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


Black Art White Coat26:30Sports betting addiction

These days, it’s hard to avoid the sports betting commercials, with Wayne Gretzky and Auston Matthews playing on your TV screen, or the billboards and bus ads rushing at you on the ride.

It worries addiction experts that the recently relaxed sports betting laws and accompanying advertisements could create challenges for current problem gamblers and create new problem gamblers at an early age.

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

« You can’t sit down to watch anything on TV and go an hour without watching multiple gambling commercials, » 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 betting called Pro Line, which involves correctly predicting at least three different events to receive the payout.

But now there are many more options.

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

Changes to Sports Betting Laws

In 2021, the federal government made betting on individual sporting events legalgiving the provinces the ability to regulate it themselves.

Previously, six provinces allowed parlay betting. The 2021 bill allowed betting on a single game, such as the Super Bowl outcome.

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

And experts say the way the sports game 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 slot machines and casino games are among the riskiest forms of gambling because they provide instant results. .

People struggling with compulsive gambling are at the highest risk for suicide, [more] than any other addiction.– Amanda Laprade, Game Advisor

Sports gambling has evolved into something like slot machines, he said. People can now bet on minute details of a game, not just its outcome, giving people the same constant source of play as when playing slot machines.

« You can bet online, 24 hours a day, on many different types of sports, » Hodgins said.

« It’s more like slot betting in terms of being very fast paced, so there’s a concern that it might be problematic for some people. »

He says there’s also a feeling that people can get good at it and improve their betting ability.

WATCH | Why experts are concerned about sports betting ads:

Experts concerned about influence of sports betting ads in Ontario

Sports betting ads are popping up all over Ontario, leaving some experts worried they might reach audiences outside the province and trick them into gambling on unregulated gambling sites.

The damage

Vineberg said he was ashamed to admit what he did to make sure he had money for the next bet, but said talking about it was part of his recovery. He borrowed money from his 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. At the time, no one was hurt, but at the end of the day, someone always got hurt “, said Vineberg.

« I could rationalize anything to make myself able to play. »

Vineberg likens it to living a double life. He was calling in sick from work as a bus driver just so he could focus on betting; he even had a separate bank account and would put part of his salary into it.

“Once I stopped the bus with people on it and walked into a bar to see the last shot of a game I was waiting for a big result for,” Vineberg said.

Sometimes he won, but that money went just as quickly. He thinks he lost about $1 million because of his gambling addiction.

« I’ve won massive amounts of money, then turned around and screwed it up, playing video blackjack on the toilet and it’s just nonsense, » he said.

avalanche of announcements

The flood of advertisements worries Amanda Laprade. She is a problem gambling counselor at Rideauwood Addiction and Family Services in Ottawa. Her clients who have a sports gambling addiction tell her that the ads have become more aggressive than they’ve ever seen before.

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

« I’m afraid it’s aimed at younger and younger generations. And then I’ll end up seeing those people later down the road, » Laprade said.

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

« When you see these celebrities who look like they have it all, it’s like, ‘well, if they can do it, then I can do it.’ I think it’s really misleading and dangerous, » Laprade said.

Laprade said the dopamine the brain receives while someone is waiting for the outcome of a bet, such as a player taking a shot or a keeper making a save, is just as powerful as when the outcome actually happens. That’s what makes it so addicting.

But Vineberg said his mind wouldn’t dwell on success in those times. 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 will come out if it actually goes through the hole, » Vineberg said.

time for change

Laprade thinks sports betting ads should be regulated. She takes as an example the United Kingdom, which has experienced a resurgence of addictions following the legalization of sports betting. There, the government decided to ban sports betting ads before 9 p.m.

Laprade said this has led to a reduction in the number of young people addicted to sports betting.

« I think Canada needs to be a little bit more progressive that way and kind of change the way we support people who are dealing with problem gambling, » Laprade said.

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

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

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

But Laprade says those risks are still very important to consider.

« People with problem gambling are most at risk of suicide, [more] than any other addiction,” Laprade said.

She says it’s 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’s playing, how they know how to get out of the hole they’re in, ‘well, I’m going to keep playing to try to win my life back.' »

Vineberg said he contemplated suicide, at a time when he owed $75,000. But he was able to recover thanks to a program at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare in Windsor, Ont. That’s why he says the changes are important, so that more people don’t find themselves facing a similar crisis.

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

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