A counselor at a gambling center in Co Limerick has cautioned that the number of people seeking help for gambling has increased by 50% over the past months of the pandemic.
Gambling Addiction Precipitated by Pandemic
A Co Limerick center in Ireland has reported a significant spike in the cases of problem gambling since the pandemic started. The numbers of people experiencing issues with handling their online gambling habits have become “frightening,” said a center counselor.
Cuan Mhuire’s Michael Guerin cautioned that the pandemic has boosted online gambling activities and that many young men were experiencing difficulties handling their gambling behavior.
That has always been an issue, Guerin said, but the added challenge of the pandemic has made it even harder for young men to cope with their gambling behavior, affecting even people with modest tendencies to gamble that have worsened during the period of isolation.
The increase in gambling has impacted women as well, Guerin warned, with more female gamblers facing financial difficulties or experiencing addiction symptoms already he said. Among the reasons for the increased interest in gambling was the soaring number of people out of work as well those who have been isolated for too long and have been looking for a way to escape from the lockdown.
A Welcome Distraction for Many
Online gambling has proven a welcome distraction for many, but what started as an innocent hobby has quickly escalated to an unhealthy and potentially ruinous habit. Commenting on the addiction symptoms exhibited by consumers, Guerin had this to say:
“It starts off low, but for an increasing number it just escalates out of control and they find themselves addicted to the thing. It’s the perfect storm.”-Gambling counselor Michael Guerin
Guerin went further, arguing that companies were placing targeted advertisements and creating tailored products to incentivize people into various gambling contests that promised quick financial gain.
Numbers Go up 50%
According to data shared by Guerin, there has been a 50% increase in the number of gamblers registered at the center over the past months. Another trend that shaped during the pandemic was the exodus of brick-and-mortar punters and their shift online, which has come with much bigger stakes, Guerin believed.
Consumers who would have previously wagered cautiously were now spending a lot more online, he added. Guerin drew a parallel with alcohol consumption and said that isolation has made more susceptible individuals vulnerable to various addictions, including alcoholism as well as gambling addiction.
With gambling addiction considered a health issue, the increase in numbers should serve as a red flag to regulators and lawmakers, says Guerin.