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Gambling is a popular pastime around the world, providing entertainment in the form of sports betting, casinos, bingo, esports betting and more. As well as being great fun, there’s also the chance that you may get lucky and win some extra cash. However, while many do gamble responsibly and within a budget that suits them, problem gambling is unfortunately an issue that impacts the lives of many people.
Here at Compare.bet, we want you to have the best possible online gambling experience and stay clear of any of the potential pitfalls of gambling. To help you do this, we’ve created this guide that you can use to learn more about gambling responsibly. Take a look to find out about how to spot potential issues, steps you can take to manage your gambling, and where you can seek further help and advice.
What should I consider before I start gambling?
For any gambler, whether beginner or experienced, being conscious of certain issues can help prevent potential problems. Taking the following steps before you start gambling can help ensure that you have fun and gamble responsibly:
Only play at licensed UK casinos
Gambling is strictly regulated in the UK, and all legal online gambling sites are licensed by the UKGC (UK Gambling Commission). These sites adhere to regulations designed to protect the interests and wellbeing of gamblers, so it is important that you only ever bet at UKGC licensed sportsbooks and casinos. Playing at licensed sites allows you to manage your account settings to help restrict your gambling, and also means you can contact customer services for help and support. You can search for licensed casinos on the UKGC website.
Set your budget
Money issues are one of the most common aspects of problem gambling, so it’s very important to set yourself a strict budget before you start. You can budget either daily, weekly, monthly, or annually, and this will help you keep a firm grip on your spending. Once you’ve planned your budget, set a deposit restriction on your account which will prevent you going over this. Only ever gamble when it is financially feasible.
Understand why you’re gambling
Before you start gambling you should ask yourself why you’re doing it. Whether you want to enjoy casino games, back your favourite sports team with a lucky punt, or try your chances at bingo, you should always be playing for fun. Gambling with the intent of winning money, or using gambling to provide a source of income, can potentially lead to more serious issues. If you are gambling for these reasons, then it is important to seek advice and support.
What should I look out for?
The quicker you are able to identify a potential gambling issue, the quicker you can start working to prevent or address it. There are many telltale signs which may indicate a possible issue, but they can be different for every person. Even relating to just one of these signs may indicate a habit that’s getting out of hand, so you should think about taking steps to rectify the issue.
Gambling to earn money
Gambling should be used for fun, not as a source of income. It’s important to remember that the odds are always in favour of the house, so being focused only on winning money can lead to chasing your losses and making bad financial decisions. You should think of potential winnings as a nice bonus if you get lucky, and not the reason why you’re gambling.
Gambling as a form of escapism
Gambling to try and block out the world or put negative issues to the back of your mind may be indicative of a potential problem. Gambling is an activity which, if not controlled, can negatively affect your finances and relationships, so it’s important to maintain a connection with reality when betting and not use it as an escape.
Feeling negative or stressed by your gambling
If betting on sports or playing casino games leaves you feeling negative, stressed or annoyed, then you should avoid these activities. Similarly, gambling when you’re feeling down or irritated can aggravate these emotions, which may make you more likely to make rash decisions.
Being secretive about gambling
Being secretive about your gambling can be a sign of a serious problem. Problem gamblers may be secretive due to feelings of guilt or embarrassment caused by the losses they’ve incurred or time spent playing, and if gambling is making you feel this way it’s time to take action. This includes being dishonest to yourself – if you’re telling yourself that you’ll only place one more bet but not achieving this, you should seek support.
Losing interest in other people and activities
Betting should not cause you to lose interest in friends and family or affect your ability to work and enjoy social activities. If gambling has become the main or only interest in your life, you should take steps to remedy this.
Spending too much time gambling
Gambling is not an activity that you should be spending hours doing each day, particularly if this is getting in the way of your daily responsibilities. Similarly, constantly thinking about gambling and it affecting your ability to focus on other tasks is a bad sign.
Betting outside of your means
One of the clearest and potentially destructive signs of problem gambling is if your betting is causing you financial difficulties. Chasing your losses, betting with money you don’t have, borrowing money for gambling, and selling possessions to raise gambling funds are all signs that you should seek support.
Affecting your health
Gambling can have just as much of a negative effect on your physical and mental health as it can on your finances. Stress, anxiety and depression are all mental health issues that can potentially be caused or worsened by problem gambling. If you feel that gambling is affecting your mental state, diet or personal hygiene, then it is definitely time to do something about it.
What can I do to manage my gambling?
The common signs of a gambling issue may sound a bit doom and gloom, but sadly this is the reality for many people. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help control your gambling, and there are now more resources than ever that you can utilise to help prevent and treat gambling issues.
Identify the problem
No one starts betting with the intention of becoming a problem gambler. However, gambling can be a slippery slope, so it’s important to try and identify potential issues as soon as possible.
As gambling problems often develop gradually, it can be hard to spot when exactly when things are getting out of control. As well as looking out for the signs listed above, there are self-assessment tests and questionnaires you can use to help determine whether you may have an issue.
As hard as it might be to accept, in gambling the odds are never in your favour – this is the only way betting sites can make money. Having a thorough understanding of gambling, how it works, and the effect it can have on people’s lives is a measure you can take to help prevent potential issues. It can be easy to be tempted by the prospect of big wins and easy money, but it’s important to understand that all forms of gambling are a game of chance in which you can never guarantee a win.
Make sure that you’re aware of the rules and odds of casino games you’re playing or sports markets you’re betting on. Maintaining a realistic and informed perspective can help you better manage your bankroll and control losses. The more knowledge you have of the realities of gambling and how to gamble responsibly, the easier it will be to avoid any pitfalls.
Deposit and loss limits
An advantage of modern gambling technology is that online accounts have settings that can help you manage your gambling. One of the most helpful features is setting a deposit limit. This allows you to set your maximum deposit limit either daily, weekly or monthly, and is an easy way to control your budget. You can also set loss limits to help keep on top of things.
If you’re unsure about the best way to go about setting restrictions on your account, you should contact your betting site’s customer services team. They will be able to provide you with advice and talk you through the process.
When betting on sports or playing casino games it can be easy for time to fly past without you realising how long you’ve been playing for. Taking breaks can help you avoid getting sucked in and spending too much money. To help with this, you can activate ‘reality check’ messages on your betting account to serve as a reminder of when to take a breather. These pop up periodically to remind you how long you’ve been playing and your wins/losses for that period.
Most licensed gambling sites also have offer ‘time out’ or ‘take a break’ features. This allows you to restrict your account for a short period, such as a day, week or month, so that you can’t bet or play games during that period.
Keep track of your betting
Even if you’re only wagering small amounts, it can be easy to lose track of how much you’re spending. When you’re using an online gambling site, a record will be kept of all your bets, which you will be able to access. It’s a good idea to check this every time you gamble to remind yourself of how much you’re spending. Some people might also find it helpful to create a spreadsheet or note down their betting, as it can make your spending feel more ‘real’ than if you’re just using your online account to keep track of things.
There’s nothing wrong with gambling as a hobby as long as you do so responsibly and to have fun. However, even if you’re just a casual gambler or feel like you don’t have an issue, it’s a good idea to balance your gambling with other activities so that it doesn’t become your only pastime. Variety is the spice of life, after all!
Try free games
If you bet mostly at online casinos, then it may be worth checking out demos and free versions of games. These are available at most casinos and are a great way to enjoy games without spending any money.
Don’t gamble under the influence
You should never gamble under the influence of alcohol or any other substance. This will affect your judgement and greatly increase your chances of making losses, and can aggravate underlying issues.
Speak to family and friends
We would always encourage you to have regular, honest discussions about your gambling with those closest to you. Keeping everything in the open means you are less likely to fall into secretive, and potentially problematic gambling patterns. However, if you ever feel you may be starting to develop a gambling issue, it’s important to get help as soon as you can. If you don’t feel that you can talk about this with a friend or family member, you can call the National Gambling Helpline on 0808 8020 133. By calling the helpline you can speak confidentially with trained advisors who will be able to offer you advice and support.
On the other hand, it’s advisable to try to avoid fellow gamblers if you feel that they are having a negative impact on your gambling. Try to spend more time with friends and family members who don’t gamble.
Self-exclusion is a setting offered by licensed UK gambling sites which allows you to restrict or block access to your account. You can set the period of time for how long you’re excluded – this usually ranges from six months to five years. The restriction can’t be undone until the time period is over, so it can be a helpful tool for preventing yourself from problem gambling.
You can either exclude yourself from individual betting sites or at GamStop. This is a national exclusion service which all betting sites will be required by the UKGC to join in the near future. Signing up to the GamStop self-exclusion scheme will restrict you from accessing any of the gambling sites that are part of the scheme.
If you feel that self-exclusion may not be enough, there are softwares available which are designed to block your access to gambling sites. Betfilter, GamBlock and Gamban are examples of this kind of software, although these may require you to pay a fee in order to download them.
What if I know a problem gambler?
If someone’s gambling is affecting you
A gambling problem rarely affects just one person – if you’re concerned about a family member, partner, friend or colleague, or if their gambling is having a negative impact on your life, then you should seek support. GamCare and Gamblers Anonymous provide support and services for both gamblers and non-gamblers affected by gambling.
In the UK it is illegal to gamble if you are under 18 years old, and this is strictly regulated by the UKGC. All licensed gambling sites have verification processes used to identify and block underage gamblers. If you’re a parent and want some extra security, filtering and parental control software can monitor and restrict access to inappropriate material. Examples of these are Netnanny, CYBERsitter, and CyberPatrol. You are also able to block sites through your internet provider.
Responsible Gambling Week
Responsible Gambling Week is an annual event that aims to promote safer gambling in the UK and Ireland – during this week, presentations, seminars and discussions are held to raise awareness of how to gamble responsibly, to highlight the safer gambling tools available, and to provide sources of further advice and support.
Funded by the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG), Responsible Gambling Week highlights the three key licensing objectives set out in the Gambling Act 2005:
- Ensure gambling is kept free from crime and disorder
- Ensure gambling is conducted in a fair and open way
- Protect children and vulnerable adults from gambling
The initiative sees organisations from both inside and outside the gambling industry come together to promote the message. This includes online and land-based casinos, betting, poker and bingo operators, game and software developers, charities, and supporting organisations, such as Facebook. Neil MacArthur, UKGC Chief Executive, said that the initiative “provides an opportunity for people across the gambling industry, no matter what their role is, to focus on what part they can play to make gambling safer and reduce gambling harms.”
A number of member trade associations contact potential participants, with the number of supporters growing every year. These associations include the Association of British Bookmakers, the Remote Gambling Association, and the National Casino Forum.
This year, over 1,000 pubs will display posters and beer mats with responsible gambling messages, while gaming machine developers have announced that their machines will display similar messages. Venues will hold special events, such as the EGR summit at Twickenham, while online gambling websites will provide information on responsible gambling. Staff at gambling venues are also encouraged to act as a point of contact for people looking for advice or support for problem gambling.
Some leading gambling charities, including GamCare and YGAM, are also overseeing training sessions and workshops throughout the week. These will be focused on parents and professionals that work with young people, such as teachers and youth workers. The sessions aim to help young people better understand the risks associated with gambling.
John Hagan, IGRG chairman said that they “want to take the message about safer gambling even further this year, through our own social media channels, with the support of our partners inside the industry and beyond.”
Responsible Gambling Week is a great way for gamblers to learn more about how to gamble safely and what support services are available. If you’d like to learn more about the week and what’s on, you can visit the Responsible Gambling Week website. You can also find information at, ResponsibleGambling.co.uk, which has been launched as a safe gambling information hub as part of the initiative.
Where can I get more information, advice and support?
There are a number of charities and organisations dedicated to helping people affected by gambling. These include:
GamCare is a national charity and leading provider of information, advice and support for anyone affected by gambling harms. Advisers are available round the clock via web chat on the GamCare website and the National Gambling Helpline (0808 8020 133).
Speaking to Compare.bet, GamCare’s Head of Marketing and Communication, Catherine Sweet, provided some insight into the work GamCare does to support people affected by gambling problems and encourage safer gambling practices across the UK industry:
“We also offer a range of free treatment services across Great Britain, as well as a moderated forum and daily chatrooms so that people can speak to others experiencing similar issues and seek support. Our wider work includes outreach and education with a variety of groups at greater risk of gambling harms, including young people, women, and those in contact with the criminal justice system.
Our work with the gambling industry is informed by the services we provide to people who have been harmed by gambling. We focus on training and accreditation to drive up standards of player protection, including through our Safer Gambling Standard. The Standard is a quality mark for licenced gambling businesses which is awarded when companies can demonstrate they go above and beyond the requirements of their licence conditions. For more information please visit the Safer Gambling Standard website.”
Gamblers Anonymous is a free service that runs local support groups where people affected by gambling can speak openly about and receive support for gambling issues.
Gordon Moody Association
The Gordon Moody Association offers advice, therapeutic support and residential courses to those affected by gambling.
The Responsible Gambling Trust
This leading UK gambling charity runs the GambleAware website and provides education, support and treatment for problem gamblers and those people affected by gambling.
National Problem Gambling Clinic
This clinic provides care and treatment for people affected by gambling and aims to advance the models of treatment and therapy available to problem gamblers.