Virtual sports a risk to gamblers during Covid-19 crisis says Cork addiction treatment service

Virtual sports a risk to gamblers during Covid-19 crisis says Cork addiction treatment service
Pic: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

VIRTUAL sports events and online gaming are expected to attract problem gamblers during the Covid-19 crisis, because matches and racing have been cancelled.

That is according to the clinical director of the Tabor Group, Mick Devine.

This fear has also been expressed by recovering gamblers who have spoken to The Echo.

Mr Devine said: ''Right now, is an extremely challenging time for anyone with a gambling addiction. Just as someone who is alcohol or drug -dependent may suffer from withdrawals if their access to alcohol or drugs is cut off abruptly, those with problem gambling may face similar problems. Adhering to social distancing and stay at home measures can be a cause of social anxiety for problem gamblers; some may start to feel restless or irritable. Not only has COVID-19 created a lot of social anxiety in the country, it’s also created a tremendous amount of economic uncertainty.''

He added: ''They may not exhibit physical symptoms of withdrawal, but they can show mood swings. The lack of live sporting events may cause someone with problem gambling to look for other opportunities to gamble. This could include virtual sporting events and gaming.''

He also said that people who bet on sports typically are action-focused and look for the adrenaline rush that gambling gives them.

One recovering gambler agreed that the online opportunities posed to problem gamblers are huge.

But he said the current public health restrictions can also help gamblers who are in early recovery as they cannot go into casinos or betting offices.

He said: ''This is a big advantage for those people.''

However, he warned that problem gamblers who are currently out of work or working from home online have too much time and access to online gambling opportunities.

He explained: ''People can be gambling all day long while working from home.''

Mick Devine invited people with concerns about their gambling to contact the Tabor Group even though new admissions are not currently being taken.

And he said: ''Family members concerned about a gambling problem of a loved one are also welcome to call and have direct access to our Family Counsellor for all addictions. Support is also available from Gamblers Anonymous online. There are excellent supports as well as opportunities to visit online meetings. An exploration of GA’s website is well worth exploring for anybody looking for ways of managing a gambling disorder at this time. Problem Gambling Ireland also provides support and are available at 089 2415401.''

The Tabor Group can be contacted on 021 4887110.

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