Unlike the vast majority of players who can enjoy a few hours of casino entertainment and happily carry on with their lives afterward, a certain percentage of people are more susceptible to gambling addiction. With greater awareness of the warning signs, casinos now employ Responsible Gaming teams to raise awareness throughout the organizations for which they work, teach others how to spot dangerous patterns of behavior, and ensure that the marketing team is doing everything it can to not target the most vulnerable players.
Here we will cover the basics of what gambling addiction means, how you can spot problems in either yourself or others around you, and go into more detail about how Responsible Gaming is combatting the issues on every level. We'll round things off with a look at where you can go if you're struggling to cope with gambling addiction and how you can help someone else if you suspect they are experiencing problems.
These are essentially the same thing. Ludomania is just a fancier term for gambling addiction. In fact, the term combines ‘I play' in Latin (‘ludo') with the word for ‘madness' in Ancient Greek and Latin (‘mania'). It's entirely apt, however, as we now know that gambling addiction is a disease of the mind – i.e. a compulsive behavior that someone cannot stop without incredible difficulty even though it may be harming their wellbeing, relationships, and their bank balance.
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) happens in the case of gambling – it is, instead, purely psychological in nature. Nevertheless, what we can say is that anyone is capable of developing a gambling problem, but there are certain conditions that make it far more likely for some people over 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 often reveal themselves to be uncaring about the 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.
- Losing interest in friends and family, or in regular hobbies
- Playing for hours at a time or exceeding spending limits
- Lying about online casino habits or sports betting activity
- Frequently arguing with friends or family about gambling
- Putting gambling or betting ahead of work, family or school
- Borrowing money, stealing, or selling items in order to gamble
- Looking for a better gambling buzz by playing more often
- Experiencing anxiety, depression, guilt, irritability or worry
- Spending lots of time thinking or talking about gambling
- Finding it difficult to control gambling or to stop entirely
- Chasing losses to help pay off money owed elsewhere
Someone with a gambling addiction will not show each and every one of these things, but they all add up to a complete picture. In fact, as people are masters of hiding things from other people, they may only show one of these behaviors to outsiders. However, these bullet points can be used to identify a problem sooner rather than later to help nip it in the bud more easily.
As we mentioned above, online casinos have dedicated Responsible Gaming teams to provide assistance, guidelines, and advice to the entire company. They are trained professionals that have studied papers about gambling addiction and how to spot it in players. Because of these teams, customer support staff are trained to spot overly-emotional behavior, casino managers are able to identify overplaying or overspending in certain individuals, and programmers have written algorithms to automatically flag suspicious behaviors. In short, the RG team helps the rest of the organization adhere to the guidelines and best practices for combating addiction.
Because of responsible gaming and gambling laws, the marketing teams (depending on the target country) are also not allowed to certain things such as appeal to those under the age of 18, use certain words, phrases, or images that are misleading, and they are not allowed to email customers already flagged as being at risk. Furthermore, certain 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), self-help 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, and loss limits, etc.
In addition to all this, near enough every online casino that you visit nowadays will have a specific section dedicated to Responsible Gaming. This will contain advice about what to do if you or a loved one is struggling to play within healthy limits, the tools mentioned above (if they are available on that site), 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 to someone's life. Here, we've listed them in alphabetical order here along with their website:
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 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 organizations that are trained in such matters. You can find plenty of information and also speak to people who work for the charities, companies, and organizations listed above as a start. 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 someone that we care for has relapsed. This will only drive them away, or to 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 realize that this is often not the person's fault – it is a disease that can be treated, but compassion can make all the difference to their lives in the long run.
As we have discovered, there are many triggers for gambling addiction, some of which we can be mindful of to help prevent it in ourselves and in those we care for. However, with the help of Responsible Gaming teams and the many professional treatment services, it is a problem that we can overcome when we work together. We hope you've enjoyed reading this article.