Former gamblers are on the move in the UK, petitioning the government to tighten regulations on gaming. Learn how education and common sense can help you fight back against government interference in gambling.
According to a recent BBC article, UK anti-addiction activists have turned their sights onto the gambling industry, petitioning the UK government to make advertisements for betting on football illegal. Do they actually think that an ad ban will make gambling go away?
It didn’t work for cigarettes. People who smoke still puff away. Even worse, they smoke in secret, making it even more of a hidden pleasure, and therefore, even more satisfying, with more potential for addiction. Hiding only makes it more thrilling for someone with an addictive bent.
Realize the Root Causes of Addictive Behaviors in Gambling
Addiction isn’t about the substance or activity one is addicted to. It’s about the root causes and getting help, regardless of the trigger.
After all, even though some people are addicted to sex, do we really want to make that activity illegal? Or, should we ban advertisements for the “little blue pill” to heighten the experience?
Of course not. Instead of more regulations on gaming or any other hidden pleasures, common-sense education about the symptoms and root causes of addiction can help. As can teaching people to recognize the danger signs of addiction in others, such as close friends or family members.
Stress the Value of Play (Yes, Even for Adults!)
Psychiatrists and other healthcare professionals have rediscovered the value of play for mental health. For years, child development professionals have touted the importance of play to developing young minds.
However, they have now realized that play is just as important for adult minds as well. As Margarita Tartakovsky writes in a recent PsychCentral piece, play is “vital for problem-solving, creativity, and relationships.” For gambling enthusiasts, play might be betting on the horses or their favorite football clubs. For others, it could be a gourmet meal, strutting their stuff in a pair of designer heels, or a game of Solitaire or Call of Duty.
Yes, play — like anything else that brings pleasure — can become addictive if it consumes one’s life.
But so long as a punter’s spending on gambling is commensurate with what they would have spent on other pleasures, it’s no more harmful than a pair of Manolo Blahniks. And for anyone who reads Vogue regularly, you know that there’s no lack of advertising for those.
So, it makes no sense to outlaw advertising for something that can provide others with hours of beneficial play. What does make sense is to educate more people about mental health issues — the signs and symptoms that indicate that they — or their family members — need help.
Treat the Causes, Not the Symptoms
Compulsive gambling is a symptom. But so is compulsive anything. As addiction therapist Steve Rose points out, the root causes include a sense of isolation (hello, lockdowns!), a genetic predisposition for addiction (such as close relatives with addiction issues), a lack of purpose, past trauma, and emotional pain in their past.
If a person has a history of any of these issues, it’s best to seek help early before addictive behaviors gain a foothold. Gaming sites can provide education about these causal factors to their patrons, encouraging them to contact a local therapist. They can also put AI-powered technology to work to identify behavior that might indicate a person might be slipping into addiction. Providing customers with an option to limit their gambling total to a sensible budget amount can also help.
Educate the Public About the Root Causes of Gambling Addiction
Finally, educating the public about the root causes of addictive behavior won’t only help the gaming industry with science-based pushback. It can help people realize that the source of their addiction wasn’t the substance or pastime itself, but rather something deeper. And until they can satisfy their emotional itch, they will always be vulnerable to addiction to something else.