Ex-Gambler Warns of Dangers as Ontario Bans Celebrities in Gambling Ads

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Having once found himself tethered to the churning wheels of gambling addiction, Noah Vineberg reflects on the nearly $1 million loss and three devastating relapses before he was finally able to break the destructive cycle through Ontario’s lone residential treatment platform for problem gambling.

Vineberg, now graduated from the Residential Treatment Program at Windsor’s Centre for Problem Gambling and Digital Dependency (CPGDD), openly shares his alarming past. He voices his concern over the ubiquitous presence of online gambling today, with its relentless grip clasped tightly on the palm of one’s hand and topped up by the promotional bombardment featuring popular athletes and celebrities.

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However, a ray of hope emerges as Ontario is slated to put a ban from Feb. 28, 2024, on such personalities featuring in these addictive advertisements. The efficacy of this move, however, Vineberg puts a question mark on.

Currently serving as a guest speaker for the same program he once graduated from, Vineberg guides future clients using snippets from his own life. He admits that one of the most alarming observations has been the dipping average age of program applicants, with children as young as 14-15 falling prey to online platforms like FanDuel, DraftKings, and many more.

Diana Gabriele, a certified counselor at the CPGDD, echoes similar concerns. The introduction and normalization of gambling amid sports broadcasts has become perilously frequent, making it a source of extreme worry and distress. She denounces the ceaseless, unbridled growth of gambling promotions that have crossed all bounds in recent times, throwing light on the industry’s insidious strategy to amplify addiction.

Ontario’s upcoming move to expel famous faces from gambling ads, which Gabriele labels as a “good first step,” is an attempt to curb this growing menace. She commends the AGCO’s initiative in establishing protective regulations that safeguard the vulnerable youth and other susceptible population segments.

But to Vineberg, the move is nothing more than a belated damage control attempt that should have been undertaken before allowing the malady to seep into society. He criticizes the province’s laid-back approach, doubting their sincerity in implementing the move before the start of the much-anticipated sporting season.

Prominent athletes Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid, and Wayne Gretzky are few of many stars who have been riding the wave of the recent digital sports betting ad surge. Meanwhile, Windsor’s CPGDD reports a distressing pandemic-time spike in the number of people seeking help, with people admitting for extended stays.

In the fight against online gambling addiction, Gabriele advocates a simple yet effective resilience technique of reaching out to a loved one during the urge to gamble. The wellness movement, she believes, reinstates the emotional connection, acting as a reminder of their goal towards a healthful, addiction-free life.

Anticipating the urgency of the situation, the centre provides prompt counseling services and guidance. “We stand ready to help. If you fall victim to the urge to gamble, never hesitate to reach out for support at 519-254-2112”, she says. A simple phone call might be all it takes to break the shackles of addiction and embark on a path of healing and recovery.