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Changes in pandemic players’ behavior

Dr. Andrei: “Depressions occurred, but not because of games, but because of economic problems!”

The pandemic of the new type of coronavirus continues to produce significant changes in the behavior of gambling customers, even a few months after the end of the lockdown.

According to studies conducted on June 11-14 by the multinational research company, Savanta, quoted by the UK Gambling Commission, the mental health of 25% of the population has been affected by the pandemic. In addition, loneliness was a problem for 26% of adults, and incomes of 40% of the population declined. The pandemic also produced changes in the way the population interacted with entertainment methods. According to a study conducted by another research company in the United Kingdom, YouGov, between April 16 and June 18, on a sample of 2,000 respondents, from the category of those who used to practice gambling activities at least once on month, 17% spent more money on online entertainment, 50% spent more time in front of the TV and 48% spent more on-demand video services, such as Netflix, HBO Go, etc. Contrary to expectations, in the UK, the lockdown period did not attract many new customers for gambling operators. According to the same data provided by YouGov, in the UK, only 0.4% of adults surveyed said they chose to try gambling for the first time. In comparison, 2.1% of adults stopped playing once the locations closed. The same study also indicated a relatively low incidence of customers switching from landbased to online. Only 1.6% of the category of players who usually play at least once a month said that during the period when the activity was banned they went online, and 2% said that they had an account on one or more gambling websites during this period.

Collaboration protocol between the Responsible Gaming Association and AOJND – Association of Remote Gambling Organizers

I also talked to the renowned Dr. Cristian Andrei, neuropsychiatrist, ambassador of the Responsible Gaming Association, to find out what changes have occurred in the players’ behavior. Dr. Cristian Andrei coordinates the 24/7 online psychological counseling service of the Responsible Gaming Association, the only such service in our country: “In the first part of the pandemic, the players were affected by the closure of the game halls. Then followed the phase in which they turned online. Once they reached this stage, they noticed that they started to have the same problems that they had before moving them online. In addition, some financial problems have arisen in their families and they have increasingly raised the issue of savings. Which is why I know many cases of people who have had masked depression, in the sense that, apparently, they seem to be ok, but they are not effective, they fail to cope with social, professional, emotional life in the new context. By definition, the players are consumers and, in these almost 100 days since the measures to limit the pandemic were taken, they also had problems, as did the other consumers. They have reached the stage of depression because of economic problems, not because of games. They would like to continue playing, but they do not have the resources or the necessary framework. At home, the player tries to be either the man who plays out of inertia, that is, to continue something he did before, or the savior of the family because the family has financial problems and he tries to save it from bankruptcy. In the past, gambling was seen as frivolity, as a surplus of money and a desire to assert oneself, something “glossy”, luxurious, or now nothing is “glossy”. People look down on the one who is trying to impress with money because, in this context, everyone shrinks, worries, changes their plans and then the idea of gambling is not very suitable with this conservative period.”
Online psychological counseling is considered to be the new trend in the field, both in terms of technological evolution and the benefits it offers to customers of such services. There is scientific evidence that online therapy, especially cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy (CBT) can be more effective in the virtual environment than face-to-face therapy. In CBT sessions, the caller learns how to identify problems, negative thoughts and emotions, assess how real they are, eliminate cognitive dissonances and replace them with rational models. CBT therapy aims to teach clients to become their own therapist. Recent studies have shown that CBT delivered online was more effective than the same face-to-face method, significantly reduced the symptoms of anxiety and depression, and was effective in treating post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and phobia.
The development by the Responsible Gaming Association of support methods that fold on the profile of online players has recently led to the conclusion of a collaboration protocol with the Association of Remote Gambling Organizers. The main objective of this protocol is to extend the scope of Responsible Gaming programs to the online gambling environment, both from the perspective of intervention and from the perspective of prevention and promotion of responsible gaming. In parallel, this collaboration will allow Responsible Gaming specialists to better study the behavior of players in the virtual environment and to adjust their support methods to their specifics.

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