As the worldwide gambling income closed around 500 billion USD in 2019, the future of the massive industry was looking promising. Huge operators enlarged their pool of clients and products alike, and many countries opened their markets to them.
But gambling, if not done right, has a dark side to it, casting a shadow of worry and harm that extends from the gamblers to the people around them. And even if methods of counteracting these consequences get better by the year, the issue seems to persist. And some critical voices say that these efforts are not enough.
Trying to look at the complex issue from many angles, we took some time to discuss it with Tudor Turiceanu, CEO of the up-and-coming casino index and gambling information service CasinoAlpha. Knowing the industry inside-out, from his position as gambling coordinator and the site’s chief editor, he can reach out deep into the real situations of a current player.
Here’s what we found out:
The worst-case scenario: problem gambling could rise 5% to 7%
The first lesson was essential: gambling addiction needs to be considered and combated while looking at the context. What’s happening in the gambler’s life? What is happening around them? These answers are the keys.
Thus, the number of problem players from the total pool needs to be measured by the latest worldwide events. In 2021, the total bet profits (gambling and sports betting) had increased by over 7% but are still way lower than in 2019 (the difference is 13%). Statistics show that the increase in the total number of rounds can also amp up addictive tendencies.
Worsening factors: mobile accessibility
So far, the basis is simple. But Tudor’s predictions also involve the ease with which an average player can access real-money bets. If we solely talk about the European sector, online bets have the wide majority of monopoly, over 80%.
Using his database extractions and real-life experiences, he knows that most of these activities are conducted from mobile devices, smartphones, and tablets occasionally. Considering how widespread these devices are, now that a big chunk of our lives happens remotely, vulnerable people may have a higher potential for negative behaviors.
Although the percentage is steadily decreasing, over 17% of European online gambling happens on offshore sites, not all of them licensed. Without the safety nets required by licensing authorities, sites are not required to provide preemptive tools. This makes monitoring time and money spent difficult to even struggling. Vulnerable people have it tough in such cases.
Tudor concluded that all these factors and the natural tendency to chase losses and play too much could potentially raise problem player numbers by 2%. To prevent and clean out the toxic patterns, operators and specialists need to insist on the importance of educating the gambler on the protection methods at hand.
Big competitors will continue to rise to bigger net worth
Market predictions estimate that giant companies in the industry may amp up their revenues by over 50% in 4 years. They will continue to evolve with the requirements of their users naturally, but smart businesses will act strategically.
Tudor predicts that the current biggest market, Europe, will continue to reign supreme. The motivations are simple: people are more inclined to make bets, and most countries in the EU have their own licensing legislation. Not to mention the UK’s Commission, which is one of the institutions with both the best reputation and highest player-protection standards.
Interestingly, one of his points was about a market that is still in its first stages of development: the US. Just a handful of states now have legislation that openly allows sports betting and online casino games, granting it the status of a white market.
One by one, states will copy the blueprint one from another, within the limits of the local legislation and how it mixes the federal provisions.
Link to addiction: a double-edged sword
At first thought, companies overloading with profits may be disadvantageous in the context of excess gambling. It may mean that the people who are already hooked and overdo it will just have more context to worsen their behavior.
That is not totally true, despite the bad reputation that online gambling has. In fact, the big companies, pressured by licensing authorities and NGOs alike, need to give users access to a set of responsible tools that limit their time, deposit, and losses.
That means two things. It means that the average player, the one who does not have excessive tendencies, will be protected from any kind of unhealthy behavior. It also means that players who are having difficulty finding balance will be blocked from their own account settings to worsen their impulses.
Also, casino companies will not allow you to sign up on one of their sister sites if you have self-excluded from another lately. That way, a player will be denied from the first steps to get a new account and continue to overspend on another domain.
Other criminal behavior associated with gambling will advance
According to North American research focused on the domain, there is a definite link between gambling addiction and illegal tendencies. It’s important to highlight that a wide majority of these cases are petty crimes.
Mostly, a gambler that has reached a point where they are in debt but continue to bet is likely to try to get more funds in illicit ways. By their own reporting in academic research, a percentage of over 40% will try to get more money by:
- White-collar crimes like fraud, embezzlement, etc.
- Petty theft
- Drug dealing (in severe cases that are heavily dependent on social factors).
Tudor believes that unless the addiction is tackled properly, and preferably at its early stages, then the connected crimes will keep existing. He doesn’t see them worsening in their percentages; however, their social damage and influence are difficult to quantify.
Thus, measures of prevention and protection need to be well defined and implemented on a case-by-case basis.
Young adults will still be the most vulnerable category
Based on the data from recovery clinics, gambling addiction does not only affect adults. Several factors make children and adolescents sensible to such dangers. Tudor believes that the combination of video games with gambling elements has heightened the effects in recent years.
Compulsive gambling leans on different contexts:
- Gambling at a young age, namely before 12
- Mental health factors
- Seeing a family member or guardian gamble frequently
- Playing free games that have gambling elements in them
Children and adolescents need a different approach to combating this disease. First and foremost, they need moral support and have gambling activities replaced with other stimulating alternatives. Also, the factors that contribute heavily and are linked to mental health need to be tackled and treated separately and with care.
What does the future hold?
The industry keeps growing at a pace that has not been predicted a few years ago. The wave is not stopping at this point, so what is left is for the main actors, casino companies, affiliates, licensing authorities, NGOs and players, to work towards a common goal: making the environment safer and healthier.
Our discussions with Tudor Turiceanu gave us a powerful understanding of the depth and complexity of the issue. It made us understand that handling responsibility for players’ health is not easy but mandatory.
This article was written in cooperation with Tudor Turiceanu