Mental Health Risks of eSports Gambling

Gambling on esports matches is a fun activity for most people. For others, esports betting can lead to gambling addiction and other mental health issues.

Esports is the world’s fastest-growing sport and gambling on esports (also known as esports betting) has become a billion-dollar global industry. Competitive esports matches and tournaments are streamed to millions of viewers around the world, offering many of the same betting opportunities – and potential risks – as traditional sports events.

This blog looks at the common signs of problematic esports betting, the potential mental health risks involved and how to get help if you or a loved one are experiencing harms.

Everything You Need to Know About eSports Betting and Associated Mental Health Risks

How Does Gambling on eSports Work?

If a family member is gambling on esports, you may be struggling to understand how it works. Here is an explanation of the most popular types of esports betting and the common bets that can be placed.

Popular Types of eSports Betting

  • Fixed odds esports betting – This is same as fixed odds betting on traditional sports – the only difference is it involves gambling on esports matches or tournaments rather than real-life sporting events. Wagers are placed using real money on online betting sites.
  • Skins gambling – Instead of betting with real money, skins gambling uses ‘skins’ (virtual in-game items that can be used to customize characters or weapons) as virtual currency to bet on esports matches via third party websites that are often unlicensed and unregulated. Read our skins gambling article to find out more.
  • Social esports betting – This is when gambling takes place between friends, family or online contacts. Wagers can involve money, skins or something else and they are usually arranged privately.

Common Bets that Can be Placed

There are numerous ways of gambling on competitive esports matches. Here are the most common bets that can be placed:

  • Which esports team or player will win the match or tournament
  • What the correct score will be – for example how many rounds, points or kills an esports team or player will achieve.
  • First blood – which player or team will get the first kill in a match – or first player or team to score 10 kills
  • Handicap bet – this involves creating a handicap to level the playing field when one esports team is better than the other and then placing a bet
  • Over/under bet – whether an esports team will score more or less than whatever the online betting site has predicted
  • Odd/evens bets – whether there will be an odd or even number of kills, matches won, structures destroyed etc.

Who is Involved in eSports Betting?

The two main audiences involved in gambling on esports are professional players and viewers, who are usually keen gamers themselves.

eSports Betting Among Professional Players

Professional esports players can command huge salaries with millions of dollars in prize money on offer at international tournaments. The top pro players can further boost their income through lucrative sponsorship deals. However, despite these high earning opportunities, research shows that professional athletes are more at risk of gambling addiction than the general population – and competitive esports players are likely to fall into this category of elite players. This heightened risk has been attributed to several factors including their competitive nature and positive expectations of winning. Gambling is also likely to add to the thrill of the game if they have even more at stake.

eSports Betting Among Casual Gamers

The majority of those who gamble on esports are viewers of live matches and tournaments. Streaming platforms, like Twitch, Facebook Gaming, YouTube and Discord, provide 24/7 access to a wide variety of esports competitions. Many viewers are gamers themselves and watching competitive esports matches is an extension of their interest in all things gaming. The opportunity to gamble on the action – especially live or in-play esports betting – makes it even more exciting. Dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter released by the brain, is produced when gambling. This creates a ‘high’ that viewers want to repeat each time they watch an esports match and this can sometimes become an unhealthy and costly habit that spirals out of control.

Signs of Problematic eSports Gambling 

As gambling on esports has become increasingly mainstream and accessible, there has been an associated rise in the risk of problematic gambling. Although gambling addiction is often easier to hide than alcohol or drug addiction, here are some visible warning signs to look out for:

  • Needing to gamble more often and with more money to experience the same buzz
  • Feeling restless, irritable or anxious when trying to cut down or stop gambling on esports
  • Attempting to cut back or stop esports betting without success
  • Constantly thinking about esports matches and the next gambling opportunity
  • Gambling to cope with painful or distressing feelings
  • Chasing losses in an attempt to recover money lost on esports betting
  • Hiding from others the amount of time and money spent on esports betting
  • Ignoring family, school or work responsibilities in order to watch and gamble on esports
  • Falling out with friends or family because of a preoccupation with esports 
  • Getting into debt from gambling 
  • Borrowing or stealing money to gamble more
  • Refusing to admit there is a problem
  • Suffering from physical health problems such as headaches, stomach pain and sleep issues.
  • Experiencing co-existing mental health issues including anxiety, stress and depression (see below).

Associated Risk of Gaming Addiction

The lines between gaming and gambling are becoming blurred as betting on esports becomes an increasingly important part of the gaming experience. This means that as well as the potential risk of gambling addiction, pro players (who spend hours honing their skills) and viewers (who spend hours watching streamed games and playing video games themselves) are also at risk of developing gaming disorder. Research has found that more frequent betting on esports is positively associated with both problematic gambling and gaming.

When compulsive gambling and excessive gaming collide, it can have devastating consequences for people who engage in both activities, as well as their loved ones. If you or someone you know has lost interest in everything else in their life apart from esports, gaming and gambling, they may need professional support. At Kindbridge, we have specialist expertise to deal with both types of addiction – separately and when they co-exist.

Potential Mental Health Risks of Gambling on eSports

Compulsive gamblers often experience other mental health problems at the same time, known as co-occurring issues or co-morbidities. These commonly include anxiety, stress, depression in addition to gambling addiction

The relationship between problem gambling and any co-occurring issues is often complex and varies from person to person. As more time and money are spent gambling on esports, the harmful repercussions of gambling often exacerbate existing mental health problems or cause new issues.

For some people, gambling problems can cause stress, anxiety and depression or push them into substance abuse as their lives start to unravel. While other people were already experiencing mental health issues and gamble on esports as a coping mechanism to escape from painful and distressing feelings. This can create a vicious circle – gambling to try to relieve pain and distress, the negative impacts of gambling increasing the pain and distress, so gambling more to escape from the increased pain and distress. 

At Kindbridge, we that believe treating esports betting addiction is not only about dealing with the gambling problem, but also seeking to understand any conditions that may occur alongside the compulsive gambling behavior.

Gambling Addiction 

Take our short gambling disorder test to discover the impact that esports betting may be having on your life. It will ascertain your emotional state when trying to cut down or stop gambling, whether you have tried to hide your gambling habit from family and friends, and if you have experienced financial problems over the last 12 months due to gambling excessively. If you think you or someone you care about may need support, find out more about our online counselling for gambling addiction.

Gambling and Depression

We all experience low moods from time to time, but depression is much more debilitating. Learn about the common types to depression and main symptoms of depression. If you or a loved one are gambling excessively and feeling constantly depressed, you should seek professional support for both conditions.

Gambling and Stress

If you are feeling compulsively driven to gamble on esports and constantly overwhelmed by stress, it is time to take action. Discover more about the symptoms of stress and when to seek help. Our expert therapists can develop a personalized plan to treat your stress and problematic gambling so you can regain control of your life and relationships.

Gambling and Anxiety

People who are addicted to gambling often experience co-existing anxiety-related problems. It is important to seek help for anxiety because if left untreated, anxiety can lead to depression. If you feel constantly anxious, take our short emotional distress anxiety quiz to understand how anxiety is impacting your life. Our fully-licensed therapists can provide tailored treatment and support for gambling disorder and anxiety.

Expert Help for Mental Health Problems

If gambling on esports is causing you or someone you care about mental health problems, we can help. 

At Kindbridge, we are experts in problematic gaming and gambling. Our fully-licensed counselors can provide specialist gambling addiction therapy tailored to your situation. We can also identify and treat any co-existing mental health issues including anxiety, stress and depression.

Contact us today for a free and confidential conversation.

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