People's life in Chennai is being hijacked by gambling.
The year began with news of a family's murder-suicide in Chennai, when the remains of a 36-year-old bank employee, who had murdered his wife and two children before hanging himself, were discovered on January 2. According to police accounts, rising online gambling debts were the catalyst. Similarly, the year 2021 began with a 29-year-old man committing suicide on a railway track in Coimbatore after losing money in an online rummy game. Whether it's a compulsive behaviour, a need for that winning sensation, or a means of escaping financial hardship brought on by the epidemic, internet gambling addiction is putting lives at risk. Psychiatrist Dr Lakshmi Vijayakumar, who leads the Sneha suicide prevention clinic, warns that online gambling has spread like wildfire during the epidemic.
Over the last year, the helpline has received roughly forty calls each day concerning interpersonal troubles, mental health illnesses including depression, domestic abuse, and debt. She claims that the hotline is receiving more calls regarding gambling debt and that she is seeing more of these instances in her clinic. They come because they are despondent or have suicidal ideas, especially since they feel trapped. Most of them went into it during the epidemic to augment salaries that had been substantially reduced due to pay cuts, layoffs, or company losses.
People, particularly those in the 20 to 30 age bracket, have been seeking therapy for gambling addiction, according to Soumya Shankar Rama of TTK Deaddiction Centre in Chennai. Gambling and associated problems disproportionately affect society's most vulnerable members, such as the young, old, and socially and economically disadvantaged. According to the therapist, internet gambling, cricket betting, and stock trading addictions have all increased dramatically, with the third being especially prevalent among women who are attempting to supplement their family's income. According to R Gurumani, the centre's security officer, one-third of those who attend Alcoholics Anonymous sessions are problem gamblers.
Co-morbidity is what explains it. Dr Sanju George, a psychiatrist from Kerala, also works in mental health. One or more mental health issues or addictions coexist in the same way as diabetes and hypertension do. Alcohol dependence is more common than smoking or gambling. Drugs have a greater increase in mental health complications than other diseases. According to an expert who has learned much about gambling addiction, the Internet has made it easy and affordable for addicts to thrive. Because each region has its own set of rules, personal gambling is very limited. Lotteries, for example, are lawful in twelve states and five Union territories but are prohibited in the remainder (including TN). The Madras high court deemed the TN government's ordinance prohibiting internet betting games to be excessive and inappropriate to its goal last week. The ruling was issued in response to online gambling businesses' petitions contesting the legality of the Tennessee gaming and police laws amendment act 2021. M K Stalin, the Chief Minister, has committed to prohibiting money-related internet gaming.
According to a survey conducted by Esse N Vidari Media in 2021, Indian gamers spent 13,000 crores on online sports betting, and a statistic analysis predicts that the online rummy business in India would reach $1. 4 billion by 2024, owing to the growing usage of smartphones in rural regions. Online gambling businesses say that legalising gambling will create jobs and enhance tourism, resulting in economic gain.
Gambling increased in popularity in India from the 17th century to 1947, when it was ruled by the British. They promoted it because they stood to make a lot of money from it, according to George, who has written many study papers on gambling addiction. In one of his publications, he claims that roughly three-quarters of the Western world gambles, yet just 2% to 4% of those that gamble have a problem.
He claims that similar incidence percentages have been discovered in Asian nations. Even though there are no community-based gambling prevalence studies in India, research of college students in south India released in 2020 revealed that only nineteen. Only 5% of the people in the study had ever gambled. However, 30 per cent of those who gambled were problem gamblers. Gambling illness, according to Dr S Shiva Prakash of the Schizophrenia Research Foundation in Chennai, is a behavioural addiction with comparable characteristics to drug misuse.
Addiction manifests itself as a need for the gadget, insomnia, and a lack of control. It shows itself as agitation, rage, and an inability to concentrate. Gambling is harmful because it might go unreported, according to Dr George. Unlike alcoholism, which has apparent symptoms such as tremors, a gambling issue is only discovered when there is a significant financial crisis or when the individual is convicted for fraud. A ticket counter staffer at a Chennai MRTS railway station was detained last week for faking a theft of the collected money to repay the money he had borrowed to play online rummy.