With COVID-19 forcing everyone to stay inside and isolated, a lot of people are turning more to digital devices as forms of entertainment and discovering that many online pastimes contain elements of gambling. For many people, gambling is a safe recreational pastime. However, for some, it can turn into a dangerous addiction. From the man who spent $16k on Final Fantasy , to Japan having to crack down on digital slot machines , it can’t be denied that young and old alike can fall into problem gambling behavior when it is presented in a digital form.
Even though online gambling is not legal in the state of Florida, many people are turning to digital means to place bets. In fact, the National Council on Compulsive Gambling has seen a 30%-40% increase in online gambling since the COVID-19 virus hit.  Wages are being placed on everything from the weather to the outcome of popular TV shows.  It is easy to see the dangers that problem gamblers could face when they are given the option to gambling from the comfort of their couch. Moreover, the ease of accessing extra money at the swipe of a finger makes it simple for individuals with problem gambling behaviors to chase their gambling losses by gambling more and more money.
Additionally, Verizon had found a 75% spike in online video gameplay as a result of increased isolation.  This spike will more than likely lead to increased video game related gambling, such as loot boxes, microtransactions, and e-sports betting. An alarming aspect of digital gambling through video games is that, oftentimes, there are no tangible rewards. Yet, this type of gambling can present the same addictive elements to problem gamblers as in-person gambling. This means that as problem gamblers seeking to chase their losses, may find themselves spending thousands of dollars for a single line of code that turns their avatar into a special character.
Problem gamblers often seek out gambling while distressed. With a rise in the variety and prevalence of these digital forms of gambling amidst these stressful times, it is more important now than ever to be mindful of your gambling habits and to seek out help if you are suffering from problem gambling. If you or a loved one may be struggling with a gambling problem, contact Florida’s 24/7, confidential, multilingual Problem Gambling HelpLine, 888-ADMIT-IT (236-4848). The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling (FCCG) is providing uninterrupted help and hope for problem gamblers and their loved ones throughout this pandemic. The HelpLine is also available via text at 321-978-0555, LiveChat on gamblinghelp.org, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by messaging the FCCG’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
March Madness Cancellation
On March 12th, COVID-19 added March Madness 2020 to its growing list of disruptions, and across the nation fans (and industry workers) found themselves disappointed. An estimated $8 billion was set to be wagered this year during March Madness, and if you are one of those individuals let down by the cancellation, then we hope you take this unexpected time to check in with yourself and make sure that you are not engaging in problem gaming behaviors by asking yourself the following questions:
“HOW UPSET AM I THAT I CAN’T BET ON MARCH MADNESS THIS YEAR?”
Many people recreationally engage in sports betting, and a feeling of disappointment is normal. However, if you find that you are angry or irritated by this forced cut back from gambling it may be a sign to seek help.
“WAS I RELYING ON MARCH MADNESS TO MEET UPCOMING FINANCIAL OBLIGATIONS?”
A common sign of problem gambling is relying on others for financial bailouts when complications arise. If you were relying on sports betting to meet your goals and now have to ask for financial assistance, it may be time to seek more information.
“WAS I RELYING ON MARCH MADNESS WINNING TO MAKE UP FOR PREVIOUS LOSSES?”
Problem gamblers often attempt to make up for their betting losses by betting more and more money. This type of gambling habit can be the sign of a large problem.
If you or a loved one has a gambling problem, contact Florida’s 24/7 Confidential, Multilingual Problem Gambling HelpLine, 888-ADMIT-IT (236-4848).
 Stanton, Rich. “The Heartbreaking Story of How One Man Spent £12,000 on Final Fantasy and Nearly Lost His Family.” Kotaku UK, www.kotaku.co.uk/2017/12/14/the-heartbreaking-story-of-how-one-man-spent-12000-on-final-fantasy-and-nearly-lost-his-family.
 Toto, Serkan, and Serkan Toto. “It’s Official: Government Regulates Japan’s Social Gaming Industry Over Kompu Gacha [Social Games].” Kantan Games Inc. CEO Blog, 18 May 2012, www.serkantoto.com/2012/05/18/gacha-regulation-official/.
 Whyte, Keith. Impacts of COVID-19 on People and Problem Gambling. National Council on Problem Gambling, 25 March 2020.
 Miller, Kirk. “What Bets Are Sports Books Even Taking in the Time of Coronavirus?” InsideHook, 20 Mar. 2020, www.insidehook.com/article/sports/sports-bets-online-coronavirus.
 Haydn. “Gaming and Live Streaming Rise Globally amid COVID-19 Crisis.” GamesIndustry.biz, www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2020-03-18-gaming-and-live-streaming-rise-globally-amid-covid-19-crisis.