We tend to think of online activities as being the domain of the young – particularly those who have never known life without the internet. As with so many other things, that all changed when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020. As older people were forced to stay indoors to protect themselves from the virus, many turned to the internet out of necessity. From grocery shopping to Zoom calls with family, 2020 and 2021 saw a sharp rise in over 65s accessing the internet – including online gambling sites.
When one door closes
Recent reports show a significant increase in senior citizens gambling online, including the use of online and virtual casinos. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of over 65s using online gambling sites increased from 8.7% to 13.5% and there are a number of reasons for this, including boredom and isolation coupled with a continued fear of visiting town centres and mingling with large numbers of people.
A golden age for the internet
Although the increase in kaszino online gambling in the over 65s is significant, is it cause for concern? Traditionally, many older people have indulged in regular gambling activities including buying a lottery ticket, attending bingo games and visiting a bookies to place a Saturday bet on the horses or football, so why is online gambling any different? Henrietta Bowden-Jones of the RCP says, ‘Not everyone who gambles will develop a gambling disorder, but some will. Gambling disorder is an illness and, if left untreated, can lead to significant depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts’.
Although older people pivoting their gambling to the internet is not necessarily anything to worry about, there are still concerns. Many feel that senior citizens who are unaccustomed to the world wide web may not be ‘street smart’ when it comes to choosing safe sites to access. There is also the fear that inexperienced older folks may get sucked into additional spending and gambling online through pop up adverts promising them the world – something that the younger generation are a lot more savvy about in 2022. Matt Zarb Cousin of Clean Up Gambling echoes this concern, saying, ‘They [over 65s] might sign up to bet on racing or sports, but they will be cross sold the other additive stuff like slots and will be given free spins and it is quite overwhelming’. It certainly doesn’t help that the online gambling industry, having recognized this new audience, has now begun to actively target over 65s in its marketing and advertising.
In a rapidly changing world, the internet can provide a lifeline for pensioners who are spending more time at home and are experiencing increased isolation and loneliness. While this can be a good thing, inexperienced elders can often present an easy target to scammers and cybercriminals. As such, it’s clear that there may be a need for further guidance in terms of marketing gambling toward this demographic. In the meantime, children and grandchildren can take up the mantle in introducing the over 65s to safe use of the internet.