Gambling can be fun entertainment, which is capable of bringing much excitement and memorable moments. But it can also be a highly addictive activity, which has serious negative consequences on one’s life. Therefore, gambling attracts much public attention and constant efforts to make it safer and help those most vulnerable to its negative consequences. This is where the concept of responsible gambling comes into play.
In this article, we address topics of problem gambling and ways to find help for it, steps to ensure responsible gambling on the part of online casinos, and advice to players on how to gamble responsibly.
Officially, problem gambling refers to the most extreme form of gambling addiction, which has severe negative effects on almost all spheres of a person’s life and can lead to such drastic consequences as committing a crime to get money for gambling or even contemplating and/or accomplishing suicide. The annual reports of the UK Gambling Commission invariably identify the number of problem gamblers as less than 1% of the population.
However, one should take into account that the surveys to collect these statistical data are conducted through telephone calls and online self-reports. So there is a high chance that many people with gambling addiction either downplay the extent of their problems or refuse to take the survey altogether.
In everyday use, problem gambling refers to gambling that has negative consequences on a person’s life. If you spend more money and time on gambling than you can afford, and your gambling habit negatively impacts some areas of your life (your relationships, work and/or education, mental and physical health, and overall wellbeing), you have a problem with gambling.
Questionnaire on whether you are a problem gambler
NHS, the biggest health website in Britain, suggests this questionnaire to determine if you are a problem gambler:
1. Do you bet more than you can afford to lose?
2. Do you need to gamble with larger sums of money to feel the same excitement?
3. Have you tried to win back money you have lost?
4. Have you borrowed money or sold anything to get money for gambling?
5. Have you ever thought you may have a problem with gambling?
6. Has your gambling caused you any health problems (for example, feeling stress or anxiety or having problems with sleep)?
7. Have other people criticised your gambling or told you you had a gambling problem (regardless of whether you agreed with them)?
8. Has your gambling caused you or your household any financial problems?
9. Have you ever felt guilty about your gambling?
When you answer “never”, score 0
When you answer “sometimes”, score 1
When you answer “most of the time”, score 2
When you answer “almost always”, score 3
According to NHS, if at the end of the questionnaire you score 8 or higher, you are probably a problem gambler.
But do note that being a problem gambler means you have a severe form of gambling addiction. Gambling addiction of less severity can also lead to many negative effects on your life. So if you answered “yes” to even 1 one of these questions, you may consider getting help or restricting your gambling activity.
If you have a high score, you should definitely seek help.
According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, one third of problem gamblers manage to recover on their own, but the state of the remaining two thirds only worsens with time without treatment.
Help for problem gambling
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has proved to be very effective in treating addictions, including gambling addiction. It helps a person to change their counterproductive ways of thinking about gambling and negative behaviour associated with these mental patterns. As a result, the person can reduce the amount of money and time they spend on gambling and the harmful effects of gambling on their life.
There is also a number of free resources that provide treatment and support to people with gambling problems:
GamCare provides free support, counselling, and information for people with gambling problems in Great Britain.
Gamblers Anonymous offers a 12-step recovery programme in local support groups similar to the one provided by Alcoholics Anonymous.
The Gordon Moody Association provides treatment and housing to people with gambling problems in Great Britain and online support to those in other countries.
The CNWL National Problem Gambling Clinic located in London provides treatment and counselling to problem gamblers from England and Wales.
Responsible Gambling on the Part of Online Casinos
Online casinos have a responsibility to ensure that gambling is safe for all players. An important part of such safety is reducing negative effects of gambling on those particularly vulnerable to them. This is why the concept of responsible gambling was developed and, in recent years, has become an industry standard.
In this case, responsible gambling means that casinos apply special principles and tools to ensure that minors do not participate in gambling activities, and that gambling addicts have access to the necessary help resources, have ways to control and limit their gambling, and are protected from excessive temptation.
Casino tools for responsible gambling
The process of customer’s identification during the registration of new players on casino websites is applied to prevent minors from participating in online gambling. This process ensures that only those who are considered legal adults (18 or 21 years old depending on the country) can play. This tool is implemented differently in different online casinos. Most require information from and occasionally photos of and with documents confirming a new player’s age.
Reliable online casinos also have information about responsible gambling and links to help resources for gamble addicts at the bottom of the website homepage. This way the players who feel they might need help know where to get it. They also can easily find out what other responsible gambling tools the casino provides.
One of the most popular of such tools is self-exclusion programs. GamStop is a particularly well-known one. Self-exclusion programs allow gamblers to voluntarily ban themselves from participating in online gambling for a certain period of time or indefinitely. Usually, members of the gambler’s family can also exclude this person from gambling. This is especially important because those suffering from addiction usually do not realise they have a problem.
The administration of the casino might also exclude a player if they notice this person is a problem gambler. This seems counterintuitive. But if a casino is exposed as consciously preying on a gambling addict, it would be a heavy blow on their reputation, which will have financial consequences.
Setting limits on money and time spent on a casino website is another widespread tool. A player can set a limit on the maximum bet and on the maximum amount of money spent during the whole gambling session. It is also possible to limit the duration of a gambling session.
A tool related to the time limit is a reality check. It allows players to set reminders of the time spent gambling (for example, a notification every 15 minutes or in half an hour after the session started). This is important because people who have problems with gambling tend to completely lose track of time when they play.
One more principle of responsible gambling on the part of online casinos is no aggressive marketing. It means that no false or misleading information should be spread when advertising gambling products. For example, marketing campaigns should emphasise that gambling is a form of entertainment and not a way to earn money. But most importantly, there is to be absolutely no advertisement of gambling products to people who self-excluded themselves from gambling.
Tips on How to Gamble Responsibly
If you feel you have a problem with gambling, the best thing you can do is seek help. But if you want to prevent any negative effects of gambling before they start occurring, here are some tips:
1. Don’t gamble if you are upset or stressed.
2. Don’t drink much alcohol or take other substances before or during gambling.
3. Take frequent breaks while gambling.
4. Set budget and time limits and stick to them.
5. Don’t take your credit and debit cards with you when you go gambling.
6. Never borrow money or use your savings intended for other purposes to gamble.
7. Pay important bills before gambling.
8. Don’t try to win back the money you’ve lost.
9. Always remember: gambling is a form of entertainment you pay for – not a way to make money.
10. Be prepared to lose.
11. Make sure you gamble in reliable and reputable casinos.
Gambling addiction is a serious problem. The best way to handle it is to get professional help. Fortunately, today, society demands gambling industry to do more and more to ensure the principles of responsible gambling. This way, those most vulnerable to gambling addiction and its negative effects can get protection from it and ways to better control their behaviour. But not only problem gamblers can benefit from the principles of responsible gambling. Every player should gamble responsibly for their own and others’ sake.