Recent figures published by a specialist UK gambling clinic show that the amount of people addicted to gambling via their mobile phones seems to have increased since last year, corresponding to the apparent growth in popularity of mobile gambling. These experts have provided help for over 700 people across England and Wales yet the figures imply the problem may be more widespread than we think.
Campaigners are taking these news to say that mobile devices are to blame for this, as they are making it too easy to develop an addiction. On the surface, this may appear to be true. But is this really the case? Or is gambling itself just becoming more and more popular and mobile devices are simply another way addicts can access it?
A Rise In Patients
The National Centre for Problem Gambling, the organisation that provides financial advice, therapy and even drugs to those who experience severe cases of addiction (the only one of its kind in the UK), claim that a total of 762 players approached them last year seeking help. More than half that figure, they said, were people who had developed their addiction through gambling on their mobile phones.
This has shown a significant rise because in 2015 the amount of people using their phones to place a bet was 20% lower. 2015 marked the first year of this practice receiving a significant increase of patients who were gambling via phone rather than their going to a traditional bookkeepers.
The figures, at first glance, are troubling. They would have you believe that with the rise of mobile technology and the online gambling industry as a whole have caused an increase in addiction. Anti-gamblers are taking these numbers and using it to claim that mobile phones are making it too easy to gamble. While we do think that there has been a definite increase in addicts using their phones, we do not think that gambling addiction as a whole is on the rise because of it. We think that the method of access is merely changing.
If you take a closer look at the figures we stated, you'll notice that there's no mention of the total amount of patients that visited the clinic in 2o15. The report made by the clinic only states that there's been a 20% increase in the amount of people using their mobile phones to become addicted to gambling.
There was no mention of there being an increase in the amount of patients there were or how many that could be addicted to gambling in the UK as a whole thanks to mobile devices.
This isn't to say, of course, that gambling on your mobile phone isn't easier than going into a bookies. Of course it is! That's the whole point of mobile gambling. But to suggest that mobile gambling has caused an increase in addiction is a very bold claim based on little evidence. We understand the cause for concern, however we do believe most mobile players have enough restraint to bet safely.
Putting Things Into Perspective
On the other hand, if you look at the total amount of patients that this clinic received, 762 is quite a low number. If you compare it to the amount of drug rehabilitation centres have, for instance, you'll see what we mean. The UK Drug Rehab site known as Addiction Helper reports having treated over 10,000 patients in 2016.
Then if you consider the fact that there over 70 million people in the UK alone, the amount of adults that have developed problem gambling is less than one percent (0.001%, in fact!). So, if you compare the two, you can easily see that problem gambling as a whole is a pretty small issue.
We are not saying, however, that it isn't an issue and that it shouldn't be dealt with. All we're saying is that the UK gambling industry is extremely well-regulated and that casinos are working together to help tackle the problem of addiction.
They have brilliant measures in place that catch onto the early signs and they usually work splendidly. Of course, this could change and next year we could be eating our words as it turns out there are more people addicted than we thought. But who knows? All we can base this off is what we've got in front of us.
If, however, you feel you are developing an addiction (whether it's via the bookies or your mobile phone) there are steps you can take to get the help you need. Don't be sacred to reach out!