Five decades ago, people had to go to great lengths in order to gamble. They had to find a casino or enter some underground chamber where the activity was only limited to a few elite personnel. Nowadays, access to the internet can set you on a path to become a lifetime gambler. Since internet can be accessed through the simplest of the cell-phones, let alone smart phones, people no longer need to leave the comfort of their homes or wherever they are in order to gamble. Online gambling, which is now given other references such as gaming, has not only increased the economic negative impact of gambling, but it also raises concern on its psychological and social impact.
Money lost in gambling is increasing with time. The presence of online gambling has only made it easier for individuals to lose their money, only to suffer the financial consequences later. In 2014, the United States was at the top of the list of the countries that made the biggest annual gambling losses. It made losses that were up to $142.6 billion. China and Japan took the second and third places as they made losses that amounted to $95.4 and $29.8 billion, respectively. In the same year, it was reported that the losses made globally through online gambling amounted to $37.47 billion. According to a research conducted by Morgan Stanley, it is anticipated that the total losses that will be made through online gambling in the U.S by the year 2020 will amount to 5.2 billion. This is against approximately $60 billion that will be lost globally during the same period, according to the statistics portal.
At the individual level, the average American loses $400 per year to gambling. This amounts to almost 5% of his/her gross income. As an outcome, such people find themselves in debts that could have been avoided if this amount was well spent. Other countries such as Australia are in a worse situation as the average person spends $1,200 on gambling, in a year. The activities found online that encourage such excessive spending include lotteries, gaming, casinos and betting sites, among others. Gamblers mainly experience their financial loss when making their credit card payments as online gambling companies accept credit card payments, unlike some physical casinos that only deal with cash. Others usually feel the financial impact when they are trying to reconcile their bills at the end of a period. $400 can make a huge financial dent if one is working on a tight budget or worse, when paying the credit card interest.
This activity has become “problem gambling” and not just gambling, as it is now affecting the whole society. Until the late twentieth century, gambling was mostly associated with men. However, this trend has changed in the contemporary societies. The “what man can do woman can do’ movement and easy access to the internet has encouraged more women to participate in this activity. Currently, more than 50% of the gamblers in the countries that are at the top of the list in gambling are women. The women gamblers in the UK occupy approximately 52% of the gamblers in the country. In the U.S, 57% are women.
Additionally, the age-group of the people engaged in this activity is decreasing with time. Currently, majority of the gamblers are between 24 and 35 years. The onset of online betting and gaming services continues to encourage younger people to participate in these activities. Due to the involvement of young people with technology (online social media), they have been convinced that such activities are an easy way of getting extra money, hence gambling has increased popularity among the young people.
Online gaming has become popular among the average person who earns approximately $20,000 per year. Emails with attractive headings, online advertisements and other channels have been used to target anyone who is capable of betting; hence the young person is as exposed to gambling as the older one.
Due to the lure of quick’ money, these activities have encouraged laziness. In the U.S., 2.7% of the people who were interviewed indicated that 5% of their gross salary they spent on gambling caused them to be in great debt, which further caused other problems with family members, friends and health problems.
Gambling, whether online or otherwise, is addictive. According to a research conducted by Gowing et al. in 2014 and published in Addiction in 2015, 1.5% of the gamblers in the countries that dominate the gambling list are addicted to it. Since a significant share of the online gaming/lottery/betting/casinos does not require registration fees, it is quite easy to participate in these activities, hence one’s chances of becoming addicted are increased.
Like any other addiction, gambling addicts can become, manipulative, emotionally unstable or/and depressed. They can also engage in behaviors or other activities that do not suit them and even become suicidal due to the preceding depression. Most gamblers are hardly able to maintain healthy relationships, hence they end up alone after a while, especially when people become aware of the things they will do to satisfy their addiction.
They are frustrated and will lush out easily as they are constantly in debt. They usually have no money to repay their debts as they are likely to gamble any income. Some who are in a better position are constantly struggling to pay off an older debt. Since there is usually more than one debtor chasing them, they are constantly on the run. They hardly have permanent residential places or workplaces. Other than their other behaviors mentioned that make them alienated, this constant/frequent movement makes it hard for them to have a normal social life.
Conclusively, as illustrated above, it is quite easy to become addicted. As indicated, it no longer gambling but ‘problem gambling.” Accessing a gambling site requires one to make a few clicks on his/her home computer or access the internet through their mobile gadget. It is even easier if an individual’s peers are either engaged in online gambling or they are constantly talking about it. Since the economic, social and psychological negative impacts have been established, an individual has to purpose to engage in activities that will keep him or her off gambling as gambling once is a step closer to addiction.