Gambling, whether on sports, reality TV or at an online casino, should be fun. We personally enjoy a punt and we believe that the choice of whether to gamble or not is a freedom that should be granted to people. That said, as with many things in life, gambling can be addictive and we fully support responsible gambling.
As such, it’s essential to be aware of the signs of gambling addiction, either in yourself or in someone close to you, and also to know what to do and what support is available.
Whether you gamble every now and again on your favourite sport, once a year on the Grand National or are a regular gambler who likes a bet on just about anything, there are some basic “rules” that everyone should follow. Many of these have been so oft-repeated that they may be clichés but they are undeniably true so we’re more than happy to repeat them again.
- Is It Fun? – Gambling should be fun. For MOST people it is not an investment or a side job. Betting for a living is incredibly difficult, so don’t think of gambling as anything more than a hobby that you do for enjoyment and you won’t go too far wrong. If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, don’t do it.
- Bet Within Your Means – Only bet with money you can afford to lose because there is, of course, a chance that you will lose. Even bets at odds of 1/100 lose – every day!
- Don’t Chase Losses – Chasing losses is the quickest way to lose your money and whilst you think that just one more bet could get you back on track, it is equally, if not more likely, to plunge you deeper into trouble. Betting big when you are down is illogical and can quickly spiral out of control.
- Quit Whilst You Are Ahead – If you keep betting and betting, eventually you will lose. If you are on a lucky streak and have bagged a few wins then stop betting and enjoy being ahead for once.
Am I Addicted, Do I Have a Problem?
Some people view addiction as being at the far extremes of behaviour, for example the alcoholic who drinks whiskey at 10am while sitting at home alone, or the drug addict who needs a hit every hour. However, whatever label we give to an issue, if your gambling is making you or those around you unhappy or anxious, it is a problem and you may be addicted. UK body GambleAware gives the following signs as possible indicators of a gambling problem:
- Spending more money and time on gambling than you can afford.
- Difficulty stopping or managing your betting.
- Arguing about money or gambling with family or friends.
- Declining interest in normal hobbies.
- Thinking about or talking about gambling all the time.
- Chasing losses.
- Gambling until you lose everything.
- Borrowing money, selling belongings or not paying bills to fund gambling.
- Betting more and/or for longer to get the same excitement.
- Neglecting responsibilities due to gambling.
- Gambling-related anxiety, guilt, worry, depression or irritability.
If you have some of those warning signs it might be time to think about your gambling, especially if you hide the extent of your gambling and/or losses from those around you. Remember, just because you don’t bet every day, or all the time, doesn’t mean your gambling isn’t a problem. It’s also very important to realise that admitting you have a problem doesn’t make you weak, foolish or stupid and problem gambling and addiction crosses all age, sex, race and class divides – anyone can become addicted to gambling.
Gambling Addiction: Getting Help
If you feel you may have a problem then the good news is that there are lots of options in terms of getting help. In the first instance simply telling a friend or family member about your actions and trying to take a break from gambling may be a good idea.
If your issue is more serious then there are a range of organisations that offer help, totally free, with 100% confidentiality and without judging you. The National Gambling Helpline can be contacted on 0808 8020 133 and is operated by Gamcare. They are a great starting point, whilst the options below offer alternative sources of advice and help:
- National Problem Gambling Clinic – this London body can be contacted on 020 7534 6699
- Gamblers Anonymous – GA can be contacted on 020 7384 3040
- National Debtline – if your gambling has caused financial problems call 0808 808 4000
- Citizens Advice Bureau – the CAB can advise on a wide range of issues and sign post you to more specific help
- Gordon Moody Association – can provide residential care for extreme problems: call 01384 241292 for details
Note that all of the organisations above have websites that can be easily accessed but if you’d rather not go to a third party, controlling your gambling via the bookies themselves is also possible.
Self-Exclusion, Deposit Limits and Cooling Off
Responsible gambling is very important to online bookies and all sites will have dedicated areas to help customers control their own gambling. These may be found under your account tab or a sometimes through a dedicated responsible gambling tab and there are three main options available, although not all bookmakers will offer all three.
- Deposit Limit – if you feel you are losing more than you would like one control measure is to set a deposit limit. This can be as little as £5 per day and means you cannot add more than that in any 24 hour period to that particular bookie. You have to wait 24 hours if you decide to remove or increase a deposit limit, which gives you time to think if you really want to bet more.
- Cooling Off – some bookies will allow you to temporarily exclude yourself from betting for a period from one day up to a month or more, again giving you time to think and decide whether betting is really what you want to be doing.
- Self-Exclusion – self-exclusion is the most extreme step and means you won’t be able to use that online account for a minimum of six months, although much longer periods of exclusion are available.