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How does advertising impact recovering gamblers?

17th February 2017

GamCare CEO, Dirk Hansen, this week addressed the European Parliament on how gambling advertising could affect recovering problem gamblers.

I had the opportunity this week to speak on the subject of advertising and its impact on problem gamblers in recovery. The event took place at the European Parliament and there were a number of MEP’s there as well as some gambling industry representatives.

A lot of concern was expressed about ‘getting things right’ with respect to advertising, and in particular on how individuals who have problems with gambling are affected uniquely, apart from the rest of the population.

Here at GamCare, we are often told by those who have entered our treatment programme that gambling advertising and marketing can be a real challenge, and in some cases can act as a ‘trigger’ to get them thinking about returning to gambling.

For those who have had problematic gambling behaviours in the past, there are some notable vulnerabilities related to advertising and marketing. For one, the messages conveyed can often elicit a cognitive response that is absent of the usual filters that others may have, i.e. understanding that there are risks of losing, as well as winning, associated with gambling. 

For the gambler in recovery, he or she may be susceptible to believe the messages contained within adverts at face value, and have a distorted view of their ability to win. They may also return to memories of a big win, or a seemingly invincible moment where they ‘couldn’t lose’.

For those in recovery it is important to learn to counteract these distorted thinking patterns and have a more realistic approach to ‘the odds’, and to their perception of ‘luck’. 

Advertisers also have a responsibility to offer balanced advertising that includes more realistic messages – and messages about support that is available for those in difficulty. At GamCare we have a number of ways to work with individuals struggling with the pervasive nature of gambling messaging. We can assist by directly addressing cognitive distortions and focussing on clear thinking to help prevent a return to problematic gambling. 

For some, there may be a need to go beyond the thinking patterns and to look at the fundamental drivers of their behaviour, and how gambling may be a diversion or coping mechanism that exists as the result of much more complex factors.

For more information on how GamCare can help you, have a read of our support and counselling pages.