Remote Addiction

Remote gambling (any form of online gambling; whether it be computer or mobile based) can potentially present a more complex problem than traditional gambling since it combines both the Internet and gambling, both of which can separately induce addictive behaviour.

What makes it easier for remote gamblers to get addicted? With a 99.5% online connectivity locally, the ease of access means anyone virtually anywhere in Singapore with an internet connection can login and start gambling. Remote gamblers can comfortably gamble at their convenience from home or anywhere at any time. The convenience is further reinforced through the ease of payment. Credit card numbers, passwords to Apple or Android registered emails or other payment modes require little to no user verification. This underlines the other point of privacy and anonymity as there is potentially no acknowledgement of shame of gambling, as no one needs to know.

Remote gambling participation is rapidly increasing, and numerous studies have reported higher rates of gambling problems among Internet compared with non-Internet gamblers. Remote gamblers are more highly involved gamblers, engaging in many different gambling activities in both online and offline forms. In the field of Cyber Psychology, the “involvement effect” refers to the finding that broader patterns of gambling behaviour, particularly the number of types of games played over defined periods, contribute more to problem gambling than playing specific games. With remote gambling, participants are exposed to many various games, which lead to greater risk of becoming addicted. Compared with non-Internet gamblers, Internet gamblers are found to be younger and engaged in a greater number of gambling activities. Accessibility and convenience grant children and youth easy access to remote gambling.

Remote gamblers have more positive attitudes towards gambling and appear to have lower recognition of their problems and to be less likely to seek information or resources to minimise harm. Comparatively little attention has been given to the potential harms associated with remote gambling. Subsequently, remote problem gamblers may not recognise the negative consequences of their gambling, which may also go undetected by others, given the privacy and anonymity of online gambling.

Young people gamble for most of the same reasons as adults. They want to have fun and win money. One interesting difference is that adolescents see gambling as more of a social event than adults, and may engage in to socialise. Adults are more likely to gamble alone.

Warning signs of gambling problems amongst youth are a low mood or feelings of anxiety. Studies have shown that almost 3/4 of youth with gambling problems have experienced other mental health problems before their gambling problems started. Many turned to gambling in a bid and as an outlet to relieve their other problems. Parents need to understand that the average adolescent is more impulsive and emotionally unstable than the average adult. Youth like to take risks. They are more vulnerable to peer pressure and tend to overestimate short-term payoffs and neglect long-term negative consequences of their actions.

For individuals, remote gambling can start off innocently enough. The occasional poker bet whilst waiting for one’s partner to arrive for dinner. The random jackpot rolls whilst riding the train in to work. However, problems arise when one feels the need to turn to remote gambling to control unpleasant feelings, such as stress, low mood, or anxiety. If one starts to feel it is difficult controlling their gambling and feel the need to be secretive about their gambling because family and friends are worried about them, these could be signs that one has a gambling problem.

For parents worried their child may be addicted to remote gambling, they would want to monitor their own credit card bills, child's internet activities and online financial transactions. Parents should also pay more attention to whether their child may be stealing money, and note whether or not their child may be secretive about their online behaviour.

Parents can start early to educate their children about gambling and the likelihood of winning. Teaching children about the odds will give them tools to make better decisions when faced with peer pressure to gamble. As parents, it is also very important to consider one's own attitude towards gambling and how this may influence your children. It is important for parents not to send mixed messages.

For families, they need to understand that problem gamblers often rationalise their behaviour. For many, an important aspect of quitting gambling is to find alternate ways to handle their difficult emotions. It is worth spending time with these individuals to show them you would support them through stressful situations and daily irritations that may trigger their gambling.

Written by Dr. Joel Yang