Sports betting addiction is a major problem worldwide. As the world’s most popular sporting event, the World Cup tends to bring out the worst in people.
Sports betting is one of the most popular leisure activities worldwide. From Canadians making parlay wagers on NHL games to Kenyans betting on the English Premier League, it is one of the common denominators which bind people together regardless of language or nationality.
While most of those who will bet on the World Cup 2014 will do it as a harmless form of entertainment during their favorite sporting events, for many it means something much darker. Where there is smoke there is fire, and with betting comes problem betting.
Problem betting is especially troublesome during the World Cup because it is the world’s most popular sporting event. Football fans and casual bettors on all continents will be placing wagers on the Brazil games, and some of these punters will lose control.
Why problem betting is big during the World Cup
Sports betting is attractive to many people who otherwise wouldn’t gamble for several reasons. Firstly, it combines something already popular with the added thrill of potentially winning money.
• The World Cup is the world’s most popular sporting and betting event; it tends bring out the worst in many problem bettors
• Research has shown that teenagers in many countries are betting on the World Cup in larger numbers than in years past
• There are countless counseling and treatment options available to betting addicts, so no one should be discouraged from seeking help
Many who bet on sports don’t consider themselves gamblers, just sports fans dabbling in the activity. For some it starts with the occasional bet placed on their favorite football team, then eventually ends with an uncontrollable addiction.
This is augmented by the fact that a large number of punters see betting as a skill-based activity with the chance to earn money. Unlike games of chance such as slot machines or online bingo, sports wagering comes down to the knowledge of the bettor. This hubristic attitude has led many down the road to ruin.
That explains why sports betting can be more dangerous than other forms of gambling. But why is World Cup sports betting addiction such a special problem? As previously mentioned, football is the most popular sport in the world, so it’s natural that it would attract the most wagers.
Additionally, the tournament format means that there are always high-profile games being played. Any fan can be put into a frenzy due to football over-stimulation. It’s no surprise that some punters lose control of their betting behavior during the event.
Reasons to think it will be especially bad in World Cup 2014
Statistical data shows that problem betting has increased during the past few World Cups, especially among young people. A survey of adolescents in Macau found that in 2002 14 percent of teenagers wagered on the matches. This figure eclipsed 20 percent in 2006.
A Hong Kong non-profit called “No Gamble 21 Alliance” reported that the number of people seeking counseling for gambling problems increased by 30 percent after the 2010 World Cup, many of whom were teenagers.
What is driving these spiking numbers? The obvious answer is the increased availability of betting platforms. Most people on this earth now have an internet connection or mobile device, making online and mobile betting easier than ever.
Bookmakers also have more freedom to advertise in countries like the UK and Australia. Many anti-gambling groups have complained that television ads specifically target young men, members of the demographic most likely to develop a sports betting problem.
Organized crime and World Cup betting
While betting markets in Europe and other parts of the world are licensed and effectively regulated, many countries, mostly in Asia, still practice outright prohibition. This has led to the creation of large black markets.
In India and Malaysia betting is illegal yet extremely popular. Because regulated betting shops are not available, many people turn to underground operations run by criminal syndicates.
A report from an anti-crime organization in Malaysia stated that loan sharks operating in the country are offering loans at interest rates of up to 45 percent. This predatory lending targets gambling addicts in particular, as they can become desperate to obtain funding for their habits.
What can be done about it
Governments in Europe, North America and Asia provide funding to social organizations providing treatment to gambling addicts. New British gambling laws
have increased the amount of money which casinos and sportsbooks are required to contribute to such organizations.
These groups provide direct counseling and support as well as run campaigns raising awareness about problems, spending big money airing public service announcements. Most of them focus on the negative effects that problem betting has on family life.
While both state and privately-funded groups play a positive role in combating gambling addiction, its important that individuals also take steps to keep their own betting in check as well as that of those around them.
If you’re beginning to feel that you’re losing control of your own behavior, don’t be afraid to seek help. If you live in Britain, the NHS website is a good place to start looking.
If a friend or loved one seems to be betting more than normal this World Cup, pay special attention. Don’t be afraid to confront them, but try to be as supportive as possible and willing to seek help on their behalf.