Jersey is home to about 100,000 people of primarily British, Portuguese, and Polish descent. For the last 50 years, there have been 29 betting shops on the island, the majority of which are located in the capital St Hellier. Now, the opening of the 30th operation is causing a stir among those who believe more help needs to be made available for those suffering with gambling addiction.

Jersey does an excellent job of offering drug and alcohol services to victims of substance abuse. However, according to some former gamblers, there is little help for the problems that plague them. They hope the opening of the new betting shop will raise awareness of the issue.

The Jersey Gambling Commission’s Jason Lane recently told BBC News that there was help available to any gambling addict who wants it. That help comes by way of a gambling therapy website funded and maintained by the Commission. However, Lane also said the Commission’s Social Responsibility Panel is currently taking a hard look at data to see what the real scope of gambling addiction in Jersey is.

If the analysis proves the problem is more serious than officials previously believed it was, there is hope the Commission will do more to provide addicts the help they need. Perhaps other government agencies will step up to contribute as well. If the analysis shows otherwise, little is likely to change in Jersey.

Mechanics of Gambling Addiction

Gambling addiction is very similar to substance addiction in some ways, yet markedly different in others. For example, both substance and gambling addictions alter the thinking of the addict so that he or she cannot see clearly the damage his or her behaviour is causing them or those they loves The biggest difference between the two is that gambling addiction very rarely displays outward signs other than persistent financial problems. Substance addiction, on the other hand, is easily identifiable through common physical traits.

So how does someone become addicted to gambling? It starts with that first wager at a betting shop, racetrack, or other gambling venue. The excitement of the wager causes a number of chemical changes in the brain, including encouraging the production of a neurotransmitter known as dopamine. It is dopamine that is largely responsible for producing feelings of pleasure.

In most people, the excess dopamine is managed by the brain until it naturally subsides on its own. For the future addict, dopamine management is progressively altered with each successive practice of the behaviour in question. Here’s how it works for the average addict:

  1. the individual derives great pleasure from wagering
  2. those feelings of pleasure are used to mask negative emotions or find relief from problems
  3. the brain gets used to the excess dopamine and begins to require more
  4. the brain’s need for excess dopamine causes the gambling addict to lose self-control. 

What we have offered here is a very basic description of how gambling addiction works. The lesson to be learned is that the effects of compulsive gambling on brain neurotransmitters are nearly identical to what occurs in the brains of substance abusers. The only difference is that a gambling addiction does not carry with it the extra chemicals that can negatively affect the brain and other parts of the body.

A gambling addiction is a serious issue that could potentially ruin your life. It can cost you your family, your job, your house, and everything you have worked so hard to attain. Please get help right away if you are struggling with gambling. You do not have to continue living this way.

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