It has started.
The problem itself started a while ago, but now it is emerging into the light – women have been calling the helpline of Problem Gambling Ireland and other such organisations, talking about being addicted to online gambling.
Yes, it started a while ago, but the pandemic brought it forward – now it seems that women who may have been worried about their gambling in the old world are not in doubt any more.
Online gambling will do that to you.
To say that it adds rocket fuel to a pre-existing condition is true, up to a point, but it is probably better to regard it as a new form of the addiction altogether. One in which all the usual inconveniences are taken out, leaving just the pure compulsion to be pursued in the most congenial circumstances.
And yes, the very idea of women being captured by this particular addiction would seem counterintuitive to some.
It seemed counterintuitive to me when I first saw a headline some years ago, stating that 33pc of online gambling is done by women.
Like most people, when I thought about betting, I thought mainly of sports betting – and one thing that hasn’t changed in the online age is that sports betting is still largely a male domain.
But below that headline, a story with potentially enormous consequences was being told – women were being drawn in large numbers to gambling on everything that isn’t sport, as such. On casino games and the online versions of blackjack or poker. On games of bingo or roulette.
Which is quite understandable, really.
Online gambling systems are created by some of the smartest people in the world, who know what needs to be done to turn a hobby into an addiction.
If you have any weakness for it, any vulnerability at all, online gambling will find it. And when you consider all the other stresses of the pandemic, you start to understand why the likes of Problem Gambling Ireland are starting to hear the voices of women in disturbingly large numbers.
At its simplest level, people have been worried about money – and at its simplest too, the attraction of playing blackjack or roulette online is the thought that you may end up with more money than you started with.
And frankly, there are not a lot of ways you can do that, just for enjoying yourself out there on the digital wasteland.
In fact it’s so attractive all round, once you start, and maybe make a few quid virtually for nothing, you may find it very hard to stop. And since you may have access to the plastic magic money tree, which you wouldn’t necessarily have in the real world, the potential for trouble can start cranking up very quickly.
This has indeed been happening, it seems, with a renewed intensity in the last few months. One of those unintended consequences.
Originally it was assumed by some that the online gambling corporations would suffer greatly due to the lack of almost all sports, but instead the pandemic has given them the opportunity to steer people into new markets – and to tighten their grip on those who used to just dabble in the casino games.
To lock them down, as it were.
It is a historic development, going against one of the most ancient traditions in the betting game, the fact that the bookmakers had found women so maddeningly elusive.
Whereas men would throw themselves into the maw of habitual gambling, women would be more inclined to have a punt on the Grand National and leave it at that.
Now they’re not leaving it at that, when they go online.
Now they’re coming back for more.
Sunday Indo Life Magazine