Due to the gambling addiction, widespread among gamblers, and the easy availability of online casinos, the risk of pathological gambling is increased. In many cases, gambling addiction develops insidiously and the first signs go unnoticed. As a result of the gambling addiction, the affected gamblers often get into financial difficulties and fall into debt to continue financing the addiction. Like all addictions, gambling addiction can be treated with professional support and psychotherapy.
Explanation – Pathological Gambling
The term pathological gambling refers to a psychological disorder manifested by a lack of ability to resist gambling. It is therefore also classified under impulse control disorders and dependency-related illnesses.
Gambling addiction can be caused by various factors and pathological gambling develops insidiously. It is suspected that genetic, as well as biological and psychosocial factors, play a role in the development of gambling addiction.
• Genetic factors:
Studies show that children who grow up with a parent who suffers from gambling addiction have a 20 percent risk of developing a gambling addiction. While genes are not the sole cause, they definitely play a part in the development of pathological gambling.
• Biological factors:
Similar to eating or drinking, gambling releases the neurotransmitter dopamine, also known as the happiness hormone. With regular gambling, the effect of dopamine gradually decreases. However, to experience the high again, those affected gamble longer or wager higher amounts of money.
• Psychosocial factors:
People who suffer from gambling addiction often have low self-esteem due to negative experiences. Since a gambler’s attention is focused on the game, gambling represents an escape from reality. The winnings make it seem like they are in control of the gambling and they continue to gamble despite losses.
In addition to the factors mentioned above, the addictive potential of the games also plays a crucial role in the development of gambling addiction. Especially in online casinos, the games are available around the clock and without restrictions. It is also difficult to keep an eye on finances while paying by credit card or e-wallets. This increases the risk of betting more than was planned.
Effects (Criminality, Financial Problems, Private Problems)
Gambling addiction affects all areas of a gambler's life. Since large sums of money are often used for gambling, financial problems with far-reaching consequences occur. For example, those affected can no longer meet financial obligations such as rental payments or other regular costs. In order to still be able to play, they often borrow money from friends or family members or take out a loan. However, since it isn’t possible to repay the amounts, the financial pressure increases, which leads, in the worst case, to a risk of slipping into criminality. Since the addiction and the urge to gamble are so strong, people often resort to fraud, theft or embezzlement to obtain money.
Apart from the financial difficulties, pathological gambling also takes a toll on the mental health of those affected. Gamblers are permanently in an inner conflict caused by their emotional roller coaster ride. On the one hand, they experience guilt, sometimes even anger, but on the other hand, they can’t stop gambling since the urge for the feeling of happiness is too strong. Even when those affected know their gambling behaviour is out of control, they can’t stop. To relieve the pressure, they often turn to alcohol, drugs or medication, which increases the risk of developing other addictions.
How Widespread Is Gambling Addiction?
According to the Canadian Community Heath Survey (CCHS), it has been estimated that 2% of Canadians 15 years and older have gambling problems. A recent study by the Canadian Partnership for Responsible Gambling found that the prevalence of problem gamblers in Ontario was between 0.4 – 0.8% and moderate risk gamblers between 2.0 – 3.4%.
Gambling Addiction Phases (Winning Phase, Losing Phase and Desperation Phase)
In most cases, gambling addiction develops over a long period of time and the first signs are not interpreted correctly. The development of gambling addiction usually occurs in three phases:
- Winning phase:
In the winning phase – i.e. the introductory phase – gambling still takes place in a controlled manner and the bets are low. However, success through winnings strengthens self-esteem and increases the hope of making a big win at some point. Gamblers often start developing a winning strategy to get closer to their goal. At the same time, the frequency of gambling also increases, causing players to invest more time and money.
- Losing phase:
As gambling increases in intensity, a habituation phase occurs. This is automatically associated with higher losses. In the losing phase, the monthly income is no longer enough to cover the gambling expenses. In order to compensate for the financial losses, money is borrowed from friends, or family members or loans are taken out. In addition, those affected lose touch with money and only see it as a means to an end. With increasing financial pressure, gamblers try to influence gambling with strategies to finally achieve the long-awaited big win. In this phase, most gamblers still can’t admit their addiction and manage to hide their problem from relatives.
- Desperation phase:
In the third phase, gamblers entirely lose control over gambling, which becomes the center of their lives. Even winnings don’t bring excitement anymore and gambling increasingly fails to satisfy. Nevertheless, gamblers don’t succeed in giving up gambling. It is more and more difficult to obtain money and the pressure from creditors increases. The despair is often so deep in this phase that even criminality is no longer avoided. In addition, changes in the gamblers’ personalities occur. They are becoming more aggressive, listless and withdrawn.
Gambling Addiction in Figures – How Many Addicts Are There?
According to the KFLAPH and OPUS-ULETH, around 220,000 people in Canada have problematic gambling habits. Around 1,000,000 people have risky gambling habits that may worsen in the near future. Men show conspicuous gambling behaviour more often than women.
How To Recognize Gambling Addiction (the Key Signs)?
Gambling addiction is more hidden than substance-related addictions, such as alcohol or drug addiction. It is, therefore, even more difficult for relatives to notice whether a family member is developing a gambling addiction or suffering from it. A gambling addiction can be recognized by the following characteristics:
How Do Casinos Deal With Gambling Addiction?
Trustworthy casinos are aware of their responsibility as gambling providers and take action against gambling addiction. For this purpose, they offer various restriction options and help players recognize problem gambling behaviour.
Self-exclusion in Online Casinos
Usually, online casinos offer the option of self-exclusion. It can be set by the players themselves via the player account or carried out by a casino upon request. The players can determine the duration of the self-exclusion themselves.
Automatic Detection of Problematic Behaviour
Today, many online casinos use special software that analyses players’ behaviour and recognizes its problematic development. In this way, the players can realize their problem at an early stage and the necessary prevention steps can be taken.
Another measure that providers use to combat gambling addiction is the limit setting. Players can, for example, set daily, weekly or monthly deposit limits. After reaching the limit, no further deposits can be made. In addition, loss limits are also possible at many online casinos.
Can Gambling Addiction Be Prevented?
In principle, it is possible to prevent gambling addiction. However, since the first signs often go unnoticed, the problem is already serious when the first measures are taken. Nevertheless, it is important for every person who likes to gamble to follow the principles below:
• Keep an eye on the money and don’t exceed your budget
• Only play games that are known
• Set your own limits – both deposits and losses
• Take regular breaks to gain the necessary distance
Addresses and Contacts
As soon as a gambler realizes that gambling behaviour has gotten out of control, or the environment points out to the problem, it is advisable to seek help. For this purpose, there are various counselling centers and organizations that affected gamblers can contact.