they lost, and they are compelled to do it by repeating the same thing over and over, even if it harms them.
Therefore, if you notice any of the signs and symptoms we mentioned above, consider reaching out to your family and friends or getting in touch with an institution or organization specializing in this field.
How to Get Help
Deciding to get help might be one of the most challenging steps people with gambling addiction must take. Thankfully, even during the lockdown, most institutions still offer assistance to those in need, albeit online.
If you’re not sure when is the right time to seek help, we’ll just say this — the sooner, the better. Therefore, if you’ve played too many online casino games or spent vast amounts of money on betting during the lockdown, and you can’t seem to stop, below we listed some institutions and online platforms you can contact:
- Canada’s Safety Council — Contains numbers of all problem gambling helplines you can call right away.
- GamTalk — An online platform that allows you to share your experience with others that have already gone through the same thing. At times, just talking to someone who understands can help significantly.
- Problem Gambling — Another platform with self-help tools you can use anonymously.
- NCPG (National Council on Problem Gambling) — Contains a number of the national problem gambling helpline you can call any time of the day, seven days a week.
Overall, it’s vital to know that there are people who can help you and that, with adequate support and program, you can overcome the addiction.