Lockdowns prove a trigger point for some gamblers

Gambling addictions are on the rise, especially among young men, during Melbourne’s latest lockdown.

A gambler uses a phone to place a bet. Photo: Alyssa Gray

That’s according to a survey conducted by the Australian Gamblers Research Centre, which showed that almost one in three

participants signed up for a new online betting account during the Covid-19 pandemic. Of those, young men aged 18-34 were the group most likely to join and be at most risk of gambling-related harm.

Melbourne is now in its sixth lockdown since March 13 2020. The continued lockdowns that have stretched out for more than a year have taken a toll on many aspects of people’s lives.

Increased levels of stress and spare time have seem gamblers relapse back into old betting habits and others pick up gambling habits that were not previously there.

Lirelle Bennett has been working in the area of addiction for nine years and has been a gambling counsellor through Gambler’s Help Eastern for the past three years, as well as working for Turning Point on Gambling Help.

“On gambling helpline over the phone I’ve been getting more people who didn’t previously gamble, or their gambling use to not be problematic, and then over Covid it became problematic because of boredom, isolation and financial pressures, so it escalated,” Bennett said.

Bill Smith, a 24-year-old computer technician from the east of Melbourne, says his gambling habit has ruined relationships and caused him financial hardship, with his gambling becoming excessive throughout lockdown.

“I used to very much enjoy gambling here and there when it came to the horse races or footy, it wasn’t problematic whatsoever,” Smith said.

“During lockdown the excessive stress I was under caused by loss of work and the increased amount of free time meant I had that time to just sit there and gamble as an outlet.

“These last few months of lockdown have been the worst for my gambling, the amount of lost money has caused me so much stress and put pressure on my relationships with people.

Anecdotal evidence shows there has been an increase in the amount of younger people gambling during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“What I have noticed is that on gambling helpline the people that are calling, they’re younger and they have been gambling for a shorter period of time, but they’ve lost very high amounts of money over Covid,” Bennett said.

If you or someone you know is experiencing gambling problems, there are ways to reach out.

Gambling helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The number for Gamblers Help is 1800 858 858.

Source: Australian Gamblers Research Centre

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