Many of us gamble at some point in our lives. Whether it’s putting a couple of pounds on the lottery or a bet on the potential winner of the Grand National or Kentucky Derby, most of us manage to keep things within our means. With so many more opportunities to gamble nowadays, particularly with online casinos and bookies, as well as the instantaneous betting that comes from smart phone apps, the temptation for those who have a gambling addiction is clearly a worry.
In the US, some $500 billion is spent betting on one thing or another and it is estimated that over 2.5 million people are struggling with a gambling habit. Much of the evidence produced out of America also shows a correlation between those who drink, often excessively, and the increased risk for developing what would be considered a problem gambling habit.
According to Health Survey for England, almost two thirds of people in the UK, both men and women, gamble at least once in any given year. Gambling activity is prevalent across all age groups but is highest amongst the young. Problem gambling is more likely to be seen in deprived areas rather than amongst those who are retired or in middle-income demographics bringing up a family. Gambling has increased over recent years mainly because the wide availability of ways to put on a bet. About 1 in 100 people in the UK are thought to have a gambling addiction compared to 3 in 100 who have a class A drug addiction.
Extreme problem gamblers will try extraordinary measures to support their habit, including turning to crime. Research suggests that a gambling addict may well have an adverse effect on the lives of at least 15 other people as they attempt to support their habit. The rise of online gambling means that many people are now putting on a bet at home where behaviours may be hidden, not becoming apparent to close friends and family until something goes wrong or someone gets into difficulty.
In Australia, the cost of problem gambling is thought to be around $4.7 billion a year and up to half a million people are at risk of becoming addicts. On average, those with a serious addiction lose up to $21,000 a year, the equivalent of 30% of the average salary in the country. As in other areas, problem gamblers are more likely to have a serious issue with drink or drugs and addicts are 6 times more likely to be divorced. If a child has a parent who suffers from gambling addiction, then they are much more likely to develop a habit themselves.
Across the rest of the world: