We live in an age in which gambling is actively encouraged – whether it’s placing a bet with the bookies on a big horse racing day or having a cheeky punt on our mobiles during the football season.
With so many options available to us, it can be easy to get waylaid, particularly if we win a few times and find ourselves “down on our luck” later on.
When it comes to responsible gambling, it's best to live by a phrase that our grandmothers probably taught us – “only bet what you can afford to lose”.
Of course, with the developments of gambling outlets and the endless options available to us now, there's a lot more to it than simply committing to losing a certain amount – so how do we gamble responsibly?
In order to gamble responsibly, first, we must understand exactly what the phrase means. Gambling responsibly doesn’t necessarily mean stopping after placing one bet, or stopping after losing one bet.
In fact, it is about more than just money – responsible gambling also has effects on how you spend your time, and gambling irresponsibly can also have adverse effects on your entire lifestyle.
Thankfully, responsible gambling is something that is actively encouraged by all reputable gambling operators in the modern age. These operators, in order to comply with the UK Gambling Commission and to protect the welfare of their customers, must offer responsible gambling policies.
Gambling responsibly involves being cautious with both your time and your money. It means knowing when to stop – that is when it stops becoming fun and instead becomes a desperate pursuit to recover winnings or feed a gambling addiction – and recognising when it is taking over all your other activities.
A responsible gambler may want to impose limits on his or herself to prevent temptation into overspending or spending too much time gambling. If you feel that you are falling into either of these categories, then there's the risk of becoming a “problem gambler”.
A problem gambler is somebody who takes no joy from gambling, engages it in compulsively and very often loses more than he or she gains. They'll devote most of his or her time to gambling, choosing to gamble over spending time with loved ones, and stopping from engaging in hobbies that were previously enjoyed.
Problem gamblers may exhibit many different behaviours – for example, they may find themselves lying to their loved ones about how much time or money they have spent gambling.
They may also become addicted to the “thrill” – not just of winning, but of “chasing” any bets that they lost in order to restore their winnings to their previous amounts.
When done right, gambling can be enjoyed in moderation and does not need to lead to debt, addiction or loss of contact with loved ones.
Thankfully, now that all reputable gambling operators must protect you by having a responsible gambling policy, there are avenues available to ensure we adhere to responsible gambling principles.
At the more extreme end of the scale, your gambling operator can put you in touch with industry bodies and groups, from websites to helplines, to help you discuss a potential gambling problem and wean you away from any bad habits. Some of these include:
GamCare – an online scheme which offers a telephone hotline, an online chat system, a forum and self-assessment tests
The National Gambling Helpline – a telephone line for both gamblers and their concerned loved ones
The Gordon Moody Association – providing accommodation, therapy and rehabilitation for those with very serious gambling problems.
For less extreme circumstances, you can ask your operator to impose “limits” to help encourage responsible gambling. These come in three basic tiers, each stricter than the previous:
Offered by all reputable gambling operators, reality checks must provide a clear image of how long a person has been gambling. This can either be a clock on the playing screen, or a periodic reminder to tell a person how long he or she has been gambling.
While reality checks do not prevent people from spending beyond their means, they are a reminder of how much time they are spending, which in itself could be a very effective deterrent and help prevent any bad habits.
The next step up, a time-out prevents a player from playing (at his or her request) after certain limits have been set. For example, a player may ask the operator to stop letting him/her login for 24 hours, one week, one month or up to six weeks.
The time-out can also be applied to deposit limits: a player can ask the operator to prevent gameplay after a certain amount of money has been deposited with a particular time frame, e.g. £50 within one week.
These methods help to restore a player’s balance when it comes to time, though for more extreme cases, in which a player may feel he or she needs more than six weeks off, then self-exclusion comes into play.
For those who feel they need to “take a break” from gambling for a period of six months or more, they can apply for self-exclusion.
When gambling operators are asked to enforce this on a player, they must make “all reasonable effort” to ensure a player does not log into his/her account again for a specified time period.
This can be done directly or via GamStop, the latter of which may be more effective as GamStop can work on multiple betting accounts.
Responsible gambling should mean gambling that is fun, not harmful, and not to the detriment of those around you. If you are showing any of the abovementioned signs, speak to a loved one or contact a responsible gambling organisation to see where you can get help.
By setting yourself limits, and getting help from gambling operators, you can ensure that your bets are little more than a harmless pleasure.
Katie Thompson is an NCTJ-trained journalist and freelance online gaming writer. She enjoys researching the iGaming industry and writing comprehensive guides on the history of gambling, beating the dealer and even how to get bingo dauber stains out of your favourite shirt.
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