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Grand National 2023: How Major Sporting Events Can Trigger Gambling Addiction

As excited fans across the UK prepare for The Grand National this weekend, it is important to note how major sporting events can have a negative impact on those susceptible to addiction. 

The latest NHS figures estimated that around 246,000 people in the UK are likely to have some form of gambling addiction, and approximately 2.2 million people are either problem gamblers, or are at risk of developing a gambling addiction. Major sporting events such as the Grand National are particularly triggering to those who are susceptible to gambling addiction.

Martin Preston, Founder and Chief Executive at Private Rehab Clinic, Delamere, has outlined what causes gambling addiction, the signs to be vigilant of, and tips for changing your gambling habits. 

How major sporting events can fuel gambling addiction

“Gambling addiction is a progressive brain disorder that manifests in the same way as a substance addiction. A person who is dependent will continue to gamble despite adverse consequences, display lack of self-control and compulsive engagement in gambling, and will develop intense cravings to continue the destructive behaviour.

“Gambling triggers the same part of the brain that controls the pleasure and reward systems, in the same way the stimulating drugs do. This causes a release of dopamine - a pleasure chemical - into the brain, which causes a gambler to feel good when they win money. However, just like stimulant drugs, this then has the potential to turn into an addiction, where the person can not stop gambling no matter how hard they try.

“Major sporting events such as the Grand National can be triggering for those who suffer from, or are susceptible to, developing a gambling addiction. Major sporting events carry an increased temptation to gamble, as well as the increased exposure to gambling adverts, making this an extremely triggering time for those who are suffering.

“During major sporting events, gambling sites will often increase their advertising on social media, television and in between games to lure potential new and existing customers. 

Signs that someone may be having problems with gambling

The belief that someone suffering from gambling addiction can win back previous losses becomes all consuming, and these increasing attempts at gambling more money can drive their losses even further.

Signs of gambling addiction include:

  • Irritation and restlessness when prevented from gambling
  • Lying about or hiding gambling from friends and family
  • Borrowing money and getting into increasing debt
  • Selling their possessions to fund their gambling addiction
  • Stealing money to fund their gambling addiction
  • Frequently thinking about gambling and planning to gamble
  • Increasing the amount of money they gamble each time
  • Risking relationships, work or education opportunities
  • Repeatedly trying, yet failing, to quit gambling despite their losses
  • Continuing to gamble even though you can see the damage being caused to their finances, social life, work and family relationships
  • In denial that they have an addiction to gambling and claiming they can stop if they want to
  • Becoming so consumed by gambling that they lose interest in activities that they previously enjoyed
  • Anxiety due to their worsening financial situation, yet continuing to gamble regardless

How to change your gambling habits

1. Removing all gambling apps on your PC and phone

Try to make your personal environment gambling free, so you are less tempted by its presence. If you have been betting online or by telephone, remove all numbers and applications that are associated with gambling. Temptation can never be completely eradicated but you can minimise it within your home environment.

2. Strengthen your support network

Support whilst you are trying to overcome any addiction is vital and can make a huge difference to your recovery. Active gambling addiction leans towards secrecy, isolation and dishonestly. By being open with your family and friends that you are trying to quit gambling, they will be more mindful and supportive.

3. Join a peer support group or mutual aid group for gambling addiction

Knowing that you are not alone in your battle with gambling addiction is a great comfort. Peer support and mutual aid groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous, enable you to connect with like minded others. Mutual aid meetings are also a safe place for you to share your true thoughts and feelings, without the fear of harming or causing worry to those close to you.

4. Learn new ways of coping with your emotions

Stress and strong emotions can be a trigger for addiction making an active comeback. In order to avoid gambling relapse, it is important that you learn to manage your emotions in a healthier way. Healthier ways of coping with and managing emotions include: meditation, mindfulness, yoga, breath work, attending counselling for gambling, fitness, writing thoughts and feelings down and talking things through with someone who understands. 

We recommend trying different things, so that you can gain as many tools to help you with your recovery from gambling as possible.

5. Face your problems

In order to overcome a gambling addiction, it is necessary to face the consequences the disorder has caused in your life. We understand that this is the hardest part of recovery for most. However, the pay off of facing up to your problems is immense. Try to tackle one problem at a time, making a list of people or institutions you owe money too. Seeking help and advice from a debt resolution company or citizens advice will be very helpful.

6. Seek professional help for mental health problems and trauma

To give yourself the best chance of successfully overcoming problem gambling at home, it is essential that you seek professional help for anything that may hold you back or cause you to relapse. Most individuals who suffer from addiction have issues that are unresolved or a mental health illness that has not been correctly treated. Your GP will be able to arrange some counselling sessions for you and, if deemed necessary, refer you into your local mental health services for further assessment and treatment.

7. Try to resolve problems in personal relationships

Addiction causes loved ones to suffer, also. If you are close to your family or have a significant other, it is likely that they have bore the brunt of your gambling problem. Apologies and promises mean very little when they have heard it all before. We suggest showing them, through your actions, that you are serious about change. It may take time for them to trust you, do not be surprised if this time is lengthy. Be patient and suggest that they also seek help and support to help them heal too.

8. Be kind and forgiving of yourself

This is very important as feelings of shame, guilt and self hatred can really eat a person up. Understand that you suffer from an illness that gravely affects the way that you think and behave. Try to show yourself some compassion and do not be hard on yourself when you make mistakes. 

Part of recovery is learning from mistakes. As humans we are all fallible, there will be times that you will say or do the wrong thing. It is also important to let go of expectations and timeframes. Recovery from addiction is a journey, not a destination.


Date of Publishing : 13th April 2023