Online gambling risks during COVID-19 lockdown

Lazaros Gonidis, a Kent psychologist and an expert on addiction, has commented on the risks during COVID-19 lockdown for those with existing and previous gambling problems, and the responsibility of online gambling operators to protect vulnerable individuals. He said:

‘There is no doubt that these unprecedented circumstances are proving to be very challenging for all members of our society. However, the current conditions of social distancing, working from home, or being furloughed can put some of us at risk more than others. One such high risk group is pathological gamblers. As we stay at home more it is inevitable that we will spend more time online, hence being exposed to advertising more than usual. It is therefore vital that gambling advertising is being closely monitored and people with previous history of gambling problems are protected from being targeted by such ads. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has communicated with major online gambling operators reminding them of their responsibility to look after the wellbeing of players.

‘This proactive initiative is aiming to also prevent new players from developing pathological gambling habits. People who gamble in online casinos have higher chances of being pathological gamblers compared to people who get involved with sports betting. It is therefore vital that all relevant authorities and online casino providers keep a close watch, and protect people with previous history of pathological gambling. Furthermore, new inexperienced players should also be protected. A recent ban in the use of credit card for gambling purposes was a step in the right direction but more measures could be required now that most of us are exposed even more to digital forms of entertainment than usual.’

Lazaros Gonidis provides the following advice to gamblers with previous pathological gambling problems or those who consider gambling online for fun, which could help them stay on top of their gambling habits.

  1. When you feel the urge to gamble online then use that as a motive to go for your daily walk or exercise instead.
  2. If you do decide to gamble, make sure you keep a record of how much money and time you spend on gambling daily. Research has shown that gamblers lose track of money and time spent on gambling.
  3. Stay in touch with your friends and peers, and discuss with them your thoughts of gambling. Social distancing should not be social isolation and having support can make a big difference.
  4. Keep your mind busy. Finding alternative mental stimulating tasks can be very beneficial in order to suppress thoughts of gambling. If being online is inevitable then seek online activities that will help you overcome the urge to gamble.
  5. If you feel you are losing control of your gambling activities do not hesitate to seek expert advice. BeGambleAware.org is a very good place to start.

Lazaros Gonidis is a Lecturer in Psychological Methods and Statistics at the School of Psychology. His research interests are concerned with non-substance addictions and time perception and virtual reality and its effects on perception. Lazaros is interested in investigating the effects of attention, arousal, and memory load in how non-substance addiction affects our time perception. Specifically, he is interested in Facebook/Internet addiction, Computer Games addiction, and Gambling addiction.

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