With more options for online gaming than ever before, the temptation to keep on playing can be hard to resist. Of course, playing online slots, card games or on other betting websites is a perfectly healthy pursuit in moderation, but as the saying goes, “when the fun stops, stop”.
Recent figures have revealed that more than 2 million people in the UK are addicted to gambling or at risk of developing a problem.
Thankfully, gambling operators are becoming more aware of this and are becoming more responsible by putting measures into place to prevent problem gambling.
Aside from deposit limits, there are three main methods you can use to set limits and play responsibly. These are endorsed by operators, who would encourage players to do at least one of the following:
As the names suggest, some methods are more extreme than others, so it is up to the player to decide which may be most appropriate for them.
This one is really quite simple, but can be incredibly effective. It follows the same principle as keeping a food diary: once you have seen exactly how much you have eaten, you may realise it was a lot more than you thought.
In this instance, food is replaced with time. On the official Gambling Commission website, it states that Reality Checks must “provide customers with facilities to assist them to keep track of the time they spend gambling”.
So what does this mean? The checks apply to all “remote gaming”, excluding peer to peer and telephone gambling, and they suggest that:
The time of day should be taken from the device e.g. a mobile phone or the ‘server time’, which should be displayed in hours and minutes;
Total time should be displayed in hours and minutes;
Devices with restricted displays should have a clear indication of how long the user has been playing where possible;
Customers should be offered the choice to set a session or game-play duration reminder.
This type of reminder is the least extreme of all three methods and encourages free will, but also responsible gambling by simply alerting customers to how long they have been playing.
Of course, its effectiveness largely depends on how well a device can display the time, which is why some players may want to consider alternative game-play limiting methods.
The Time-Out method is slightly stricter than a reality check in that it prevents a user from playing for a set period of time. However, the player can still decide how long they want this Time-Out to be, so the responsibility is shared equally between the player and the gambling operator.
This method is widely available on most reputable online gaming websites, and is most effective for those who may be at a small risk of playing and/or losing too often. If you need a break, you can set your own limit using one of these timescales:
Any reasonable amount of time longer than one month, up to a maximum of six weeks
Another method with a similar degree of strictness to a Time-Out is the deposit limit. These work on a rolling basis and follow the same time-based exclusion method.
You can set yourself a monetary limit for how much you’d like to deposit within a given time period, for example, £50 every 24 hours. During this period, you can deposit as many times as you like, so long as the total for those 24 hours does not exceed your pre-set limit.
While Time-Outs and deposit limits are ideal for those who want to limit their gaming for up to one month to six weeks, there is a stricter method for ‘problem gamblers’.
This method may be applicable to those for whom gambling has become a problem, whether they are losing money, time or simply not enjoying it anymore. The most extreme of all three methods, Self-Exclusion applies to those who want to stop gambling for a period of six months or more.
All reputable gambling operators must offer a Self-Exclusion option, which closes a user’s account at his/her request and stops sending all marketing materials. The operator must make all ‘reasonable attempts’ to prevent the same user from reactivating the account within the chosen time period.
Players can activate Self-Exclusion in two ways. They can either go to the gambling operator directly, or they can use GamStop. The benefit of using GamStop is that, if a player has several accounts, GamStop can freeze all of these at once rather than having to contact each operator directly and potentially risk temptation.
When you self-exclude with GamStop, you can prevent yourself from gambling from six months up to five years. Additionally, the government-backed scheme can also prevent you from signing up to other sites within your specified time period.
Players should be mindful that once Self-Exclusion has been activated, there is no going back. Only once the set time period has ended can you return to gaming, and this request has to be approved by the gambling operator or by GamStop.
Of course, nobody knows you and your gaming habits better than you do, so the process starts with being honest with yourself. If you truly only gamble at specific times, for example during national sporting events, then there is probably no need to set a limit at all.
However, there are several signs which may suggest you are at risk of becoming a problem gambler. Keep a look out for:
Spending more time/money than you have
‘Chasing’ to recoup losses
Lying about your gambling
Losing interest in other activities
Online gaming is meant to be fun and can be enjoyed responsibly with the use of these gambling limit options. Remember only to bet with operators who encourage responsible gambling, and seek help if you begin to spot these warning signs.
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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