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As Christmas approaches, a leading counsellor has warned about the prevalence of gambling issues in the county and how they can destroy families, relationships and in some situations claim people’s lives.
Addiction and trauma counsellor, Arylene Murphy, said that during her time working with schools in Donegal she became aware of a gaming feature known as looting which she said many parents are not aware of.
She feels that this feature is almost priming young people for gambling later in life.
Loot boxes may be defined as a feature in a video game which may be accessed through gameplay, or purchased with in-game items, virtual currencies or directly with real world money.
Along with another counsellor Martin McFadden, Ms Murphy, visits schools to converse with students about helpful strategies to deal with issues such as stress and anxiety.
The Ballyshannon-based counsellor said that online gambling has changed the issue completely as people don’t have to step into a bookies office on a street corner.
“Online has totally changed it because it has made it so secretive now. Now, you can bet on anything online. Online is a hundred times worse - you have to keep closing windows online. It is like they are luring you into that dark hole.”
She said that certain groups are being targeted at certain times of the day with advertisements before, during and after programmes.
“Gambling addiction is present and is a concern. We are getting clients coming in all the time with this issue. I think gambling increases at any time where there are cash concerns … the time they are in dire straits that is the time people are more likely to gamble,” she said.
She said that when people weren’t working during the pandemic many people got dragged into gambling.
She said that what you can bet on sports has also widened the goal posts with people being able to bet on many different features of sporting events and games.
Unlike substance abuse which can be, at times, easier to identify, Ms Murphy said gambling can, at times, be recognised by people experiencing difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite and financial difficulties.
If people find themselves having issues with gambling they should talk to someone, she advised: “The services are there and counsellors are available even if it is only to talk you through a crisis.”
She appealed to people to make that call and get help, support and advice.
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