Gambling at online casinos can be great fun, but only as long as you’re gambling responsibly. Unfortunately, problem gambling is an issue that affects many throughout the world. A 2017 report by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) found that more than 2 million people in the UK alone are addicted to gambling or at the risk of developing a problem. This is why it’s important for online casino players to be aware of problem gambling and the effect it can have on people’s lives.
We want you to be able to enjoy gambling online without encountering any of its potential pitfalls, so we’ve put together a guide to gambling responsibly. Our guide will help you identify a gambling problem, take you through the steps you can take to combat problem gambling and point out where you can find further support.
What do I need to know before I start gambling?
There’s a few things everyone should be mindful of before gambling. This doesn’t just apply to beginners placing their first wager, though. Even if you’re an experienced player, you should consider these factors before you make your next bet.
Play at licensed casinos
Thanks to the UKGC, gambling is strictly regulated in the UK. This means licensed casinos are held to high standards when it comes to the welfare of their players, so it’s important to only play at licensed sites. You can find out whether an online casino is licensed by looking for the UKGC logo on its web pages, or by finding it on the UKGC’s list of licensed casinos.
Understand why you’re gambling
Making some returns from online gambling can be a nice bonus, but you should be gambling first and foremost for fun. The house has the edge no matter what game you’re playing, so anyone who starts gambling to earn money is probably going to end up disappointed. You’ll want to avoid spending more than you can afford to chasing your losses, so before you start gambling, ask yourself whether you’re doing it for the right reasons.
Know your budget
It’s always important to know your budget before you starting wagering money online, otherwise you risk losing track of your spending and betting outside of your means. Whether you budget annually, monthly, weekly, or daily is up to you, but make sure you know what is financially feasible for yourself and stay within these limits.
Signs to look out for
The earlier you spot a potential gambling problem, the quicker you can start working to rectify it. These are a few signs that may indicate problem gambling:
Feeling stressed by your gambling habits
Gambling should be a fun activity, so something’s gone wrong if it’s causing you stress or other negative feelings. This can affect your mental health, and gambling when you’re feeling down can make you more likely to make hasty decisions, so you should definitely avoid this.
Keeping your gambling secret
If there’s no issues with your gambling habits, there’s no reason to keep it secret. Whether you’re hiding your losses, how much time you’re spending gambling or just the fact that you’re gambling in general, secrecy is not a good sign.
Losing interest in other aspects of your life
Gambling shouldn’t be getting in the way of other parts of your life, including work, friends, family or hobbies. If you’re constantly thinking about gambling and you feel like it’s becoming your only source of happiness, it’s probably time to take a break.
Chasing your losses
Every casino game is built for the house to win in the long run, so chasing your losses isn’t going to make you feel better. In fact, it’s only going to make things worse, and can have a negative effect on your finances.Set your budget and stick to it.
Gambling for escapism
There’s nothing wrong with playing some slots or poker to unwind after a long day, but using gambling to forget about other worries is a bad sign. Gambling is a real world activity with real world implications, so it’s important to stay connected to reality when you’re wagering online.
Gambling for too long
If you’re spending excessive amounts of time gambling then you may want to take a step back and reevaluate your habits. There’s no set time that is regarded as too much, but if you’re spending several hours daily gambling online then it’s a good idea to take a breather.
How can I manage my gambling?
There are several steps you can take to manage your gambling and help prevent any issues. Some of these are measures put in place by online casinos, while others are simple actions you can carry out yourself. Let’s take a closer look.
Deposit and loss limits
Deposit and loss limits are two of the most effective tools for managing your spend on gambling. Both limits can be set to an amount of your choosing, meaning that as soon as you’ve hit the limit you won’t be able to spend any more money. You can set limits daily, weekly or monthly to help stay in control.
Self exclusion allows you to limit or restrict your account for a certain period of time, which can be set at a few months to several years. This can’t be undone until the time period is over, so it’s a really helpful tool for those who need an extended break to help combat problem gambling. You can either self-exclude from individual sites, or via the GamStop national self-exclusion scheme.
If you think a shorter break is more suitable, most licensed casinos have ‘time out’ or ‘take a break’ settings which allow you to restrict your account for smaller periods, such as a day. Just like budgeting your money, setting time limits for your gambling and then taking a break can help maintain good habits.
Talk to someone
Confiding in someone is always advisable if you feel that you may have an issue. Whether it’s a friend or family member, a dedicated charity or helpline, or even the customer service team of your chosen casino, speaking about your gambling can help you relieve stress and come up with solutions.
Try out free games
If you enjoy playing casino games but are worried about your spending, why not have a go at playing free demos? These are available at most casinos and you can play them for as long as you want without having to make any deposits.
Don’t gamble under the influence
Gambling and alcohol don’t go well together, as you’re more likely to make bad financial decisions when under the influence. Alcohol can impair your thinking and judgement, meaning there’s an increased chance you’ll take risks and not follow any guidelines you’ve put in place. This is definitely something you should avoid.
If you want to take things a step further than self-exclusion, there is computer software available for download that restricts your access to gambling sites. These include programmes like Betfiler, Gamban and Gamblock, though bear in mind that some softwares may have to be purchased for a fee.
What if I’m being affected by a problem gambler?
Problem gambling doesn’t just affect gamblers themselves – it can negatively impact people around them too, including friends and family. If you’re affected by a problem gambler or are worried about someone’s habits, you should seek support. Gamcare and Gamblers Anonymous both provide free care and support for people in this position.
The UK has strict laws regarding underage gambling, and it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to play at online casinos. Licensed sites are required to use KYC (know your customer) checks to identify and block minors, but if you are concerned there are some extra steps you can take:
- Use parental control software like NetNanny, CyberPatrol and CYBERsitter to restrict access to gambling sites.
- If you play at online casinos, use separate password-protected computer user profiles for you and your children.
- Use the BigDeal and The Internet Matters websites for more information on how to educate your children about gambling and how to keep them safe online.
Where can I get help?
There’s a range of charities and organisations which offer various services to help those affected by problem gambling. Some of these are:
Gamcare is the UK’s leading national gambling charity. It operates the National Gambling Helpline, which you can contact on 0808 8020 133, and offers free advice and counselling.
Gamblers Anonymous runs free local support groups where problem gamblers can meet people with similar issues to speak openly and receive support.
This is an independent gambling charity that runs the BeGambleAware website and provides help, advice and support to problem gamblers.
Gordon Moody Association
The Gordon Moody Association offers education and therapeutic support through online, outreach and residential services.
National Problem Gambling Clinic
This clinic is part of the NHS and provides treatment for problem gamblers, including support groups, psychological therapy, medication and aftercare.