Smartphones have made it easier for people to gamble online. However, online gambling isn’t just about playing games. It can lead to money problems and addiction.
In earlier years people had to go to a casino to gamble, but it has become more convenient because they can now gamble in the privacy of their own homes or even while standing in a queue. But what might start as innocent fun can become a much bigger problem.
According to research done by the National Gambling Board, about 75.4% of average South African online gamblers are young, technologically advanced individuals, who mainly access the internet using portable devices.
Once in a while versus all day long
Nosiviwe Vuyelele from KwaLanga in Cape Town admits that she engages in gambling on occasion. Vuyelele says, however, she does not do it frequently and she only gambles if she has the money to spare and is in the right frame of mind to do so.
She does not consider gambling an essential part of her life and will not gamble if she needs the money for something else, she adds.
‘I have seen a lot’
Nandipha Kantini, from Mfuleni in Cape Town, also gambles online and says she has observed the act of gambling in previous years. She says someone she knows was so stressed that they had to be admitted to the hospital because of gambling addiction.
“I stop when my voucher [to play online] finishes. I think the more you give yourself hope of winning, the more you get into a trap,” she says.
Kantini admits that she takes pleasure in her small wins and only plays again when she feels like it, which may be once a month.
Many people are unaware of the dangers of gambling, and they may not realise how easy it is to lose control of their spending, adds Kantini.
The truth you need to know
According to a KZN clinical psychologist, Luyanda Memela, there are many risks associated with online gambling, including financial, social, and psychological risks. She explains that people may lose huge amounts of money while gambling online, which can lead to financial hardship and debts.
She says people may become addicted to gambling, which can have a negative impact on their relationships with family and friends.
Online gambling can also lead to isolation and depression, as people may spend more time gambling and less time interacting with others. In extreme cases, online gambling can even lead to suicide, she warns.
“Gambling can have a significant impact on people, affecting their performance at work and causing conflicts within their homes, ultimately impacting various relationships.”
Memela asserts that certain people would even steal money in the hopes of winning and that such behaviour creates lots of conflicts for the gambler and those around them.
Never give in to the temptation
Memela emphasises the importance of recognising that digital gambling addiction is not a reflection of weakness, but rather a condition that requires professional assistance and support to be dealt with.
There are also healthcare facilities available that can provide treatment and support for individuals with gambling addictions, she says.
According to Memela, support groups have proven to be highly beneficial in providing mutual support. Members can share their personal stories, which not only allows others to learn from them but also serves as a valuable supplement to therapy.
“I believe that gambling addiction is usually a secondary issue. You’ll find out that there is a primary issue that led the person into gambling addiction.”
Memela suggests that family and friends should work together to identify and address the underlying issues that led to the person’s gambling addiction. She further suggests that people should view gambling as a form of entertainment rather than a means of earning money and should set limits on the amount of money and time spent on it.
When you can’t stop …
If you think you may have a problem, complete the National Responsible Gambling’s online checklist.
If you need help, National Responsible Gambling offers a treatment programme and a 24-hour and 7-day-a-week counselling line. You can find more information about the counselling programme here.
If you’re struggling with gambling addiction and it is affecting you mentally, please know that you’re not alone and that help is available. The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) provides support and guidance.
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