An increasing number of people suffer from gambling problems, or are deemed at-risk players. For these players, gambling is no longer a fun form of entertainment, as gambling has turned into an addiction. Here, we’ll explain what gambling addiction is, and how you can get help if you need it. We’ll also cover responsible gambling, which is a topic that all players should become familiar with.
Most players can enjoy a few hours of casino entertainment without gambling becoming a problem. But this is not the case for all players; some will develop a gambling addiction. Responsible gambling awareness is, therefore, important, and all reputable and properly licensed online casinos will take their responsibility to protect vulnerable players seriously.
As a player, even if you feel you are in control of your gambling habits, it’s important that you know the basics of responsible gambling and gambling addiction, so you’ll be aware of any warning signs if you should start developing a problematic relationship with gambling.
Ludomania is just another term for gambling addiction. In fact, the term ludomania combines ‘I play' in Latin (‘ludo') with the word for ‘madness' in Ancient Greek and Latin (‘mania'). It's entirely apt, as we now know that gambling addiction is a disease of the mind, i.e., a compulsive behaviour that someone cannot stop without incredible difficulty, even though it may be harming their wellbeing, relationships, finances, and other aspects of their life.
In fact, all pleasurable things that produce large amounts of dopamine, serotonin, and/or adrenaline have the capacity to turn into an addiction given certain circumstances. However, we must state that no physical dependence (as with certain drugs and alcohol) occurs during gambling sessions – it is, instead, purely psychological in nature. Nevertheless, what we can say is that while anyone is capable of developing a gambling problem, there are certain conditions that make it far more likely for some people than others. So, let’s look at those now…
Being male puts you at far greater risk, according to the statistics; however, that might change now that more and more women are playing online. The next risk factor is the age at which you first start gambling – this is particularly true when the brain is still developing during the teenage years – therefore, very young people who play online illegally may end up developing life-long problems. Finally, for those with underlying mental health issues, such as ADHD, anxiety, and/or depression, there is susceptibility, particularly as people with these conditions are not averse to excessive risk and are often uncaring about long-term consequences.
Here, we have listed some of the many signs that either you or someone you know might be exhibiting when struggling to cope with addiction. This is to help spot warning signs early on.
Someone with a gambling addiction will likely not show each and every one of these signs, but they all add up to a complete picture. In fact, as people can be masters of hiding things, they may only show one of these behaviours to outsiders. However, if you are the one that has a gambling problem, you’re likely to be familiar with several of the points above.
Online casinos have dedicated Responsible Gaming teams to provide assistance, guidelines, and advice to the entire company. They are trained professionals who have studied gambling addiction, and know how to spot it in players. Because of these teams, customer support staff are trained to spot overly-emotional behaviour, casino managers are able to identify overplaying or overspending in certain individuals, and programmers have written algorithms to automatically flag suspicious behaviours. In short, the RG team helps the rest of the organisation adhere to the guidelines and best practices for combating addiction.
Because of responsible gambling and gambling laws, the marketing teams are also not allowed to do certain things such as appeal to those under the age of 18, use certain words, phrases, or images that are misleading, or contact customers already flagged as being at risk. Furthermore, all licensed casinos have developed a set of tools so that a player can manage their own playing habits much better. This includes self-exclusion (blocking themselves from a site), tests to see if they might have a problem, and the ability to put responsible gambling limits in place for things like playing time, spending limits, loss limits, etc.
In addition to all this, every licensed online casino for UK players that you visit nowadays will have a specific section dedicated to Responsible Gaming. It should be noted that online casinos licensed by the UKGC are obligated to have dedicated Responsible Gambling teams. This might not be the case if you’re playing at an unlicensed casino. Responsible Gaming sections will contain advice about what to do if you or a loved one is struggling to play within healthy limits, the tools mentioned above, and links to professional organizations trained in treating addiction.
There are many expert companies to which you can turn in a crisis. These can be found all over the world and have plenty of online resources that can really make a difference in someone’s life. Here, we’ve listed them in alphabetical order along with a link to their website:
Everybody knows that gambling can be a lot of fun, but it is not entirely without risk. Participants in casino games are responsible for their own behaviour, but online casinos also have a responsibility. If they suspect risky gaming behaviour (for example playing for a long time or betting a lot of money), they must intervene and refer the player to help if necessary. One way to spot a gambling addiction early is a so-called “Self-Help Test” to evaluate the individual’s situation.
During the self-help test, you will be asked about 10 to 20 short questions that are usually answered on a scale ranging from zero to 10. Zero means that the presented statement does not apply at all, and 10 means that it applies completely to your current behaviour. The statements will look something like this:
Once you have answered all the questions, you will be given your test result in a short summary that evaluates your risk of gambling addiction. You will also receive a sentence or two of advice for your situation, what steps to take next, and where to find help if needed. Often, a bar graph is included that displays the results of how gambling is likely interfering with your life already. This usually includes time spent, stakes, finances, relationships, and health concerns.
You can always check out the Responsible Gaming section of the online casino at which you are playing. Many of the established operators offer this kind of test directly; others provide a link to something suitable. Often, you can find additional information there that might be useful, as well as a point of contact for their responsible gaming department. If you can’t get any help there, we recommend checking out the following resources for a reliable self-help test, emergency hotlines for gambling addiction, and other important support info:
With responsible gaming heavily pushed by the iGaming industry over the last decade or more, there are many different tools available to players who may be experiencing problems knowing when to quit. Now, we will be going over the various options available to you or someone you know if you (or they) are feeling overwhelmed or need to cap gambling habits.
Nowadays, many online casinos require you to set some limits to your account when you sign up for an account. Other casinos have preset limits for you, and to raise them, you’ll need to apply for it.
It’s very easy to lose track of time when playing slots, table games, and other forms of casino entertainment – in fact, Las Vegas casinos are notorious for removing all clocks and windows so that players cannot easily gauge how many hours have gone by. Online, however, you can set up reality checks. These pop-up notifications will remind you how long you have been playing and often provide you with a message asking if you need to take a break. You can usually set your preferred time frame from 30 minutes to two hours or even more sometimes.
Another tool employed by lots of online casinos is the session limit. Once enabled from within the responsible gaming settings, a session limit will kick you off once your chosen timeframe has elapsed, or else it can be configured to only allow you to log in once or twice per day. This is a great way to ensure that you aren’t spending more time gambling than you planned.
Some players are more concerned about the money they are spending on gambling. Therefore, if you feel like you need to set some limits before you start playing (rather than trying to reason with yourself in the heat of the moment), you can set up your account so that you can only deposit a certain predefined amount per day, week, or month. As soon as you reach your limit, the site in question will refuse to accept any more deposits until the blocked period expires.
Another important tool for those who don’t know when to stop is the loss limit. This one is largely self-explanatory, but it essentially kicks you out if your losses over a predefined period exceed whatever limit you decide to put in place. In this way, you can still gamble to your heart’s content, but you won’t be able to chase after losses or take too much of a hit each week or month.
If you are really struggling to cope and the abovementioned tools aren’t doing much to stop you from playing or spending to excess, then you can choose to block your own access to particular iGaming sites. This can be short or long term, so the choice is yours. But if the temptation isn’t there because you can’t log in anymore, it may be the turning point in improving your life.
If you choose to “take a break” from your gambling, then this option is for you. It will allow you to block your access to the account for anything from 24 hours to 3 months. Once this limit is set, the account can be reopened, if you apply for it; however, it cannot be done instantly, as a cooling off period will be required. This is to ensure that you can’t simply log in and play when the urge takes you, as it should give you some time to reconsider.
The second method of blocking your own access to an online casino or sports betting site is to self-exclude. This can be set within your casino account settings or by contacting the customer support team, who can advise you on how to do this or manually block your access for a given period of time. Typical time frames for self-exclusion range from 6 months to 5 years. Once in place, however, you will be logged out and not be able to log back in until the time is up.
If you want to self-exclude from all casinos, you should register with GAMSTOP, the National Online Self-Exclusion Scheme for the UK. Once you register, not only will all your active accounts be blocked, but you’ll also be prevented from signing up and opening accounts at any other online casino that is licensed by the UK Gambling Commission. That means that no licensed online casinos will accept you as a player, which gives you a great protection if you should experience a relapse in your gambling treatment and feel the urge to gamble.
If you want a more technological solution that doesn’t entirely rely on the gambling site, there are some third-party tools, such as Betfilter or Gamban to name but two of many, that will prevent you from accessing any gambling sites. This is especially useful for those players who may be tempted to sign up elsewhere if they get tired of waiting for another self-exclusion period to end. Some of these tools work on both desktop computers and mobile devices, so there’s no way to circumvent the blocks during a moment of weakness.
Many players who play at multiple casinos also find these tools useful, as it will block your access to all gambling sites at once. There’s no need to manually block your access to each casino where you have an active account.
The most important thing you can do to help someone else is to look after yourself first and foremost – after all, you won’t be of much use to someone else if you are not in a good place yourself. Following on from this, you should never give or lend money to someone who might be experiencing gambling problems as you will only be aiding them in continuing their addiction, and they will come looking for more from wherever it is given. This can be a particularly tough one to carry out, as people with addictions can often be quite desperate and/or convincing.
This brings us to our next point. You should in no way try to solve everything by yourself. Instead, you need to seek out help from professionals and organisations that are trained in such matters. You can find plenty of information and also speak to people who work for the charities, companies, and organisations listed further up on this page. In addition to this, it is important that you receive emotional support from friends and family – you can even split the often overwhelming task of looking after someone struggling to stop themselves from gambling in the first place.
Finally, it is important that we try not to get angry, upset, or confrontational if we find out that someone we care for has relapsed. This will only drive them away or they will keep things secret from you in the future. Yes, it’s doubly frustrating when we’ve put so much work into helping someone else, but it’s important to realise that this is often not the person’s fault – it is a disease that has to be treated, but compassion can make all the difference to their lives in the long run.