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50 ways to leave your lover: Declan Lynch's tales of addiction



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When it was announced that there would almost no sport in the world for the foreseeable future, it was clear that some of us, at least, would have to drop our 'addictions' to football and all the other recreations that consume us in the normal run of events.

But for those who are addicted not only to the sports themselves - which is relatively harmless - but to gambling on them, there was a sense that for some at least, this might just be a lucky break.

After all, if there's no sport, there's no sports betting - and if you've got a gambling problem in that area, the fact that there's nothing to gamble on must mean you've dodged a bullet here, or perhaps many bullets.

This was the obvious conclusion to be drawn. Too obvious, it now seems.

We had grown accustomed to describing online gambling as an epidemic, when we really should have been calling it a pandemic - it has been sweeping through every country in the world in which people have money.

Therefore, just because there is no sport, it doesn't necessarily follow that there will be no sports betting - you can still go online and bet on 'virtual' sports, which, to a large extent, is what a lot of punters are doing already.

Sure, you may regard an under-19 basketball game in Azerbaijan or a fourth-rate tennis match in Budapest as a sporting event - which it is, in a technical sense - but really, you're just betting on the proverbial two flies crawling up a wall.

You haven't a clue what you're doing; you just need to gamble, right there, right then.

So it makes no great difference that there's no actual basketball game or tennis match being played any more, just some sort of a pre-determined computerised raffle with a video-game accompaniment - indeed, to an extent, it is the purest form in which you can maintain your addiction; it cuts out the notion that you give a damn one way or the other about basketball in Azerbaijan or tennis in Budapest.

But I suspect that those in the most danger here are not necessarily the traditional males with their incessant sports betting - even with the virtual option, there's bound to be less traffic than usual online.

No, there are many others who tend to avoid sports in favour of casino games and poker and blackjack and the like. And many of them are women.

I have never really got over my amazement at the headline, which appeared a few years ago, claiming that about 33pc of online gambling was now being done by women - at the time, I just didn't believe this. I was still thinking of gambling in the old-fashioned way, basically men backing horses and dogs and so forth.

But it is true that one of the many victories of the betting corporations is that they have inveigled that other half of the human race into their maw.

And now that everyone is seeking some form of diversion, it is inevitable that those who are already engaged in online betting of this kind may be further drawn into it - meanwhile, people who never considered it, may be discovering it.

After all, it's not just the need for entertainment that drives this stuff, it can also be the need for money - and since that need has never been greater, you might think that you can find another source by playing a few games online.

The way this works, you may end up needing a lot more money than you needed in the first place.

But one thing is for sure: long after we have found a cure for Covid-19, we will still be struggling with the pandemic of betting.

Sunday Indo Life Magazine