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Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, Professor of the School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra

Sports betting and teenage gamblers

Mon, 25 Jun 2018 13:21:00 +0000 Published in Las Provincias and Diario Montañés

Three years ago, young Roberto's life changed completely. A click to download an application where he could instantly see the results of soccer matches and bet instantly, was the big mistake of his life. Currently, as a result of his gambling addiction, linked to debts and theft, he has been left without work, his girlfriend has left him and his friends have turned their backs on him.

Gambling is real fun when there is self-control and enjoyment, while it ceases to be so when it involves lack of control and discomfort. In the latter case, a process usually begins that leads to pathological gambling.

Pathological gambling is an irrepressible urge to gamble with money. The association of Psychologists of the United States considers it an impulse control disorder. For other agencies it is a "non-substance addiction". The World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized it as a disease.

Online sports betting has become the main cause of adolescents and young people falling into the pit of gambling addiction. Why are they so attracted to this type of betting? For several reasons: being linked to sporting events; easy access; the possibility of playing anonymously, winning quick money and placing bets with few euros. 

How to recognize a case of pathological gambling? Common symptoms: repeated attempts to quit gambling without success; withdrawal syndrome when unable to gamble; concealment of amounts gambled from family; attempts to recover gambling losses with more gambling.

Bookmakers are legal and, moreover, do not allow minors to gamble. But there is a proven fact: sports betting is starting at ever younger ages; by the age of 12 many teenagers are already gambling and quite a few are becoming gambling addicts. What is happening?

1. Teenagers use stratagems to sign up. For example, they use friends who are older than me: "I have bet as a minor in several bookmakers without any problem; I use the issue pin given to me by a friend who is older than me".

2. They are heavily pressured by a suffocating and abusive advertising that encourages them to try betting. It includes using elite athletes as campaign lures, as well as a bombardment of advertisements on sports broadcasts and in venues attended by spectators of all ages.

3.In some cases the authorities have allowed gambling houses to be placed next to a high school.

4.It incites to bet for the first time by "giving away" 200 or more euros (this is a virtual amount and requires an almost impossible requirements to be able to collect it: it must be invested in risky bets and in a short period of time).

5. Some sports betting places look like a "cafeteria" where adults and minors meet, supposedly to have a beer. This meeting in a camouflaged gambling place leads many minors to end up betting with the help of some adults.

 It is incomprehensible the social tolerance and passivity of some parents in the face of this gambling marketing subject and the lack of a preventive Education , linked to the creation of good habits in leisure time. At the very least, parents should collaborate with the associations of former gambling addicts who defend their children.

It is necessary to avoid certain messages that reach children in the family environment, such as, for example, that winning in the lottery or bingo will solve family problems; instead it is very convenient to talk about the best award is work and saving, and that with gambling games you will always lose in the long run.

To combat pathological gambling, experts advise combining personalized treatment with therapy at group. "Gamblers Anonymous" is a treatment similar to "Alcoholics Anonymous", based on mutual financial aid between patients.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy reduces gambling-related symptoms and urges. It focuses on the identification of mental processes related to possible pathological gambling. In addition, it uses skills acquisition techniques aimed at the rejection of pathological gambling and relapse prevention.

The factor core topic for the cure of pathological gambling is the will of the patient. It will be more easily achieved if the Education of the will was initiated in childhood. A basic goal is that the adolescent gets used to say NO to invitations to gamble money. Only those who want to do so are rehabilitated.