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2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and Gambling Harm

Following 12 months of postponement due to Covid-19, this weekend finally marked the beginning of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, and with it, a potential number of gambling-related issues that could have a hidden impact behind the headline-grabbing sporting action.

Arguably the biggest sporting event in the world, the Olympics is also huge for the gambling industry. Online betting is becoming ever increasingly popular, and the sports betting market is continuing to grow at a rapid rate.

With the widely reported increase in gambling since Coronavirus and national lockdowns, it is expected that many individuals, sports fans and even Olympians themselves will be involved in gambling activity during this summer’s games. 

Professional sport is classed as a high-risk sector as athletes are up to five times more likely to become problem gamblers.

Often, this is due to a mixture of common factors amongst professional athletes and their unique lifestyles, such as having an increased amount of spare time and therefore more opportunity, potential boredom, a competitive personality and having money to spare.

The nature of the Tokyo games, with athletes confined to their village like never before due to Covid protocols, will only seek to heighten the above factors. Competitors are being told not to socialise with athletes from other nations, to eat alone, and are being restricted to only seeing a handful of approved locations away from the village and event venues – virtually eliminating the chance to spend spare time sightseeing.

An athlete’s competitive nature also increases their risk, as well as their more constant need for a ‘buzz’ of adrenaline. Similar factors may influence Olympians to gamble on events whilst in Tokyo.

Founded in lived experience, almost half of EPIC Risk Management’s team are reformed gamblers. Amongst this team are former professional athletes: cricketer, Patrick Foster, footballer, Scott Davies, and current cricketer for Hampshire, Chris Wood, all with courageous stories and real-life experience relating to being professional sportsmen with gambling addictions.

Commenting on why sportsmen and women are more vulnerable to gambling, Patrick Foster, Director of UK and Rest of the World at EPIC, adds, “Something that I think probably is more pertinent than anything else is the type of people you are. Athletes share an incredibly competitive nature, making them high achieving and successful but extremely vulnerable when it comes to gambling, particularly. Athletes hate losing.”

Also, athletes often search for highs and lows and replicating the feeling of winning that is received though sport. Especially at these unique games where athletes will be forced to spend so much more time in their rooms than normal, they may be vulnerable to similar feelings and emotions.

Likewise, the high level of enforced relaxation time for the Olympic athletes is highly likely to involve the use of mobile phones and social media, both which enable easy and instant access to online gambling sites and information on performers and upcoming events. Betting could not be easier.

Sports audiences also have easy access to gambling. For some, gambling is a form of enjoyment undertaken safely and sensibly. For others, however, it is more difficult to do and addictions can spiral.

As online betting is set to increase further in the coming years, EPIC Risk Management, continuing to operate as a globally leading gambling harm minimisation consultancy, will persist with the mission of taking the problem out of gambling through education, awareness, and prevention, as well as continuing their widespread work within the professional sports sector to educate future athletes, to make better-informed decisions, and reduce gambling harm. This will work alongside likely increased regulation and heightened media and political scrutiny.

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