Getting hooked on gambling
|by Leo Olivero
Gambling in Gibraltar like never before is attracting a host of different people from the whole spectrum of society. Although one disturbing point regarding this issue, is that gamblers are getting younger!
Although legally you are not allowed to gamble in Gibraltar until you are 18 years - this in my opinion - has not stopped the tide of numerous young people getting hooked on gambling.
Gibraltar’s name in many parts around the world is synonymous with the online gaming industry. Since the first gambling licence was granted 13/14 years ago the gaming business in Gibraltar has mushroomed and grown significantly. It has also changed on par with gaming technological advancements like the internet etc. Gibraltar has fully embraced all this and is now a leading player in the online gaming world.
There’s no doubt that online gaming is big business. The enormous successes of online poker, casinos and sports-betting have contributed to a multi-billion pound worldwide industry. It is where this industry is now a major contributor to the Gibraltar economy that also produces hundreds of jobs.
Terrestrial gambling has also seen a wave and new breed of gamblers on the Rock who are of an adolescent age group, something I have seen for myself many times. This has created a certain level of concern not only amongst some parents but family members of the not so young.
Although the matter of young gamblers is not only in relation to the Casino, who if truth be told, try their very best to control youngsters getting in, although they do! But I also refer to the numerous bars and clubs who have those famous poker machines which more often than not are cynically passed off as "amusement" gadgets.
Gamblers young and old do not seem deterred by the well-known fact that the machines are one-armed bandits (as they have always been known and for good reason). As with most gambling, the odds are well stacked in favour of the house.
Yet, the problem of gambling is not just about the younger generation, as important as they are!...Because like any other bad habit, gambling has a negative impact on society. Unfortunately, there are a good number of people in Gibraltar who clearly have an obsession with gambling - even problem gambling has been detected with some people! In many ways this also provides fertile ground for exploitation which must be picked up.
Many people gamble at some point in their lives. For the vast majority, this entails participating in the weekly euro million draw (my favourite), bingo at the casino, a spin or two on the roulette wheel or settling down behind one of the array of different slot machines at the casino or on the popular poker machine. Although there are many others who now also bet or gamble from home - using one of the many dozens different online sites that provide this service.
I’d say most of the people do realise the risks involved and succeed in striking the right balance when fluttering all their hard earned money away. However, there are others for whom betting and playing games to win money can become a serious addiction, which can get out of control.
Personally and this is no exaggeration - I have seen this quite a few times over the years, not only with friends, but also with relatives! The devastation and damage gambling can have on the lives of all those connected. These people are generally the ones that spend and gamble the most, both relatively and absolutely. Sometimes as I have seen myself - it is those that least can afford who are the ones who get hooked most easily. Those who feel there's no way to improve their meager financial status or escape their predicament through their own efforts, are the ones who are most inclined to resort to gambling.
The gambling industry everywhere has cast its net wide. Entrepreneurs enthusiastically tap into this seductive market. Now, online gambling as I have indicated is a new, fast growing and lucrative industry, where you can bet from your own home.
Even competitive high profile sports events, horse racing and any contest of note, basically anything that moves, provides abundant possibilities to trap people in the grip of betting.
Compulsive gambling can have serious consequences on individuals, families and society in general. Victims can become withdrawn and depressed, with adverse effects on their personal lives and their relationships with others.
A poll conducted for the Daily Telegraph found that 56 per cent of those interviewed believed the spread of casinos and more gambling venues would increase problem gambling.
The British Medical Association (BMA) has also said “gambling addiction can lead to anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts, as well as truanting and stealing among adolescent addicts”.
Although as I have said, gambling can be a harmless indulgence for some, it does have a corrosive influence, especially on those less well off financially in the community.
If you also consider the general economic predicament of the world today, and of some individuals in Gibraltar in over indulging in this past time, it could and does lead to a lethal situation for families, because people crippled by gambling debts do not only ruin themselves and their family but has an adverse affect on society.
From what I know, witnessed and experienced with friends and certain relatives who succumbed to gambling…Most people have enough self-discipline to stop in time if they start losing when gambling. However…for others, the possibility of a win remains extremely enticing and will carry on going in the hope that they will finally win, regardless of how much money they lose along the way!
In such situations, debts could spiral out of control, also opening the door to the lending of money with an interest charge. It is known I believe - that there exists a strong relationship between usury and compulsive gambling and that the majority of those who fall victim to usury are compulsive gamblers.
I have also witnessed over the years, that many people who could be defined as problem gamblers do not seek help for their addiction!
In my view many questions arise. What statistics exist about the gaming and gambling realities of society? How extensive is the gambling problem (if we really have one?) How is the pattern forming itself? Who are the people with the most vulnerable social background? Which areas are the most hit and so need stronger protection? Are we satisfied with the kind of education being offered to the community (youngsters) against all kinds of gambling?
The reasons that can lead to compulsive gambling, in my opinion, are just as harmful as ‘alcohol and drug dependence’ they often point towards a culture that might be losing the true meaning of social life.
It is therefore important - in my opinion again - to make it part and parcel of our national educational priorities to work more effectively on the principle that, also in the area of gambling, prevention is better than cure.
The basic message should be that even certain forms of gambling that may appear harmless at first… Could Easily Lead to Bad Habits!
What do YOU think?
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