Is Gambling Addiction on the Rise?

Gambling is an inescapable part of UK culture.

Betting on the Grand National, sticking an accumulator on the weekend football, five quid on Federer to win the next set. Go into any pub somewhere in the UK and there will be some form of sport on, and wherever there are sports someone is putting a bet on it.

In the UK, putting a bet on the odd event is commonplace but due to the influx in online markets and gambling advertising, the amount of people betting more amounts more often has increased over the last few years.

The bombardment of gambling iconography and its allure in everyday life has encouraged a prevalence of gambling addiction among UK adults that goes under the radar.

The pandemic brought with it a loss of work and free time with very little else to do. For many, gambling filled that hole. And for every person casually gambling there is an increased risk of becoming a problem gambler.

Gambling addiction is one of the many behavioural addictions that are hard to spot as it has no outward physical effects. It is an addiction that is internalised and can have disastrous consequences on a person’s life – resulting in mental health, money, relationship, and job problems.

The signs of gambling addiction can be hard to decipher as people in the thrall of it often hide it well. Maybe more so than other addictions there is still a lot of shame and stigma around gambling addiction to makes it harder for people to come out and ask for help.


Online Gambling

The rise in online gambling is a big reason behind more people betting more often. Having access to endless markets 24/7 on your phone or computer means that you never have to stop gambling if you don’t want to. It doesn’t matter if you are betting on Finnish 2nd division football or Pole-vaulting, all that matters is the buzz you get when you place the bet and the thrill of waiting to see if you will win.

Online gambling companies don’t only offer sport betting markets but casino games as well. You can lose hours playing virtual poker, slot machines, blackjack, and countless other games. The online slots with their music and lights take you back to the arcade as a kid putting money into the 2p machines – but now the money doesn’t weigh down in your pocket and you can find yourself putting more and more in, losing more than you ever planned on.

The access that online betting allows means that more and more people are being drawn to it. No time is taken out of the day to go down to the bookies to write a bet on a slip, it’s just a couple of clicks and then it’s done. As more time is spent looking at screens the lure of going to betting sites increases for people inclined towards the world of sport and gambling.

Gambling companies have put procedures in place to try and curb addiction on their sites with cool off periods and deposit and loss limits capable of being implemented. These tools are not shown widely enough and with enough attention to affect those that need them.


Gambling Addiction in Men vs Women

Gambling, an area tied so closely to sport, feels like a male-dominated world and so gambling addiction is perceived as a male problem. Now while men are much more likely to become problem gamblers, the number of females gambling compared to men is much closer than you might think.

There is undeniably a macho culture around betting that is wrapped up in sports and drinking. It is common for groups of young men to sit in pubs and watch sports, drinking and talking about gambling as they do. Gambling is a social thing and a way for men to connect and become more invested in the sport they watch.

The spaces where betting once occurred, bookies and stadiums, were seen as male arenas, but now that gambling has migrated online it is easier for everyone including women to bet. Online betting that is available 24/7 is more appealing to women as they are more likely to be able to do it alone, making it easier to hide.

They can also gamble when involved in other responsibilities, such as looking after the kids during the day, that despite societal shifting is still seen as a more female role.

In terms of the psychology behind gender differences in gambling addiction, men are seen to be more impulsive and hedonistic and more likely to chase losses and become addicted quicker.

The main difference is simple – men watch more sport. And while the worlds of gambling and sport are closely entwined and viewed as male pursuits the idea that gambling addiction is a male problem will persist. This is an attitude that needs to change so that everyone becomes more fully aware of the dangers of gambling.


Gambling Addiction and Co-occurring Disorders

Oftentimes people suffering from gambling addiction are also suffering from mental health or substance abuse problems.

Some people begin gambling to help cope with issues such as depression and other times the mental health issues come after. Gambling, like drugs or alcohol, can be used to cope in stressful times and act as a release from the pressures of life. For that moment you get a buzz as you bet and suddenly feel in control. Every gambler is the eternal optimist, always believing their luck will change and everything will turn around.

The more that buzz is chased though, the less effect it has on a person’s mood.

Drugs and alcohol can act as triggers with gambling as well, the activities becoming dependant on one another. These routines become embedded in a gambler’s brain and behaviour and eventually will cause them to spiral downwards.

Persistent gambling will eventually result in losing vast amounts and this brings stress, depression anxiety and trauma. Some people feel there is no way to escape their debts and cannot stop gambling, so suicide becomes a serious alternative.

Gambling addiction help is out there for anyone that needs it. We at Step One Recovery offer industry-leading treatment for gambling addiction. If you want to know more about our services or gambling addiction rehab, then call us at 0330 107 2950.