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Responsible Gambling

Responsible Gambling: Key Advice for Safe Gambling Online

Gambling should be fun, but it can also lead to health, social, and financial harm. This CasinoHorse responsible gambling guide explains how to stay safe online.

  • How to Gamble Responsibly: Tips to Keep in Mind
  • How to Recognise Problem Gambling
  • Accessing Independent Help Services for Problem Gambling

Risking money is part of the thrill of gambling. Whether it's at the roulette wheel, or on the latest Netent slot machines, it feels great to turn your initial stake into a pile of winnings. Even if we lose, gambling is a great way to relax, and most of the time, there's nothing wrong with that. After all, people are free to make their own decisions about how they use their money. But what happens when gambling becomes dangerous? In this article, we'll dig deeper to learn how to gamble responsibly, and what services are available when problems arise.

All You Need to Know About Responsible Gambling

We all love testing our skills at the poker table or relaxing with new slots. But even the biggest casino boosters would agree that gambling has a darker side. Sometimes, the attraction of glitzy slots and table games can become too much to handle. In those cases, it's easy for susceptible players to become problem gamblers who keep chasing the next win, regardless of the odds, and without thinking about the consequences.

Some people are more likely to become addicted to gambling - and these players can quickly lose everything. In the UK alone, around 500,000 people could be categorised as "problem gamblers", and 3.1% of gamblers have wagered amounts that they could not afford to lose. According to a 2016 GambleAware study, this costs UK taxpayers up to £1.2 billion every year, while the cost to families and mental health is even higher. Even children can be affected, with one study finding that 25,000 under 18s in the UK qualify as problem gamblers.

That's why "responsible gambling" is such a vital concept, and much more than a buzzword. Responsible gambling is both a public campaign and a set of ideas for gamblers to keep in mind. On the one hand, it seeks to spread safe behaviour among gamblers. By knowing our limits and understanding the dangers of gambling, we can avoid developing an addiction before it becomes unmanageable.

At the same time, Responsible Gambling has become a set of policy ideas for casinos to follow. Charities like the Responsible Gambling Trust offer guidelines to encourage casinos to behave responsibly themselves, such as providing self-exclusion tools, limiting deposits, and even setting time limits for players. They aren't mandatory, but all good casinos will follow them pretty closely.

As you can hopefully see by now, responsible gambling is something every player should know about. So let's find out more.

How to Gamble Responsibly: Tips to Keep in Mind

The NHS reports that around 6.6% of gamblers are at risk of becoming problem gamblers. However, most of those gamblers won't allow their wagers to get out of hand. In the majority of cases, it's possible to take action so that your gaming remains within sensible limits. That way, you can set limits and understand how much is "too much." When you start playing online casinos, creating a responsible gambling plan is a good idea, and this should cover a few key areas.

  • Decide upon a deposit limit which suits your budget. The best casinos include tools to help players gamble responsibly by automatically issuing warnings when you approach your weekly or monthly limit. Make use of them if you can.
  • Monitor your weekly and monthly spend. Many problem gamblers lose control of their spending, and simply don't know how much they are wagering. If you know exactly how much money you are depositing, you can match it up to your income. And keep amounts to a modest percentage of your income. Less than 5% is probably wise.
  • Never mix gambling and substance abuse. Drinking heavily will always cloud your judgement, leading to risky bets that you wouldn't make sober. And take regular breaks as well. Staying alert is vital when wagering real money, and tired minds make poor decisions.
  • Assess why you are gambling. We all enjoy slots or roulette, but if you are playing them to forget about your worries or to relieve depression, that can be a warning sign. In that case, the best way to gamble responsibly is by taking a step back, seeking help, and avoiding the poker table entirely.
  • Read the responsible gambling disclaimer at online casinos. When you sign up with online casinos, the small print can provide valuable information about how responsible the casino is, and what rights you might have. Always check for a responsible gambling disclaimer - which makes clear that the company takes problem gambling seriously.
  • Practice self exclusion. One of the best ways to avoid gambling addiction is to take advantage of exclusion tools. Most reputable casinos will allow users to impose self-exclusion for months or even years. That way, you won't be tempted to log on again. Instead, you simply won't be able to do so - the last resort, but an effective option in many cases.

All of these tips can help you guard yourself against developing a gambling problem. And it's best to take them on board early, as the chances of obtaining a responsible gambling refund are relatively slim. Many argue that casinos should refund vulnerable gamblers, and a few court cases have led to responsible gambling refund payouts - usually when casinos have failed to offer adequate self-exclusion policies. If you have tried self-exclusion and still accessed casino sites, a refund may be available, but don't expect to be repaid. Individual responsibility is still the guiding principle.

How to Recognise Problem Gambling

One of the worst things about problem gambling is that it isn't easy to detect. Many people report being surprised when friends or family suffer financial trauma or health issues as a result of gambling. Instead, problem gambling is often a hidden danger, which creeps up on individuals and families in the background. Even so, there are some signs that you or someone you know is not gambling responsibly.

  • Above all, gambling becomes problematic when it begins to impact other areas of your life. In the most shocking cases, it has led to children suffering malnutrition and neglect, and it often leads to tensions in personal relationships. So if you find that you react poorly when loved ones mention gambling, there could be an issue.
  • Losing interest in other aspects of life is another common cause for concern. As with depression, gambling addicts tend to avoid social activities and sports, retreating into their own "bubbles." So if someone is less outgoing than normal, there could be background gambling problems.
  • Resorting to borrowing is another common indication that someone isn't able to gamble responsibly. When cashflow becomes so tight that you need to reach out to high-interest lenders, that's a sure sign that gambling has become unaffordable.
  • Steadily escalating wagers. Many people start off with small bets. However, with problem gamblers, these smaller wagers aren't enough. To achieve the same buzz, they need to wager larger and larger amounts - until those bets become so large that they are gambling beyond their means.
  • Repeated attempts to scale back. Gamblers often try to reduce their wagers when they feel that they have a problem. If they are unsuccessful, it's a strong sign that they have become addicted.

These are guidelines, not definite indications that an individual has developed a gambling addiction. However, when multiple signs appear, the chances are that the individual concerned is not practicing responsible gambling. When that happens, it could be time to reach out for professional help.

Accessing Independent Help Services for Problem Gambling

Fortunately, gamblers in the UK have various places they can turn for impartial, independent and confidential advice. Many casinos list these services, but not all do. All gamblers should know which ones to trust, so we've prepared a quick checklist to keep in your files should you ever need to search for help:

  • GamCare - Set up in 1997, GamCare is an independent charity, which is most famous for running the National Gambling Helpline (0808 8020 133). Offering "confidential and non-judgemental" support, the charity's advisers can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days per week. Alternatively, gamblers can join online group chats with advisers and fellow gamblers, while GamCare runs a lively online forum - a good source of information about everything from counselling to decoding an unclear responsible gambling disclaimer. It also runs Gamstop - the UK's largest self-exclusion network, so if self-exclusion policies have failed, GamCare may help gamblers access a responsible gambling refund via the legal system. More generally, if you are seeking help for the first time or are unsure about the process, GamCare is often the best site to visit. Expect a calm, sympathetic hearing, total privacy, and comprehensive assistance about your personal issues..

  • GambleAware - GambleAware was created by the Responsible Gambling Trust as an independent charity, and works with GamCare to run the national helpline. It doesn't generally provide personal support for gamblers. Instead, GambleAware tends to distribute charitable or public funds to projects which assist individuals or produce in-depth research. As such, the GambleAware site is a great source of information and news for gamblers, as well as a portal to connect with treatment providers like the National Gambling Treatment Service. And if you need legal assistance with issues like obtaining a responsible gambling refund, the charity's team could well be the handy people to contact.

  • Gamblers Anonymous - Founded in the 1950s, GA grew out of Alcoholics Anonymous. Like the AA, it offers a program of 12-point plans and group outreach sessions, intending to help "compulsive gamblers" to take control of their lives. Meetings take place regularly across the UK and bring together gamblers themselves. There are no medical practitioners or counsellors, just people with a compulsion to gamble, and a desire to do something about it. Signing up is easy, and no registration is needed - just find a meeting near you and attend whenever you are able. This down to earth approach is often the best way to discuss gambling addiction and related issues, and you'll usually find many areas of common ground with fellow attendees.

  • National Problem Gambling Clinic - The NPGC is part of the NHS. Based in south-west London, the clinic takes referrals from charities and NHS mental health trusts, and connects individuals with appropriate treatment. This could include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for gamblers themselves, as well as support for relatives of problem gamblers. Everything is fully anonymous, and the clinic aims to remove the "stigma" attached to compulsive gambling. So attendees can expect sympathetic care in line with the latest psychological research, as well as complete privacy. However, walk-ins are not usually catered for, so the first place to head for treatment will be counselling charities or primary care providers.

  • Responsible Gambling - Responsible Gambling is a little different, being funded mainly by the casino industry itself. Focusing on raising awareness via industry events like Responsible Gambling Week (or Safer Gambling Week as it has been rebranded), the charity also connects the users of online casinos with independent support. It also works to promote responsibility within the sector in general, ensuring that gamblers are provided with full information about support and that casinos go beyond simply issuing a responsible gambling disclaimer. Basically, RG is an example of the leading casinos trying to clean up the industry, and may be less relevant for ordinary gamblers than other bodies in this list.

  • Responsible Gambling Foundation - The RGF is a Maltese body which was created in 2014 as an effort to regulate and promote the nation's growing online gambling sector. Specialising in outreach to young people and problem gamblers, the Foundation also created the "Player's Charter". This document sets out a comprehensive range of rights for gamblers, including the power to self-exclude from online casinos, as well as the need for casinos to provide information about gambling addiction and support services. As many Maltese casinos are also licensed in the UK, it's a charity that may well be worth checking out.

Please Gamble Responsibly, But Know Where to Turn When Problems Arise

Gambling responsibly is something that all gamblers need to know about. Even if they feel that the risk of developing compulsive behaviour is vanishingly small, the risk exists. And "responsible gambling" is much more than just an industry slogan, designed to allow companies to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions. In the past ten years, the UK has developed several services designed to support gamblers and their families. Casinos have joined forces to offer proper assistance and compensation for gamblers. And thanks to professional advocacy and a stream of news stories about the effects of compulsive gambling, society has become more aware of the issue. Even so, many gamblers struggle alone. But if you develop any of the warning signs for problem gambling we've discussed, be sure to search for help. When you do, one of the services listed above should be your first point of contact. Remember great casinos aren't just about show, they are also about the control, and the stop. Add gambling control features your routine, it will save you from unplanned losses  and unpleasant moments.

Last updated on: Jun 03. 2020.