October 15, 2021 | By: Becky Western-Macfadyen

Is iGaming Gambling Addictive? How to Tell if You Have a Problem

Gambling Debt

Let’s talk about iGaming, which is betting online. Many people do not realise that iGaming is gambling. iGaming was one of the industries that experienced a major increase in revenue due to lockdown and social distancing rules.

As a Credit Counsellor, I want to give you a heads up that I have been seeing an increase in problem iGaming as a reason for financial distress.

The Definition of Addiction and How it Relates to iGaming

Any kind of gambling can be addictive. An addiction is any behaviour a person craves and cannot give up which gives temporary relief but results in negative consequences. In the case of gambling, the most immediate and distressing negative consequences can be an unmanageable increase in debt. iGaming, in particular, can be a financially devastating way to gamble because you can play online 24/7.

Many addictions can be easily hidden from the outside world but have devastating impacts on a person’s emotional and financial wellbeing. The pandemic has been a traumatic time for many of us and in the life of anyone who has ever been addicted, there has often been trauma.

While this blog is about iGaming, please consider that the six horsemen of the lockdown and social distancing apocalypse were drugs, alcohol, sugar, food, work, and iGaming. As the vaccine rollout is well underway and restrictions are lifting, it’s important to look at possible damaging behaviours that we may have adapted to get through what has been a tough time for many.

Warning Signs Your iGaming Has Become Problematic

So has your iGaming become problematic? Let’s look at some financial signs of problem gambling:

  • Frequently borrowing money including asking for salary advances, cash advances from credit cards/lines of credit and payday lending
  • Cashing in savings accounts, RRSPs or insurance plans
  • Hiding financial activity from partner
  • Having frequent conflicts with other people about money
  • Experiencing a large drop in credit score

Stepping Down Your iGaming Spending

If you feel like your spending on iGaming could do with some of your attention but you do not identify with any of the following signs, then let me introduce you to the ‘step down principle.’ The step down principle is a useful strategy to cut back spending in an area rather than eliminate it all together. 

For example, if you are currently iGaming 5 days per week, consider reducing this to 2 days per week. Or, if you’re spending $100 per month on iGaming, consider cutting this back to $50. This principle can be applied to any budget line item such as takeout and alcohol.

Resources to Help You Overcome Gambling Addiction and Financial Stress

If you identify with any of the above signs then know that there are resources to help you stop or cut back on gambling. With gambling, a two-sided approach is most effective, counselling for the gambling itself as well as credit counselling to help with budgeting and debt management. 

At Credit Canada, we often work with clients who have been directly referred by their counsellors. The most well-known source for help with gambling is CAMH but there are others that offer free treatment and Counselling.

The Ontario Problem Gambling Helpline is also available 24 hours a day at 1-888-230-3505 or online at www.problemgambling.ca. The resources on this site include counselling and self-help tools.

Through my work at Credit Canada with gambling debt, I find that gamblers are often highly intelligent people in the analytical sense. Not always, but they tend to know all about probability and statistical analysis and all of those high-level “math geek” things that intimidate the heck out of the rest of us. The problem with statistical analysis and personal finance, though, is that all things can never be equal because most people are operating against the odds with limited resources.

Financial wellbeing is often a key indicator of your overall well being. So much so, that it’s more important than relationship and physical health combined. So, it’s critical to identify any issues that you may be facing with your finances and then seek help. Anyone seeking help from Credit Canada can expect a non-judgmental and supportive experience.

As I wrap up, I just want to highlight the gaming kids in our lives. Teens and young adults have had a tough time due to the pandemic, often turning to video games to occupy their time and connect with friends. With many popular games containing “loot boxes” or “pay to win” mechanics that encourage lavish spending (often for only a few dollars at a time, so the total cost never crosses the player’s mind), these games can become deceptively expensive. This issue has helped fuel lawsuits against companies selling games in Canada that have adopted lootbox practices.

So, it's important to check that they are not spending large amounts of cash on their online gaming habits and that they are in fact playing video games and not iGames. 

If you are concerned about the possible blurring of the lines between gaming and iGaming gambling, then you can access tools from the YMCA Youth Gambling Awareness Program.

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