Gambling in today’s society is everywhere we look. It is no longer just high street bookmakers where you can go to place a bet. It is accessible at all times and is becoming a huge problem and ruining the lives of many. If you want to gamble you can do it at any time, which leads to huge financial problems for many.
Whether it is going to a bookies to place a bet, going into the pub for a pint and playing a fruit machine or playing cards with friends, you can gamble on anything and at times lose a substantial amount of money. Within our generation it is always a topic of conversation. You go into the bookies and it is almost like a social gathering spot, with many of your friends there placing bets and seeming to enjoy themselves, however gambling is a very silent killer for many. It knows no boundaries, and is getting worse constantly. Gambling is advertised and marketed for you to get the belief you will win money. You see many adverts saying place a £10 bet and get £30 in free bets online, this seems like an offer you can’t refuse. At the time, yes this is a good offer, however this gives a bookmaker access to you at all times. Now that you have an online account you can bet at any time, and in your eyes, win money at any time, however this is not the case, you are likely to lose a lot more than you win. The bookie is always going to be the winner.
So why is this such a problem and so popular?
Northern Ireland has the worst rate within the UK for problem gamblers. This statistic was recorded in 2016 by the charity CARE for Northern Ireland. Gambling is such an issue because it is everywhere we look, at times people are gambling without realising, and at all age groups. If you’re in the shop and buy a scratch card you are gambling, but wouldn’t consider it. An elderly woman going to the bingo a few nights a week would not truly believe they are gambling, but more socialising, this highlights to us how popular gambling is today, and how accessible it is. It literally ruins the lives of many. It is a problem which can be undetectable. You can keep it to yourself and lose everything. Friends, family, jobs, homes, everything. Unlike other addictions like drink and drugs, it is hard to know a gambling addict. They could be sitting quietly losing hundreds of pounds on their smart phones, without anyone knowing. This leads to severe depression and suicide if it gets bad enough.
It is very easy to become addicted to gambling. You could have an interest in soccer and one weekend do a soccer bet and win some money from your first bet, and then become hooked. You are constantly trying to replicate a buzz you once felt, and it will come to a stage where this is impossible. For a gambler, it will never be enough. There are many social events which involve gambling. For example, a staff do at the horse or dog racing. Events such as these can give you the taste for gambling and suddenly a problem you never believed would be associated with you, is now a real problem in your life.
It is an issue that is only getting worse and without some sort of intervention, it will continue to grow. It is constantly advertised and targeted to draw people in. There are constant television adverts which encourage you to gamble and constantly advertising promotions for new customer specials that seemingly can’t lose. The bookies are giving you “free money” to draw you in. We have seen many real-life examples of celebrities whose lives have been destroyed by gambling, from local GAA stars to millionaire soccer players. It will affect you at all times. It won’t matter whether you are a millionaire or have £10 to your name, you will gamble what is available and lose everything if you cannot control it. Unless there is something implemented by the government soon, it will continue to get worse, and continue to be the silent killer for many.
Colum Loughran is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter: @ColumLoughran