The health crisis caused by the pandemic of Covid-19 has generated a notable social and economic impact, which has gone hand in hand with a significant increase in the number of people addicted to online gambling in the Archipelago. This is how it shows Oscar Lorenzo, project coordinator of the Adsis Foundation and psychologist of the Aluesa center, an entity specialized in the fight against behavioral addictions in the Canary Islands. “During the period of confinement, many people began to show interest in these bets by not being able to go out to the streets and lead their lives normally. In our case, we have almost tripled the demand for assistance associated with these conflicts and it is young men those that make up the predominant profile in all the Islands ”, guarantees the professional.
As detailed, throughout 2019, the rehabilitation center treated almost 200 individuals in the Canary Islands for the same causes. Most were over 45 years old. However, Over the course of 2020, the number increased to 600, with 65% of them being young people who have not yet entered their 30s. Based on the words of Lorenzo, the main factors that have influenced the maintenance of these habits have been the loss of employment, job insecurity and the uncertainty caused by the Temporary Employment Regulation Expenditures (ERTE). Likewise, among the activities preferred by those affected are roulette and sports betting.
“People look for an easy way to make money and take refuge in these games without being aware that they are getting into a big problem. It all starts with welcome bonuses, which seem to be free, and with low stakes. Afterwards, the amounts increase and those who fall into temptation can accumulate debts that exceed 15,000 euros after a few months ”, warns the psychologist, who also ensures that after the sport was paralyzed in the months in which The pandemic was hitting harder, “other alternatives began to emerge, such as gambling on cockfights.”
According to the data managed by the General Directorate for the Regulation of Gambling, gross margin grew 17% in the second quarter of 2020, taking into account the amount invoiced in the same period of the previous year; sports bets fell by 21% –because there were no competitions–; casino games increased by 36%; online poker, 97%; bingo, 67%; and contests, by 733%.
For his part, Spanish Observatory on Drugs and Addictions reveals that during the first months of confinement there was a decrease in the consumption of legal and illegal drugs, but online gambling and the use of new technologies increased. “For users who were already receiving treatment and who regularly visited the game rooms, the confinement was very good because they could not move to these spaces. But as of June, the crisis caused relapses to begin to emerge and to combine face-to-face practice with online practice ”, laments the psychologist.
The truth is that as a result of the declaration of the first state of alarm, a large part of the population created a very close bond with technologies, which also resulted in the growth of addictions to video games and social networks. In fact, based on a survey carried out by the same body between May 18 and June 30, 15.2% of the participants acknowledged having started in video games when the whole country had to lock themselves at home to contain the spread of the pathogen, 7.2% of them presenting a possible disorder due to these interactive applications. The problem would also be greater among those under 18 years of age.
“Our experience tells us that men under 18 years of age are the main affected by addictions to video games and, furthermore, they do not admit to suffering them. Of course, some are over this age group, but they do not make up the majority, ”says Óscar Lorenzo.
Women, on the other hand, lead addictions to messaging applications like WhatsApp and the social network Instagram. “They are usually girls between the ages of 15 and 19, who cannot disconnect from them at any time. In the case of Instagram, for example, we have found cases in which those affected have spent up to 18 hours in the application in a single day, ”says the Aluesa center psychologist. “These habits were triggered in confinement and are very worrying. Sometimes it is difficult for young women to understand it, something that is essential for therapy to be effective, “he adds.