Howard Riback: The world’s pandemic and the gambling epidemic

Gambling has not only survived the pandemic, but gaming revenues have hit new highs, which logically means, there are more losers than ever. Many, many more losers.

Covid … (20)19 … World on hold … (20)20 … Collateral damage … (20)21 and counting. Restaurants closed. Retail closed. Hotels and airlines closed and grounded. Schools, universities, and colleges closed — then opened.

Theatres, museums, closed, opened. Hard to keep track. Governments can’t keep track. No one can keep track. No one can keep track of what there is to keep track of.

Addictions? Addictions don’t open then close. Not possible. It’s a mental health issue. It’s not a joke. Gambling, drinking, smoking and online shopping — OPEN, OPEN, OPEN. Amazon has become an amazon.

Gambling has not only survived the pandemic, but gaming revenues have hit new highs, which logically means, there are more losers than ever. Many, many more losers. Gaming halls are slowly opening up, whilst online gambling traffic is up, way up.

Casinos, as we knew them, are opening up. Our American friends have been back at the tables and machines for a while now.

Addictions. There was such a thirst for gambling the last year, dollars bet on February’s Super Bowl blew previous dollars bet out of the water. The Kentucky Derby, the first Saturday in May, which is the biggest annual horse race, had the most money wagered — ever — in a non-human race. The jockeys don’t count. They’re just bumping along.

Gambling addicts bet on everything from who will win the American presidential race to what will Megan and Harry name their daughter. When you have an insatiable appetite to put money on something — on anything, on everything — your brains dopamine levels kicks into high gear and boom! The gambler in you begins to gobble up the excitement.

COVID robbed many of day to day activities… the little things … the nuances that kept us otherwise occupied. While going for a simple dinner a couple of times a week may not be described as an addiction, we had no choice but to stop dining at restaurants, with little or no withdrawal as a result of the “new world”. Cooking, baking, Uber Eats, and Skip the Dishes certainly flourished, but we didn’t need our fix. We survived. We just zigged instead of zagged.

If you were a problematic gambler and your local casino shut and locked their doors and turned off their VLTs, it was trouble. You had to maneuver and improvise. You had to buy more Loto tickets, either use the government run online sites or use one of the thousands of online private sites to feed your addiction.

COVID. Many of us gained weight. A few (?) lost weight. Houses were renovated. Some painted. Backyard decks were redone. The spare basement room you’ve ignored was brought up to the 21st century. But the addict will always need the gambling scenario to live. It’s in their DNA. It just is. Addicts found ways to feed their frenzy. Pandemic, no pandemic, there is and will be a gambling epidemic.

Covid 19 simply exasperated this addiction to new heights.

Howard Riback is a Montréal-based therapist (gambling specialist), law enforcement liaison, IMAQ provincial mediator, and addiction guru. He is known by many as The Cleaner. If it needs fixing, Howard’s your guy. Call 514-659-5621 or email

— By Howard P. Riback

— AB

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