Not many businesses can say that the COVID-19 pandemic and global lockdown have been good for them. Local restaurants, independent movie theatres, neighborhood gyms — basically, everything that is not large commercial chains has been closing even though most countries have already started lifting quarantine restrictions. It takes a huge financial airbag to survive three months without revenue. Many businesses just don’t.

Still, not many doesn’t mean no at all. Some industries and companies are lucky enough to provide what people have been craving for ever since the pandemic began — entertainment and escapism. Just look at Netflix’s stocks; they have never been worth more. Same with Zoom. Same with online gambling providers. With land-based casinos closed and no prospect of a weekend Vegas trip on gamblers’ horizons, online casinos have been thriving recently. Compared to March 2019, the number of active virtual gamblers has increased by 88% for virtual betting, 53% for online poker, and 25% for slots.

What Is Problem Gambling?

Problem gambling is an addictive disorder somewhat similar to substance abuse. Problem gamblers gamble regularly, continuously, and erratically. They experience negative consequences of gambling all the time but can’t stop. In the most extreme cases, this results in lost houses, destroyed careers, and broken families. There are no well-defined diagnostic criteria for problem gambling. Still, it’s usually not that difficult to recognize a problem gambler. It’s a person who keeps saying that they have everything under control and can stop at any moment the day after blowing their entire month’s salary in an online casino. 

Luckily, gambling therapy is a thing, and most support organizations for problem gamblers (including the Gambling Commission, the National Council for Problem Gambling, and GamCare) offer helpful resources free of charge.

Has The Number of Problem Gamblers Grown In Quarantine?

Yes, it has. It’s almost impossible to estimate exactly how many new problem gamblers the lockdown has produced, but preliminary research suggests that this number is quite high. While new players are slow to start gambling, seasoned ones are gambling more. According to the Gambling Commission, two-thirds of regular gamblers have increased their bets and time spent in online casinos

Casino operators are investing more in targeted advertising and inviting emails, which affects people struggling with compulsive gambling, binge gambling, and gambling addiction. With the increased temptation, it has become more difficult for them to keep their habits under control.

Do Casinos Do Anything to Help Problem Gamblers?

Some of them do. Most of them don’t. The thing is, unlike land-based casinos, online operators usually have access to users’ entire gambling history. They can see how much one spends on betting, how often they gamble, and what are their spending and playing patterns. Online casinos recognize problem gamblers among their regulars. 

Unfortunately, few of them act ethically and impose restrictions that could potentially help addicts. The worst of them even prey on problem gamblers by suddenly increasing minimum bets in the middle of a spree and applying other deceptive techniques. 

Some people believe that offering free games is also unethical, but they are wrong. When online casinos provide demo games, they are actually targeting new clientele and give one a chance to find out if gambling is even something they find enjoyable. This has nothing to do with problem gamblers.

Still, the real good guys are the rare online casinos that actually want to rule out problem gamblers and make their money on people who gamble for fun. They are not being altruistic because most of casinos’ profits come from non-problem gamblers. Instead, they are being ethical, which is always a winning strategy in the long run. Such operators are partnering with organizations that fight against gambling addiction and support the development of software that helps detect problem gamblers early on.

How to Make All Online Casinos Stop Preying on Problem Gamblers?

The major problem with online casinos is that because iGaming is illegal in so many countries, adequate regulations are next to nonexistent. In such countries, gamblers are gambling at their own risk; no one is going to protect them if an online casino operator scams them. Lifting the ban on iGaming and introducing adequate regulations for online operators is the first step toward helping problem gamblers.