Children Learning to Gamble

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In the digital environment – where some toddlers learn to use a digital device before they can talk – bright and cheerful interactive apps and games are the norm for children.

Go to an online gambling site for adults and you see the same sort of bright and cheerful apps and ‘games’. Roulette? You can play for free using virtual credits. Just a click of a button and you can play for real money. Children are no different from adults in enjoying risk, winning and losing chances, and are likely to be drawn to these games of chance.

In addition, the format of children’s games and gambling screens is blurred. A child who learns to love screen games is already primed to love online adult ‘games’.

The Australian Gambling Research Centre has published a worrying report:

According to the report, the fact that gambling and gaming have been mixed together means that gambling has been normalised for children. 

Young people are effectively being taught the basics of gambling at a younger age than ever before. 

But from making one click on your Facebook page, to one simple swipe on your smartphone, simulated gambling games are everywhere and they can be difficult to avoid.

Since television and online advertising for gambling is on the increase, and children today grow up in a world where televised football, for example, equals televised gambling, there is cause for concern.

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What treatment for gambling addiction?

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There are many profit making facilities for recovery from every kind of addiction – substances, alcohol, increasingly ‘digital addiction’. Some offer expensive promises for recovery from gambling addiction. There’s Gamblers Anonymous too, a 12-step programme which may or may not work for some people, but many don’t like the approach. Figures suggest only 5% of problem gamblers seek help and only 1% receive it.

What’s available on the NHS? Gambling addiction is recognised as a psychiatric disorder and described in detail in the DSM, one of the psychiatrists’ ‘bibles’. So if you go say to your GP what’ll happen? A lot will  depend on your GP but she may recommend cognitive behavioural therapy (though you may have to wait a long time before you get it). Truth to tell, CBT has not been proven to be universally effective. A GP may offer meds for concurrent depression or anxiety. Very rarely will you be referred to a NHS psychiatrist.

I was talking to a psychiatrist today and asked what treatment was available. He said possibly CBT but the condition is under-researched. It’s true though that some medication trials and research are promising, but the overall situation is very thin and patchy.

Given that gambling addiction carries with it a much higher suicide risk than the general population, various mental ailments such as anxiety, depression or obsessive compulsive disorder, and in 70% of cases parallel substance abuse disorders, you’d think research and treatment would be much more advanced by now.

There are hundreds of thousands of gambling addicts just in the UK, an dtheir addiction has a ripple effect on families and society as a whole. Gambling addiction is a case of awful individual suffering. And it’s likely to become a greater problem as gambling seeps into the DNA of our culture where even children are becoming problem gamblers.

 

 

 

 

Fixed odds betting online and on the high street

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An article in The Guardian argues that the age old distinction between gaming and betting has been eroded by the advent of digital gambling machines in high street bookmakers and online. Many people who enjoy or provide betting are upset that an element of skill and genuine odds based on probabilities of outcome are taken away by fixed odds machines.

 

If Lionel Messi gets injured in the warm-up, for instance, the odds about a Barcelona win will immediately start to drift. And because the odds fluctuate and come down to a matter of judgment, shrewd gamblers – and there are plenty – can make a longterm profit from their betting.

In gaming, the odds are fixed, because the chance of every possible outcome is known, and also fixed. The maths which governs the payouts and probabilities is as immutable and well-understood as the laws of planetary motion. For as long as we live in a universe where an apple falls down and not up, no gambler can win at gaming in the long run.

For 200 years in Britain, from the birth of both bookmaking and roulette in the last decade of the 18th century until the arrival of internet gambling, betting and gaming knew their place. Betting took place on racecourses and, since the early 1960s, in high-street betting shops. Gaming was restricted to casinos. Its availability, in other words, was more tightly regulated.

The internet has changed all that, and it is betting firms, both online and on the high street, that have been doing their utmost to blur the centuries-old dividing line. The “B” in FOBT stands for “betting”, for instance, but these are gaming machines, pure and simple. The FOBTs produce guaranteed profits – an average of more than £50,000 per machine per year – and never ask for a pay rise or phone in sick.

Addiction by Design

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Natasha Dow Schüll is an anthropologist who spent 15 years studying machine gambling in Las Vegas. Her resulting book is a close examination of the people, the machines and the several contexts that interact to produce gambling addiction. The idea that a machine’s design interacts with a user (not one or the other but both) is a core theme. The book is something of a page turner, full of deeply human insights into the people she met whose lives have fallen prey to addiction.

There is a growing awareness both in and beyond academia that the design of gambling machines is crucial to understanding addiction. The book is highly recommended. For a good overview, watch her lecture:

Young Men and Gambling Problems

Good article in The Guardian. Click here to see full piece.

 

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Men of my age often feel trapped between one group of people telling us to “man up” and another suggesting that our plight is less grave than that of others. Indeed, many will probably shrug when they learn that a new study suggests that a quarter of men between 18 and 24 have a gambling problem. Yet it does not take a genius to see a link between gambling and millennial males’ current place in society. We are a group lacking hope – and gambling is just one symptom.

My demographic is gambling for a number of reasons – some of them innocent – but economics and mental health are crucial. Of course, the cause of minority groups are generally more pressing than that of millennial men – we should not feel uneasy about asking not to be forgotten, while advocating other progressive issues. It is coherent to champion both.

Pioneering books such as The Pinch and Jilted Generation show that, generationally speaking, our prospects are being damaged by a toxic mix of debt, unemployment, demographic factors, globalisation and rising house prices. But as a gender, young males’ mental wellbeing is quietly in crisis. We can over-politicise gambling but, as it becomes increasingly normalised, it can appear an easy, supposedly masculine escape – one that’s advertised wall-to-wall during sport on TV.

Site Launch

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Great to be able to offer the world our new site. It’s a very close look at Fixed Odds Betting Terminals. We see this as a case study for learning about politics, industry, psychology and much more. Plus, of course, there’s lots of controversial conflict around the machines that can be found in evry high street, and are often referred to as ‘the crack cocaine’ of gambling.

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