The rise in on-line gambling has warned specialists that the home normally wins in the long term

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Given that online gambling sites are seeing a surge in traffic during the pandemic, experts warn that gambling is rarely a pastime and that problem gambling continues to be a major risk.

Researchers in the UK have noted a significant increase in online gambling traffic, particularly in March, when the number of wagers on slots (up 25 percent), poker games (38 percent) and virtual sports (40 percent) rose sharply compared to the cent same period in 2019. Conversely, bets on actual events fell 31 percent during this period when restrictions were in place in many places. In addition, games of over an hour increased by 23 percent over the month.

While the decline in real-event betting is partly due to COVID-19 wiping out many sports leagues in March, Google data shows that searches for "online casinos" continue to increase worldwide and in Canada.

Strategy seekers

"From a general poker standpoint, of course, it's good when more people start playing," said Pieter Hofstra, statistics professor at the University of Ottawa. "The more people play, the more lively the games (and) the more options for games," he said.

"Of course, I also look at poker from a more social perspective, and at times when people are under varying degrees of pressure, there may be an increased risk of addiction or gambling beyond your means."

Hofstra has been teaching a probability and gambling course for seven years, introducing students to basic strategy and risk assessment. An avid card gamer, he says, when players develop problems, it is often because gaming is viewed as a secondary source of income rather than an activity or hobby.

"Chances are that you won't be a winner in the long run," said Hofstra. "So don't think of it as a way to make money, but rather as a form of entertainment. Only play when you are ready to lose that money."

On the surface, winning seems to be the main motivator of most players, says Hofstra, that the psychology behind the game impulses is far more complex and varied.

“For a person, all week long, their boss, who they dislike, can tell them what to do, and Friday nights at the casino they want to be the person in control, they want them Control bets and the action. While for other people it is simply an intellectual challenge. They don't care that much about money, but they want to understand the game better than anyone else. And then there are people who are there for the adrenaline and the thrill. They just like the feeling of playing big where everything could be gone in a second. "

Problem playing

COVID-19 has created new challenges for gambling addicts and advisors, including increased isolation and easier access to gaming sites and funds. According to Amanda Laprade, problem gambling advisor at Rideauwood Family Services, widespread loneliness can pose a greater risk of downward spirals.

"If this affects their physical health, don't eat, sleep, and just maintain basic hygiene. These can be signs." Or when they run into financial problems and start borrowing from loved ones or friends. "

Apart from abstinence, Laprade says that creating boundaries and keeping costs tracked are fundamental if someone intends to gamble for the long term. It's also important to keep family and friends informed, keep your ego in check, and stay light-hearted about the activity.

"Many of the customers we see with problem gambling addiction live with their addiction in secret," she said. "And when someone lives in secret with something this difficult, it affects so many different levels – emotional, psychological, financial – that shame simply overtakes them."

Balanced bets

Finding a balance between caution and encouragement can be difficult in gambling, but some have embraced it as a welcome pastime during the pandemic.

Alli Burton, 30, a communications specialist with the Kentucky Army National Guard, says she first went to a casino on her 21st birthday and has returned eight to ten times a year since then. She said tblackjack was her favorite game and she was forced to travel outside of her home state of Kentucky to gamble as most of the laws on gambling are banned by state laws.

While COVID-19 forced closings along the Las Vegas Strip earlier this summer during her visit, Burton said she had decided to try gambling in sports and place a few future bets and other miscellaneous wagers. When she returned to Kentucky to find everything was closed, she searched the NBA bubble for action and found a website where she could place bets from home.

Burton says she's a conservative gamer and rarely wagers more than $ 10 a night.

"I was so excited to finally have something to empathize with," said Burton. “And since the games are always on, I have nothing more to do but research every team, listen to podcasts and get to know the players. The research has been the most fulfilling and enjoyable I've seen since the beginning of COVID. "