World Cup Betting – a Gambling Addiction Risk

World Cup Betting – a Gambling Addiction Risk

While betting during the World Cup may seem like a harmless, fun thing to do – it can quickly escalate into unhealthy gambling habits, and even addiction.

With the 2014 World Cup well underway, people from around the globe are pouring into bars, staying up until the wee hours, and calling in absent from work in order to catch a glimpse of their favourite team competing for the title of “World’s Best Football Team”.

And while news reporters turn the players’ lives and injuries, the ref’s bad call and the final scores into breaking news, there are people who are losing their entire paycheque when France doesn’t win a match, or Ronaldo doesn’t score a goal. Unfortunately, along with the fun, the celebrations, the national pride that come hand-in-hand with the World Cup – so do bookies, and betting houses and game pools.

For some, it is fun to bet a couple dollars on a game, or enter a pool with your workmates for a few quid per square. For others, however, the sudden influx of gambling and betting opportunities can put them at risk for developing or relapsing into gambling addictions.

Why do some people gamble away their homes?

Just like any other addiction, the reward system of an addict’s brain sends and receives different signals, making the act of gambling, and the highs associated with it, essentially more rewarding than any other activity they can experience.

In a brain not affected by addiction, the person would be able to reason with themselves: “Wait, if I bet this money I can’t pay the rent”. For an addict however, the highs achieved create an actual need to gamble within the brain, on par to the needs of primal instincts, such as eating, sleeping and mating. Thus, the more they gamble, and even the more they lose, the more they feel the need to search for that initial rush they got the first time they won. Even if they don’t win, many gamblers become addicted to the feeling they get just after they place their bet – that rush of dopamine that floods the brain as they anticipate a win, however unlikely it may actually be.

Higher risk for addiction during World Cup

While gambling is accessible all year round, the world cup provides far more avenues – and since so many people partake in betting, it almost seems like something you ‘should do’ to be part of the festivities. All you have to do is type ‘world cup betting’ into Google, and hundreds if not thousands of links will show up focused on betting odds, betting tips, betting forums, and of course – online betting sites. And while bookies or betting houses are still the preferred method of sports betting in most countries, these websites allow for a whole new set of people to bet on the games. People who might not know a bookie, or are too shy to enter a booking house – now have the ability to bet online, from the safety of their own homes.

As well, the accessibility of being able to place bets from a smartphone that is always by your side – can make it difficult to stop or control. Not to say that booking houses and bookies aren’t easy to access as well, but the act of pressing a button on your phone vs. calling up your bookie and getting together – it’s pretty clear which one is easier. Plus, online betting sites can be directly hooked up to your credit lines. It’s all just far too easy, and it’s happening all around the globe!

In Thailand, the Department of Mental Health’s Quit Gambling hotline service claims that on average, 30 percent of all calls made to the hotline are about football gambling.

In China, authorities have already arrested more than 10 people involved in illegal gambling rings since the World Cup started just a couple weeks ago, and have seized millions of Hong Kong Dollars and other items used as bets, such as laptops, televisions, and other electronic devices.

In the UK, authorities say that aside from the added accessibility online, betting houses have recently installed Fixed Odds Betting Tellers (FOBTs) front of house, which increase the likelihood of someone engaging in higher-risk betting practices. According to one betting shop worker, “If you place a bet over the counter, it is much easier to control how much you’re spending. The machines are totally different, they make people lose control.” According to a recent survey, more than 50% of men aged 18 to 24 would be more likely to use the FOBT if they were already in the shop to place a bet for the football game – meaning – the £2 bet they wanted to place on the game, turns into an extra £20 played on the FOBT ‘since they’re in there anyway’. The shop owner also stated, that “The two things that turn gamblers into gambling addicts are the illusion of the control and frequent ‘near misses’. The FOBTs are programmed to offer both of these things.”

So whether it’s bookies, booking houses, online betting, or FOBTs, it is important to understand that for some, gambling can quickly become an addiction – and can lead to financial distress, depression, and even substance abuse. And at this time of year, when betting may seem like ‘the thing to do’ during the World Cup, it is best to think twice and realise that your odds of losing are far greater than your odds of ‘winning big’! If you or someone you know are showing signs of a gambling addiction, it is important to contact a professional for help.