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Gambling Risk Should be taught in School

 The online gambling market continues to grow exponentially, with some estimating that the global market could be worth US $1 trillion by the end of 2021.

For those in the industry, the global pandemic and the subsequent government imposed lockdowns have proved to be a boon. Millions of people, forced to stay at home, isolated from friends and family, have turned to online gambling as a source of entertainment, and to alleviate the boredom and sense of alienation.

And whilst this is good news for the operators – Ireland’s online casino guide which can be found here lists the reputable ones – it is less helpful for the increasing number of people who have allowed what was meant to be a harmless pastime to become a dangerous addiction.

Nobody knows how many people worldwide have a gambling addition, although there are studies that indicate that at least 350,000 in the UK and 160,000 in Australia can be identified as addicts.

Often those affected are unwilling to identify themselves as such, and will pretend everything is normal, whilst things spiral out of control in the background.

A few countries – Belgium and Spain are two such examples – have imposed some restrictions on online gambling to try and prevent its spread. However, they are in the minority and, for most, the majority of these services remain accessible and act as a temptation.

In Ireland, a 2015 survey found that 7% of gamblers have the potential to become addicts, although only 1% will go on to one. However, that 1% is responsible for more than 30% of the amount spent on gambling in a year. 

Meanwhile, the Institute of Public Health in Ireland has found also that young people are two to three times more likely to become addicted to gambling than adults.

More broadly, numerous studies worldwide have shown that people aged 18 to 34 are at the highest risk or developing a gambling addiction.

Another recent study in the UK found that 25,000 children are classified as problem gamblers, with one in six of 11 to 15 year olds admitting to gambling every week.

Now there are calls for the risks of gambling to be taught in schools.

For campaigners this is an important as the other social care issues that feature on some curriculums, such as the dangers posed by alcohol or drugs abuse and the need to eat healthily.

The risks involved in developing a gambling addiction should not be underestimated.

Addicts may develop mental problems such as depression, anxiety and, in some cases, become suicidal. There physical health may suffer as well – exhaustion, insomnia and neglecting personal hygiene or grooming are not uncommon symptoms.

At the same time, there will often be behavioural changes, Gamblers often become secretive or evasive, and they may also become dishonest, stealing from friends, families, or employers to fuel their habit.

Teaching them of the potential pitfalls involved at an early age will help them evaluate the risks, the potential impacts on their lives and those around them, and also where to go and seek help if they do subsequently develop a problem.

Otherwise, there is a risk that to the list of the numerous victims of the coronavirus pandemic will need to be added the names of all those who have developed a harmful gambling addiction as a result of it.