New research shows that there was a spike in online gambling activity among UK pensioners during the first COVID-19 lockdown. The study, carried out by the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP), shows that an additional 624,377 people who were at least 65 years old went online at least once each month in order to place a bet or play a game of chance during the initial lockdown. Reasons for the increase included betting stores and casinos being closed, a lack of other entertainment options, and people getting more exposure to gambling advertising both online and on television.
The portion of women gambling online during the pandemic also rose, from 13.2% to 16.2%.
The proportion of people in this age bracket who were online gamblers rose from 8.7% in September 2019 to 13.5% in 2021. The second biggest rise for an age bracket was an additional 341,445 people gambling online who were 45 to 54 years old. The portion of women gambling online during the pandemic also rose, from 13.2% to 16.2%. The proportion of males gambling online remained about the same.
The dangers of online gambling
The RCP has warned people about the different risks that online gambling can pose because of its availability around the clock. These risks were heightened during the lockdown as people were spending much more time at home and may have been facing financial uncertainty.
RCP professor Henriette Bowden-Jones spoke about the massive impact that the pandemic has had on all people. She noted how the data shows how “many more older people are gambling online than were before the start of the pandemic.”
She also explained that a portion of people who gamble will experience gambling-related problems, which can cause serious issues if they do not get the correct treatment. According to the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) research that the RCP quotes in its report, between 4% and 7% of gamblers are betting in a risky manner.
Providing treatment and support
The RCP now has a new online information tool that people who have concerns about their gambling activity or those people who might know someone who is struggling with their gambling activity can use.
People are now starting to view gambling addiction in a similar way to other health issues like alcohol and drug dependency. The National Health Service (NHS) has a long-term plan to increase the number of gambling-related treatment clinics across the UK.