Sports betting is easier than ever and gambling addiction experts are worried

White Coat Black Art26:30sports betting addiction

These days it’s hard to avoid sports betting commercials, with Wayne Gretzky and Auston Matthews popping up on your TV screen, or billboards and bus ads zipping past you on the commute.

That has addiction experts concerned that recently relaxed sports betting laws and accompanying announcements could create challenges for current problem gamblers and create new problem gamblers from a young age.

Noah Vineberg, 48, says it certainly hasn’t been easy for him. He calls himself a recovering compulsive gambler and is now celebrating four years of abstinence. And he says he’s thankful he didn’t have to deal with the influx and ease of sports betting before he quit.

“You can’t sit down and watch anything on TV and go an hour without seeing various gambling ads,” the father of four said in an interview with White coat, black art host Dr. Brian Goldman.

Vineberg, who lives in Ottawa, started gambling in high school through a form of parlay betting called Pro Line, which involves correctly predicting at least three different events to get paid.

But now, there are many more options.

Noah Vineberg, a recovering compulsive gambler who lives in Ottawa, says he has gambled around $1 million. (Brian Goldman/CBC)

Changes in sports betting laws

In 2021, the federal government made it legal to bet on individual sporting eventsgiving provinces the ability to regulate it themselves.

Before that, six provinces allowed multiple bets. The 2021 bill allowed single-game betting, such as the outcome of the Super Bowl.

Ontario became the first province to create a regulated sports betting program, which launched in April, and with it came the flood of ads. Even if you change the channel during commercials, sports stations talk about it during games, which, for sports fans, makes it nearly impossible to avoid.

And experts say the way sports betting has evolved is also dangerous.

David Hodgins, professor of clinical psychology at the University of Calgary and coordinator of the Alberta Gaming Research Institute, says that slot machines and casino games are some of the riskiest forms of gambling because they provide instant results.

People with gambling problems are at the highest risk of suicide, [more] than any other addiction.– Amanda Laprade, Gaming Advisor

Sports betting has evolved to look a lot like slot machines, he said. People can now bet on minute details of a game, not just its outcomes, giving people the same constant source of bets as when playing slots.

“You can bet online, 24 hours a day, on different types of sports,” Hodgins said.

“It’s becoming more like slot machine gambling in terms of a very fast pace. So there’s a concern that that’s going to be problematic for some people.”

He says there is also a feeling that people can get good at it and improve their ability to place bets.

CLOCK | Why experts are worried about sports betting commercials:

Experts worry about the influence of Ontario sports betting ads

Sports betting ads are appearing everywhere in Ontario, leaving some experts concerned that they could reach audiences outside the province and entice them to play on unregulated betting sites.

The damage

Vineberg said he’s embarrassed to admit what he did to make sure he had money for the next bet, but said talking about it is part of his recovery. He borrowed money from the family that he never repaid, committed credit card and insurance fraud, and even stole, he said.

“I’ve done robberies that didn’t involve hurting people, but that was the logic in your head. Back then, nobody gets hurt, but at the end of the day, someone always gets hurt,” Vineberg said.

“I could rationalize anything to make myself able to play.”

Vineberg compares it to living a double life. He called in sick from work as a bus driver just so he could focus on placing bets; he even had a separate bank account and would get part of his salary in it.

“I once stopped the bus with people on it and ran to a bar to watch the final shot of a game that I was hoping would have a big score,” Vineberg said.

Sometimes he won, but that money disappeared just as quickly. He estimates that he has lost about $1 million due to his gambling addiction.

“I won gigantic amounts and then I turned around and blew it, playing video blackjack on the toilet and it’s silly,” he said.

avalanche of ads

The flood of ads has Amanda Laprade worried. She is a problem gambling counselor at Rideauwood Addiction and Family Services in Ottawa. Her clients who are addicted to sports betting tell her that the ads have become more aggressive than ever before.

And he says that with hockey legend Gretzky and actor Jamie Fox appearing in these sports betting ads, he’s also concerned about who might be affected.

“I am concerned that this is going towards younger and younger generations. And then I’ll end up seeing those people later on,” Laprade said.

Amanda Laprade, problem gambling counselor at Rideauwood Addiction and Family Services in Ottawa, says there needs to be more regulation on sports betting ads. (Brian Goldman/CBC)

“When we see these celebrities who seem to have it all, it’s like, ‘Well, if they can do it, then I can do it.’ I think that’s really misleading and dangerous,” Laprade said.

Laprade said the dopamine the brain receives while someone awaits the outcome of a bet, such as when a player takes a shot or a goalie makes a save, is just as powerful as when the outcome actually happens. That’s what makes it so addictive.

But Vineberg said success wouldn’t be on his mind right now. Instead, he would be thinking about the next bet.

“I already have in my head … another 100 bets that I want to play with the amount of money that’s going to come out if that actually goes through the hole,” Vineberg said.

Time to change

Laprade believes that sports betting ads should be regulated. She uses the UK as an example, which saw a spike in addictions following the legalization of sports betting. There, the government decided to ban sports betting ads before 9 p.m.

Laprade said he saw a reduction in young people becoming addicted to sports betting.

“I think Canada needs to be a little more progressive in that regard and change the way we support people who have a gambling problem,” Laprade said.

It also suggests educational advertising campaigns, similar to those of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, to show the dangers of sports betting and gambling.

According to data collected by Statistics Canada in 2018Nearly two-thirds of Canadians aged 15 and over reported gambling in the past year, and 1.6 per cent of gamblers were considered to be at moderate to severe risk of gambling-related problems.

A slot machine is shown in this file photo. Professor David Hodgins says that sports betting has become similar to playing slot machines at the casino, with the ability to bet constantly during a game. (Dean Gariepy/CBC)

But Laprade says it’s still very important to consider those risks.

“People who have a gambling problem have the highest risk of suicide, [more] than any other addiction,” Laprade said.

She says this is because of the devastation and loss that can occur, even without people’s families knowing about it.

“It can be debilitating, and in the mind of a person who plays, how they know how to get out of the hole they’re in is, ‘Well, I’m going to keep playing to try and get my life back.'” .'”

Vineberg said he considered taking his own life, at a time when he owed $75,000. But she was able to recover through a program at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare in Windsor, Ontario. That’s why she says the changes are important, so that more people don’t end up facing a similar crisis.

He doesn’t think gaming should be abolished, “but the programs have to be there and you can’t swamp everyone.” [with ads] without some kind of safety net,” he said. “I mean, what this is going to be like in five to 10 years is scary, it really is.”

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