A growing body of research has shown that the online gambling industry proliferated nationwide due to COVID-19 restrictions. With people having to stay at home due to lockdown measures, virtual betting and gambling spiked significantly.
Shutting down brick-and-mortar betting shops led to the expansion of online venues. As the new betting sites emerged, all the major triggers for gambling addiction, such as loneliness, boredom, anxiety, depression, and stress, were exacerbated due to confinement. Research presented by the UKGC shows that 25% of the population experienced mental health deterioration during this time. The UKGC also expressed concerns about the danger of increased gambling activity leading to higher risks of problem gambling.
According to a study from the University Hospital of Bellvitge, Barcelona, 12% of gambling addiction patients reported a worsening in their gambling habit during pandemic-related confinement. This outcome was fairly predictable, keeping in mind that online casino gambling is highly addictive due to its ease of access and constant availability.
To prevent further gambling-related harm, the British Government reviewed The Gambling Act of 2005. The goal was to reassess the level of regulation in the industry, set new limits on online stakes for casino gaming and gambling advertising, and increase the authority of the UK Gambling Commission.
What’s more, the Betting and Gaming Council set aside a steep sum of £100 million for problem gambling treatment services and £10 million for the Young People’s Gambling Harm Prevention Programme. “During the pandemic, the number of safer gambling messages on betting websites has more than doubled, while the number of direct interventions where customers have been spending more time and money than before Covid has gone up by 25%,” a spokesperson for BGC said.
These pessimistic statistics led the Department for Health and Social Care to work on expanding and improving gambling addiction treatment, treating it the same way as drug and alcohol addiction.
There’s movement from the gambling operators, too: A leading sports betting venue in the UK, Entain, announced that it would ask for personalised betting limits and credit checks for every player with risky gambling behaviour, in hopes that more restrictive measures would curb compulsive gambling.