Toronto ON – Niagara Falls was recently home to an Ultimate Gaming Challenge geared towards teens and young adults. Participants were lined up out the door of a local hotel long before the event even started. The event had 18 sponsors including the District School Board of Niagara, Brock University and willpwn4food.com, an online gaming site with the tagline “Use your skills to pay the bills.”
Arcadeweb.com surveyed online gamers and found 82 per cent are in the same or worse financial situation than they were two years prior. The survey reported 80 per cent of tournament casual gamers are using their cash winnings, on “basic necessities,” with 26 per cent reporting they have used winnings to buy groceries, and 24 per cent to pay bills.
“Online gaming is gambling and can be great fun, but when it’s used as a means to augment income that’s a recipe for disaster,” says Jeffrey Schwartz, executive director of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada, Inc. “The odds are not in your favour when you have to spend money in order to have a chance of winning; these websites are in the business to make a profit.”
According to a study conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), “4.7 per cent of students (7.5 per cent of males and 1.8 per cent of females) engaged in heavy gambling in 2007.”
CAMH lists the financial signs of an individual addicted to gambling as:
- frequently borrows money or asks for salary advances
- takes a second job without a change in finance
- cashes in savings accounts, RRSPs or insurance plans
- alternates between being broke and flashing money
As well, family members may complain that valuables and appliances are disappearing, or money is missing from a bank account or wallet.
If you know someone who is spending an inordinate amount of time on online gaming and is exhibiting any of the financial signs of a gambling addiction listed, contact CAMH and a not-for-profit credit counselling agency for professional help. CAMH will work on the medical/psychological effects of the addiction, while a credit counselling agency can help put a plan in place to rebuild lost savings and pay off debt.