A new study commissioned by the charity claims drinking and online gambling are ‘commonly combined’
A huge growth in online gambling could lead to a nation of “hidden” addicts and problem drinkers, new research has warned.
A study commissioned by Alcohol Concern Cymru found drinking and online betting were “commonly combined” despite a lack of existing research in the field.
Researchers claim the rise of online gambling, which often takes place at home, is making addiction and alcoholism far harder to identify.
Behind closed doors
It said casinos and bingo halls were far more suitable venues to monitor “normal” gambling behaviour and alcohol consumption.
Mark Leyshon from Alcohol Concern Cymru said: “What is especially challenging for researchers is that much of this behaviour is hard to spot because it is happening behind closed doors.
“While some of us still visit our local pub and the high street bookmaker the places where we tend to drink and where we gamble has changed in recent times.
“The majority of alcohol is now consumed in the home and similarly the growth of online gambling means that much of this behaviour is more hidden than it was.
“The widespread availability of cheap alcohol and the growth of gambling websites has meant that it’s never been easier to drink and gamble, day or night, and the potential for running into problems has increased as a consequence.”
Links between drinking and problem gambling
The study was carried out by a team of researchers from the University of Roehampton Business School in London who looked at drinking and gambling behaviours in Wales, the UK, and internationally.
It revealed people who regularly drank large amounts of alcohol were more prone to engage in moderate or problematic gambling.
It found around a third of people with severe gambling problems are currently – or have previously been – alcohol dependent.
And almost 2% of the adult male population in Wales were classified as “pathological” gamblers in the report.
But researchers admit understanding of how – and to what extent – drinking and gambling problems are related is still in its infancy.
‘Clear gaps in research’
Dr Guy Bohane, lead researcher for the study, said: “Health survey prevalence data has identified that participation in gambling is higher amongst frequent drinkers and those who engage in multiple forms of gambling are more likely to consume more units of alcohol on their heaviest drinking days.
“However there are clear gaps in the research. For example the data doesn’t show whether this drinking and gambling is taking place at the same time.
“Similarly we know that both drinking at home and online gambling, which often takes place behind closed doors, have grown considerably in recent years yet there are few studies that have examined how these behaviours might be combined.
“There is also a lack of research into how different forms of marketing impact on those who drink and gamble at the same time, especially for young adults.”
Mental health woes
Mick Antoniw AM claims thousands of teenagers’ lives are being “blighted” with personal and mental health problems because of uncontrollable addictions to betting.
He said: “This review further highlights the lack of research and data in this area and the need for the issue of problem gambling to be addressed as an urgent health issue, which I have been consistently arguing for at the Welsh Assembly.
“It does not surprise me that the review has found a link between problem gambling and drinking since the devastating economic and social consequences of problem gambling will inevitably drive some to turn to alcohol as a means of coping.
“I’m particularly concerned about the impact on young adults since problem gambling, like problem drinking, often happens behind closed doors, fuelled by the enormous growth in access to online gambling.”
Research also revealed gamblers have a tendency to drink in response to “wins”.
Increase in female gamblers
It also found also a sharp increase in the number of women gambling online.
Professor Jim Orford, from Gamble Watch UK, added: “Gambling and problem gambling need much more attention than they have had in the past.
“This well-researched and objective report is therefore much to be welcomed. It focuses on the lack of information for Wales and on the need for more study of the possible link between alcohol consumption and gambling.
“But there is much more in this thorough report including excellent summaries of gambling provision in Britain and the debate around the response of the gambling industry.”
Original Article 29/11/2015