The Victorian Responsible Gaming Foundation has published new guidance to help protect consumers in the Australian state from gambling-related harm during the ongoing novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Victoria is currently in a state of shutdown in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus, with many people ordered to stay at home.
The Foundation said it expects an increase in online gambling as people seek to stave off boredom, entertain themselves, de-stress and manage anxiety during the shutdown. With this, the Foundation said it may also see a rise in problem gambling.
Online gambling is more risky the other types of betting, the Foundation claimed, as it is easier to bet and lose money quickly. It highlighted factors such as players not keeping track of losses and the fact that online games are available all hours of the day.
“Many scenarios can lead people to gamble online,” the Foundation’s principal clinical advisor Tony Clarkson said. “During this stressful period, some people may seek escape in a new activity or take up gambling again after a break.
“Those accustomed to visiting a venue to gamble may try online gambling to manage their urges. Others might choose to participate in different forms of gambling available through various apps and websites.”
The Foundation noted the impact of ‘personalised’ promotional offers via email, SMS, social media, pop-up ads or a combination of all of these. It said that such promotions make people think about betting more than normal, while also make it seem like everyone will win, even though some lose more than they win.
“Online gambling may not feel satisfactory, and the risk is that people may end up gambling more – and losing more – to satisfy an urge,” Clarkson said. “The bottom line is that gambling doesn’t always relieve stress, but it can generate additional stress due to financial losses, and cause a person’s wellbeing to suffer.”
In addition, the Foundation picked out other risks recently highlighted by the Australian Media and Communications Authority, including illegal gambling websites.
The Foundation said that while these sites may appear legitimate, they operate outside Australian laws and do not comply with national customer protection regulations. It said some customers reported being unable to retrieve winnings, while others saw unauthorised withdrawals of funds from their bank accounts.
For consumers in Victoria negatively affected by their own or someone else’s gambling, the Foundation said residents can call the 24/7 Gambler’s Help service for confidential support or visit its dedicated website.