Chennai: When gambling puts lives at stake | Chennai News – Times of India πŸ’₯πŸ‘©πŸ‘©πŸ’₯

The year began with the news of the murder-suicide of a family in Chennai, when, on January 2, the bodies of a 36-year-old bank employee, who had killed his wife and two children and then hanged himself, were recovered. Police reports say mounting online gambling debts are the trigger.
2021 began in a similar way, when a 29-year-old man died by suicide on arailway track in Coimbatore, after reportedly incurring losses in an online rummy game.
Whether it’s a compulsive habit, to get that winning feeling, or to escape financial stress brought on by the pandemic, the growing addiction to online gambling is putting lives at stake. β€œOnline gambling has spread like wildfire during the pandemic,” says psychiatrist Dr Lakshmi Vijayakumar, who heads the Sneha Suicide Prevention Centre.
The helpline has been receiving about 40 calls a day over the past year regarding interpersonal issues, mental health conditions such as depression, domestic violence, and debt. β€œThe helpline is getting more calls about gambling debt and I am also seeing more such cases in my practice,” she says.
β€œThey come because they feel depressed or have thoughts about suicide especially since they feel cornered. During the pandemic, most of them got into it to supplement incomes that have drastically reduced because of salary cuts, lay-offs, or business losses. ”
Soumya Shankar Raman of TTK DeAddiction Centre in Chennai, says over the past couple of years, people, especially those in the 20-30 age group, have been seeking help for gambling addiction. Research from across the world shows that gambling and related problems usually adversely impact the most vulnerable in society, such as the young, elderly, and socially and/or economi-cally disadvantaged.
β€œOnline gambling, cricket betting and share trading addictions have increased and the third is mostly among women desperate to supplement the family income,” says the therapist. R Gurumani, resident warden at the centre, says a third of those who attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings have a gambling addiction.
Co-morbidity, explains Kerala-based psychiatrist Dr Sanju George, exists in mental health as well. β€œJust as you find diabetes and hypertension are comorbid conditions, one or more mental health problems or addictions coexist. A person addicted to alcohol is more likely to be hooked to smoking or gambling. Addictions also tend to have higher rates ofmental health comorbidity. ” The psychiatrist, who has done several studies on gambling addiction, explains that the internet has made it accessible and affordable, which makes it easier for an addiction to form. β€œIn-person gambling is more restrictive as each state has its own laws. For example, lotteries are legal in 12 states and five Union territories and banned in the rest (including TN). ”
Last week, the Madras high court declared the law enacted by the TN government banning online betting games as excessive and disproportionate to its objective. The court passed the order on pleas moved by online gaming companies challenging the validity of the TN gaming and police laws amendment act 2021. Chief minister M K Stalin has promised to ban online games involving money.
According to a 2021 Esse N Vidari Media study, gamers in India spent ?13,000 crore on online sports betting, while a Statista report estimates the online rummy market in India will hit $1. 4 billion by 2024, attributed to the increasing penetration of smartphone use in rural areas. Online gambling companies argue that if gambling were legalised, it would create job opportunities and boost tourism, entailing economic gain. β€œFrom the 17th century to 1947, under British rule, gambling grew in popularity in India. They encouraged it as they stood to gain huge tax revenues,” says Dr George, who has published several research papers on gambling addiction.
In one of his papers, he says nearly three-quarters of the western world engage in gambling, but between 2% and 4% develop a problem while doing so. β€œSimilar prevalence rates have been found in Asian countries too,” he says. Although there are no community-based gambling prevalence studies from India, a study of college students from south India, which he published in 2020, found that only 19. 5% of the sample had ever gambled.
β€œHowever, of those who gambled, 30% were problem gamblers. ”
Dr S Shiva Prakash of Schizophrenia Research Foundation in Chennai says gambling disorder is a behavioural addiction as it has similar patterns to substance abuse. β€œCraving for the device, sleeplessness, loss of control are signs of addiction. It manifests as restlessness, anger, and an inability to focus. ”
What makes gambling dangerous is that it can go unnoticed, explains Dr George. β€œUnlike with alcohol addiction, where there are visible signs like tremors, a gambling problem comes to light only when there is a severe financial crisis, or the person gets caught for fraud. ” Last week, a ticket counter clerk at a Chennai MRTS railway station was arrested for staging a robbery of the collection money to pay back the cash he had borrowed to play online rummy.

Chennai: When gambling puts lives at stake | Chennai News – Times of India

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