How to tell if you’re addicted to sports bet apps

Bored at home during Melbourne’s long lockdown in 2020, Tom * got into sports betting.

“There was sport on every weekend, which gave us something to watch,” the 26-year-old construction worker says.

“But you couldn’t watch it with people, couldn’t go to the matches or anything like that. So. [betting] was an outlet to feel involved. And because I wasn’t spending much money on other things during lockdown, it was easier to justify my spending. “

Lisa Farrell, a professor of economics at RMIT, says sports betting apps took on a huge social role over the pandemic, especially for young men.

She says they became “an important way for people to stay connected to their sporting activities and their clubs and their mates through the bets they were making”.

“And we’ve seen gambling companies take advantage of that – we’ve got ‘bet with friends’ happening at the moment.”

But there’s also a dark side to sports betting.

Psychiatrist Dr Ashwini Padhi says their treatment center South Pacific Private saw a 300 per cent increase in clients presenting with gambling addiction during Sydney’s recent lockdown, and a 350 per cent increase during the April / May lockdown last year.

So if you’re wondering if you spend too much time or money on sports betting apps, here’s how to break the habit.

How to tell if you’re addicted to sports betting apps

Tom hasn’t placed a bet since round two of the footy in April.

“I just though it was pretty toxic,” he explains.

“I was checking a bunch of different stats for every match and seeing like, oh, I need this player to get X stat so I can achieve XY Z.

“I just went, well, it seems like I’m spending way too much time on this – probably an unhealthy amount of time, obsessing over all these stats. I just felt pretty addicted to it.”

Tom found himself on a bad run, where he was losing bets consistently.

Dr. Padhi explains while some people can walk away after losing money, gambling addicts chase their losses.

“We tend to put more and more in with the hope that we will win ultimately. And while this is happening, our ability to control our urge not to gamble diminishes. And now we are in this toxic cycle.”

Dr. Padhi says there are clear guidelines for when gambling for fun turns into an addiction.

You might have a problem with gambling if:

  • You’re excessively preoccupied with gambling – you relive past experiences of a win, plan out your next gambling episodes and how you’re going to get money to gamble.
  • You have an increased tolerance – you need to gamble with increasing amounts of money to get that same thrill.
  • You’ve had repeated unsuccessful attempts to control or stop your gambling.
  • If you do stop, you feel restless or irritable.
  • You chase your losses.
  • You regularly gamble to cope with distressing feelings like helplessness, grief, anxiety and depression.
  • You hide your gambling habits from loved ones.
  • Gambling is interrupting or interfering with your work, education, or financial situation.
  • You rely on others to help with money problems caused by gambling.

How to break an online gambling addiction

When last year’s footy season coincided with the end of Melbourne’s lockdown, it made it easier for Tom to stop betting.

He also started up a fantasy football league with some friends, which gave him an outlet.

“We put in 20 bucks at the start of the season and that was it, so it wasn’t like an ongoing financial thing, but it was still a way to feel involved with and interact with a sport.”

His advice to others is to find out what you like about betting – whether it’s the sensation of winning, or the competitive aspect, or something else – and find another way to channel that.

“For me, I’m into stats and numbers. And winning is good as well. So the fantasy football stuff helped tick all those different boxes, but it was less addictive and damaging for me.”

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Dr. Padhi agrees that finding other hobbies to replace sports betting is a great way to break the cycle.

Professor Farrell adds that unlike pokies, sports betting apps don’t tend to use bright colors and sounds to draw you in – it’s the outside world that makes them addictive.

“They’re actually quite a standard platform. Most of the marketing that goes on is through social media, TV ads, sports sponsorship” – and it’s this high level of exposure that can make it so hard to quit.

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