How to stay safe and keep gambling fun
Gambling can be a fun and exciting way to spend some time, but it also comes with risks. If you are not careful, gambling can lead to problems such as losing money, getting into debt, developing an addiction, or harming your mental health. That is why it is important to gamble responsibly and follow the safer gambling advice within this article.
Setting boundaries when you play
Safer gambling means gambling in a way that minimises the potential harms and maximises the enjoyment. It means knowing your limits and being aware of how gambling affects you and others around you. Follow the following tips for a safer gambling experience.
Session limits work really well, they allow you to set a maximum amount of time that you are willing to spend on gambling in a given period of time, such as in a day, a week, or a month. Once you reach your session limit, you will not be able to gamble anymore until the next period starts.
A feature offered by many gambling sites is the ability to set deposit limits on your account. It allows you to place a cap on the maximum amount of money that you can gamble with, it enables you to control your spending and avoid going over the budget you have set.
Setting loss limits on your account can help you to manage your gambling budget and avoid chasing your losses. Chasing losses is a common problem among gamblers, where they try to win back the money they have lost by gambling more, often with higher stakes and riskier bets.
Cooling off Periods
Cooling off when gambling online is a way to take a break from gambling and reflect on your gambling behavior. Cooling off can help you to avoid gambling impulsively, compulsively, or excessively, and to prevent or reduce the negative consequences of gambling on your life.
There are different ways to cool off when gambling online, depending on your needs and preferences. Some of the options are:
- Self-exclusion. Self-exclusion is a tool that allows you to request to be blocked from accessing online gambling sites or apps for a certain period of time, usually from six months to five years. You can self-exclude from one or more online gambling operators or from all online gambling operators, in the UK you can do this by registering with an organisation called GAMSTOP.
- Mandatory play breaks. Mandatory play breaks are a tool that forces you to stop gambling after a certain amount of time, usually from 15 minutes to one hour. You can set up mandatory play breaks on your online casino account, or you may receive them automatically from the online gambling operator as part of their responsible gambling policy. Mandatory play breaks are designed to provide you with a “cooling off” period to take a reflective “time out” and to prevent you from gambling for too long or too intensely.
- Bank gambling blocks. Bank gambling blocks are a tool that allows you to block gambling transactions on your bank account or card. You can activate or deactivate bank gambling blocks on your online banking app or website, or by contacting your bank. Bank gambling blocks can help you to control your gambling spending and to avoid getting into debt or financial difficulties. Some banks may also have a cooling-off period between switching off your bank gambling block and allowing gambling transactions again, usually from 48 hours to 72 hours.
How to spot if you or someone you know has a gambling problem
Gambling addiction can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, income, or education. It can also affect any type of gambling, such as betting on sports, casino games, lotteries, online gambling, or even video games.
Gambling addiction can have negative impacts on many areas of your life, such as your relationships, physical and mental health, finances, work, and social activities.
If you are concerned that you or someone you care about may have a gambling problem, it is important to look out for the signs and symptoms of gambling addiction.
Some of the common signs and symptoms of gambling addiction are:
- Obsessing over gambling. You spend a lot of time thinking about gambling, planning your next gambling activity, or reliving your past gambling experiences. You may also have trouble concentrating on other tasks or interests.
- Gambling to feel better. You use gambling as a way to cope with stress, anxiety, depression, boredom, loneliness, or other negative emotions. You may also gamble to escape from your problems or to seek excitement and thrill.
- Failing to control your gambling. You find it hard to resist the urge to gamble, even when you know it is causing you harm. You may also lie to yourself or others about how much you gamble or how much you lose. You may also hide your gambling behavior from your family or friends.
- Avoiding work or other commitments to gamble. You neglect your responsibilities at home, school, or work to gamble. You may also miss important events or appointments because of your gambling. You may also lose interest in hobbies or activities that you used to enjoy.
- Neglecting bills and expenses and using the money for gambling. You spend more money than you can afford on gambling, and you may run into debt or financial difficulties. You may also use money that is meant for other purposes, such as rent, food, bills, or savings, to gamble. You may also borrow money or sell your possessions to fund your gambling.
- Selling possessions to gamble. You may resort to selling your valuables, such as jewelry, electronics, or even your car, to get more money to gamble. You may also pawn or steal items from others to gamble.
- Needing to gamble with larger amounts of money or valuables to receive the same level of pleasure and excitement. You become used to the effects of gambling, and you need to increase your bets or stakes to feel the same rush or satisfaction. You may also gamble with more risky or illegal forms of gambling, such as underground gambling, loan sharks, or criminal activities.
- Repeated unsuccessful efforts to control or stop gambling. You may have tried to quit or reduce your gambling several times, but you always end up going back to it. You may also feel guilty, ashamed, or frustrated about your gambling, but you still cannot stop.
- Restlessness or irritability when you try to stop gambling. You may experience physical or psychological symptoms when you try to stop or cut down your gambling, such as anxiety, insomnia, headaches, mood swings, or cravings. You may also feel restless, bored, or unhappy without gambling.
- Chasing losses. You may try to win back the money or valuables that you have lost by gambling more. You may also believe that you have a system or a strategy that will help you win, or that you are due for a big win soon.
What to do if you think you’ve got a gambling problem
If you recognise any of these signs and symptoms listed above in yourself or someone you care about, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. Gambling addiction is a treatable condition, and there are various options for treatment and support available.
Options available if you’re in the UK
If you are living in the United Kingdom and require help and support with problem gambling then the following options may be able to help you:
BeGambleAware is an independent charity that provides information, advice, and support to people who are affected by gambling harms or are at risk of developing them.
GamCare is a UK charity that provides free, confidential, and non-judgemental information, advice, and support for anyone affected by the harms of gambling.
Gamblers Anonymous is an organisation that enables a group of people who have a problem with gambling to support each other to overcome it.
Options available if you’re in the US
If you are living in the United States and require help and support with problem gambling then the following options may be able to help you:
1-800-GAMBLER is a national helpline that provides free and confidential support, information, and referrals to people who have a gambling problem or are affected by someone else’s gambling.
GAM Talk is an organisation that provides education and awareness on the dangers of gambling and how to seek help, founded by a former gambler who lost £100,000 and recovered from his addiction.
National Council on Problem Gambling is a US-based non-profit organization that aims to prevent and treat problem gambling and gambling addiction through advocacy, awareness, assistance, and research