Responsible Gaming | The Ultimate Guide to Responsible Gambling

Although intended to be an exciting, entertaining and enjoyable experience, gambling can become an obsession. When one feels an uncontrollable obsession to win that consumes their life and distorts their judgement, they can be diagnosed as a compulsive gambler. Responsible gambling is extremely important to us and, as such, we think it's equally important to keep our customers and players informed. To achieve this, we have prepared an ultimate guide to responsible gambling. This article touches on techniques for ensuring continued responsible gaming and provides guides for spotting problem gambling in those around you.

Responsible gambling, also known as responsible gaming is a concept upheld within the gambling industry by both online and land-based gaming and gambling operators, software suppliers and other associated service providers. Essentially, responsible gambling is the term given to the various behaviours and methods that seek to minimize the harm to gambling customers and the gambling community.

What is Gambling Addiction?

Gambling addiction—also known as—pathological gambling, problem gambling, compulsive gambling or gambling disorder—is an impulse-control disorder. Gambling addiction is the compulsive act of gambling without regard for financial, family- or work-related consequences. A gambling addiction or problem is often associated with other behavior or mood disorders. Gambling becomes an addiction when it is something you or a loved one cannot control and when it begins to affect a person’s financial, familial, social, recreational, educational, or occupational functioning. Gambling addiction is much like some forms of substance addiction and is associated with a release of dopamine in the brain as much as 10 times more than what is normal.

If you’re a compulsive gambler, you can’t control the impulse to gamble, even when it has negative consequences for you or your loved ones. You’ll gamble whether you’re up or down, broke or flush, and you’ll keep gambling regardless of the consequences—even when you know that the odds are against you or you can’t afford to lose. Of course, you can also have a gambling problem without being totally out of control. Problem gambling is any gambling behavior that disrupts your life. If you’re preoccupied with gambling, spending more and more time and money on it, chasing losses, or gambling despite serious consequences in your life, then you have a gambling problem.

What Causes Problem Gambling?

The exact causes of problem gambling are yet to be well-understood. Like many psychological problems, compulsive gambling may result from a combination of biological, genetic and environmental factors, these are:

  • Certain personality characteristics: Being highly competitive, a workaholic, impulsive, restless or easily bored may increase your risk of problem gambling.
  • Genetic Factors: Gambling addiction may affect some people due to a genetic predisposition toward addictive behaviors. That means problem gambling can be inherited from one or both parents. There are also other serious risk factors that may predispose someone toward gambling. These include being male, having a family history of gambling, mood and personality disorders, and substance abuse.
  • Daily Escape and Past Trauma: Some gambling addicts may simply gamble as an escape from the outside world. Addiction in general is considered a pathological coping mechanism used for escaping from current or past problems and it has been reported that gambling to escape from life's problems or trauma was the strongest predictor in gambling addiction and relapse.
  • Mental health disorders: People who gamble compulsively often have substance abuse problems, personality disorders, depression or anxiety. Compulsive gambling may also be associated with bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Signs and Symptoms of Gambling Addiction

Because there are no obvious physical signs or symptoms like there are in drug or alcohol addiction. Problem gamblers also typically deny or minimize the problem—even to themselves. However, you may have a gambling problem if you:

  • Feel the need to be secretive about your gambling. You might gamble in secret or lie about how much you gamble, feeling others won’t understand or that you will surprise them with a big win.
  • Have trouble controlling your gambling. Once you start gambling, can you walk away? Or are you compelled to gamble until you’ve spent your last dollar, upping your bets in a bid to win lost money back?
  • Gamble even when you don’t have the money. You may gamble until you’ve spent your last dollar, and then move on to money you don’t have—money to pay bills, credit cards, or things for your children. You may feel pushed to borrow, sell, or even steal things for gambling money.
  • Have family and friends worried about you. Denial keeps problem gambling going. If friends and family are worried, listen to them carefully. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help. Many older gamblers are reluctant to reach out to their adult children if they’ve gambled away their inheritance, but it’s never too late to make changes for the better.
  • There is always this constant need to spend more and more money in order to get the gambling rush that a person seeks from the experience.
  • The person is triggered to gamble more frequently when experiencing negative mental and emotional states. You feel depressed or are having suicidal thoughts.
  • Jeopardizing or losing important relationships, a job, or school or work opportunities because of gambling.

How Gambling Affects the Brain

Gambling is a rewarding experience, that is, it makes the gambler feel good. When the gambler starts to pursue gambling in order to get the same reward over and over again, that's when an addiction has developed.

There are certain ways in which gambling affects the brain. “Happiness chemicals” like dopamine, serotonin and endorphins are released as neurotransmitters, letting us know that whatever we just did makes us feel good. If you place a bet and anticipate that it ends up winning, the brain will release some dopamine, giving you a rush of satisfaction and encouraging you to gamble some more.

The more chemicals like dopamine that are released when you gamble, the less of an impact it will have as the brain gets used to the activity. In order to get the same rush as you got from the first bet, you will need to take bigger risks each time you gamble.

The more the brain’s reward system is stimulated, the more the brain will build up a tolerance. As the behaviour continues, the reward response will start to become numb. This means that someone addicted to gambling will need to gamble more in order to get the same level of excitement as when they first started.

Furthermore, the decision-making part of the brain which called the prefrontal cortex is that part of the brain that controls impulses and weighs up risk and reward in the short and long-term when making a decision. When someone has developed a gambling problem, the prefrontal cortex isn’t able to weigh these risks and rewards properly, hence decisions are mostly made based on short-term or immediate reward, rather than the long-term impact. If the gambler believes their next win is about to come up, then they won’t be able to control the impulse to play.

Negative Effects of Gambling Addiction

Gambling addiction can lead to profound, negative and long-lasting consequences for your life and those around you. The negative effects of gambling addiction include:

  • Relationship problems: increased conflict with your partner, neglect or mistreatment of your family members, and loss of friendships.
  • Financial problems, including bankruptcy, falling into debt and not having enough money for your everyday expenses.
  • Legal problems or imprisonment.
  • Poor work performance or job loss.
  • Poor general health.
  • Suicide, suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts.

Why Gambling Could Lead to Addiction?

What starts as fun can become a serious problem if it begins to negatively affect your daily life or cause financial problems and unfortunately gambling can turn into this, that is an addiction that negatively your life. The reason why gambling can lead to addiction is not farfetched. Gambling stimulates the brain’s reward system much like drugs or alcohol and thus can lead to an addiction and for people susceptible to the risk factors listed above, gambling addiction can easily become a reality.

N.B:  Gambling does not automatically lead to gambling addiction.

How Common is Gambling Addiction

The National Gambling Impact Study Commission found that 2.7 % of American adults are pathological or problem gamblers. - National Opinion Research Center.

Figuring out what percentage of the population suffers from compulsive or problem gambling is difficult, as much of the effort to diagnose such a problem often needs to come from self-reporting by the gamblers themselves. However, there have been many efforts to estimate the scope of the problem, and most of these studies have come to similar (if not identical conclusions).

The most commonly reported rates for problem gambling tend to be in the range of 2-3 %. Actual pathological gambling is somewhat rarer, with 1 % or less of the population usually being considered to truly suffer from this condition. Not surprisingly, these figures are higher in areas where gambling is a major part of the culture.

For instance, a 2002 report found that about 3-4 % of Nevada adults could be considered likely pathological gamblers. The percentage of gamblers who develop gambling problems is also somewhat higher than the overall population, though these numbers have converged as most adults have now gambled at some time due to the rapid expansion of both land-based and online casinos and poker rooms.

It is difficult to pinpoint just how many people seek treatment. While resources for those who find they have problems are readily available, most do not seek out the organizations or information that exists to help them. Some problem gamblers eventually overcome the issue on their own through changes in their behavior, while many others continue to suffer from some level of problem gambling for years or decades without seeking help.

How to Avoid Gambling Addiction at Online Casino?

Although there's no proven way to prevent a gambling problem, educational programs that target individuals and groups at increased risk may be helpful. If you have risk factors for compulsive gambling, consider avoiding gambling in any form, people who gamble and places where gambling occurs. Get treatment at the earliest sign of a problem to help prevent gambling from becoming worse.

Use apps to keep track of your budget and gambling behaviour: Mobile apps are a great way of keeping track of your monthly budget. They are easily accessible since most people always have their phones on them, which allows you to create an overview of your budget whenever you want.

The ultimate goal for apps like these is that you will get a better understanding of how much you gamble and how often you gamble. “Wallet” is one the apps players can use to keep track of their monthly expenses and budget and the app can be gotten from app stores for both iOS and Android devices. The gambling therapy app also provides the player with a set of tools that helps them keep their gambling in check. From a self-assessment questionnaire to live support, this app will make sure you are in the right hands and have the means to seek help when you need it most.

Self-exclusion: A self-exclusion can be made through filling out an official form at government institutions. This might sound like a drastic measure, but can be life-saving for players who are up to their neck in problem gambling and have no other choice than to ban themselves from gambling any further. Websites like GamStop offer a nationwide self-exclusion ban for British players who deem it necessary. By filling out the form, you can choose to restrict yourself from gambling at any online or land-based casino for a period of 6 months up to 5 years, and thus taking back control of your life. 

 Please note that you cannot undo or cancel your self-exclusion once you have filed the request. A self-exclusion request usually covers restrictions on all gambling operators that have been approved the Gambling Authority, that includes land-based casinos. We do not recommend you seek out online casinos that have not been approved by official institutions dedicated to validating casinos, since you will end up further down the hole than you already are in that case. 

Setting limits: While many people might believe that problem gaming is simply the act of spending more money than you can afford, that is simply not true. Dedicating huge numbers of hours to games that are designed for entertainment purposes can be an unhealthy lifestyle option. Problem gamblers who spend too much time playing, even if they are able to afford their bets, can find themselves struggling in their profession, at home with their family and with their mental health.

Account Closure: account closure options are available and the best option for pathological gamblers. You can close your account at any time for any reason by simply contacting the Customer Support team of your casino. Usually, a closed account can be reopened after gaining control by contacting Customer Support team.

How to Detect Gambling problem in your relatives

The common signs of gambling addiction mentioned in the previous section can alert you to a loved one’s addiction. Additional and more specific red flags include: 

  • Loved ones seem to have more mood swings that begin to resemble a mood disorder such as bipolar, where they seem to be “high” some days and deeply depressed, withdrawn, or snappy other days.
  • Noticing that your loved ones are neglecting bills, asking you for money frequently, or stealing from you. You may notice overdue bills in the mail or overhear calls from bill collectors.
  • Noticing that your loved ones are skipping school or work. This may begin as an infrequent occurrence that then become chronic.
  • You may also begin to notice that the things they have told you about where they spend their time or money do not add up.

Ways to Deal with Gambling Problem

  • Admit that you have a problem: It takes tremendous strength and courage to own up to this, especially if you have lost a lot of money and strained or broken relationships along the way. Don’t despair, and don’t try to go it alone. Many others have been in your shoes and have been able to break the habit and rebuild their lives. You can, too.
  • Learn to relieve unpleasant feelings in healthier ways. Do you gamble when you’re lonely, depressed or bored? There are healthier and more effective ways of managing your moods and relieving boredom, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, taking up new hobbies, or practicing relaxation techniques.
  • Join a support group: Gamblers Anonymous, for example, is a twelve-step recovery program patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous. A key part of the program is finding a sponsor, a former gambler who has experience remaining free from addiction and can provide you invaluable guidance and support.
  • Seek professional help.
  • Implement regulatory mechanisms such as betting limits, self-exclusion etc.
  • Consider Medication.

Facts and Myths about Gambling Addiction

Myth: You have to play every day to become a gambler.

Fact: A problem gambler may gamble frequently or infrequently. Gambling is a problem if it causes problems.

Myth: Children are never affected by gambling problem.

Fact: Children are not immune to gambling problem.

Myth: Gambling problem is easy to recognize.

Fact: on the contrary, it might take long to recognise and especially admit to problem gambling because it has no physical signs and symptoms.

Myth: The best way to help a gambler is to pay his debts.

Fact: Quick fix solutions may appear to be the right thing to do. However, bailing the gambler out of debt may actually make matters worse by enabling their gambling problems to continue.

Myth: Gambling addicts are irresponsible people.

Fact: Gambling problems affect people of all levels of intelligence and all backgrounds. Previously responsible and strong-willed people are just as likely to develop a gambling problem as anyone else.

Myth: gambling problem is not a big issue if a person can afford to play a lot.

Fact: Problems caused by excessive gambling are not just financial. Too much time spent on gambling can also lead to relationship and legal problems, job loss, mental health problems including depression and anxiety, and even suicide.

Myth: Relatives or friends contribute to gambling problem and are to blamed for.

Fact: Problem gamblers often try to rationalize their behavior. Blaming others is one way to avoid taking responsibility for their actions, including what is needed to overcome the problem.

Getting Help for Gambling Addiction

Overcoming a gambling problem is never easy and seeking professional treatment doesn’t mean that you’re weak in some way or can’t handle your problems. But it’s important to remember that every gambler is unique so you need a recovery program tailored specifically to your needs and situation. Talk to your doctor or mental health professional about different treatment options, including:

Inpatient or residential treatment and rehab programs: These are aimed at those with severe gambling addiction who are unable to avoid gambling without round-the-clock support.

Treatment for underlying conditions contributing to your compulsive gambling, including substance abuse or mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, OCD, or ADHD. This could include therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. Problem gambling can sometimes be a symptom of bipolar disorder, so your doctor or therapist may need to rule this out before making a diagnosis.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy: CBT for gambling addiction focuses on changing unhealthy gambling behaviors and thoughts, such as rationalizations and false beliefs. It can also teach you how to fight gambling urges and solve financial, work, and relationship problems caused by problem gambling. Therapy can provide you with the tools for coping with your addiction that will last a lifetime.

Other options are family therapy and marriage, career, and credit counselling. These can help you work through the specific issues that have been created by your problem gambling and lay the foundation for repairing your relationships and finances.

Where to turn for help

In the U.S.: The National Council on Problem Gambling Helpline offers a confidential, 24-hour helpline for problem gamblers or their family members at 1-800-522-4700.

UK: Gamcare offers support and a helpline at 0808 8020 133.

Australia: Gambling Help Online offers a 24-hour helpline at 1800 858 858.

Canada: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health offers resources and a helpline at 1-866-531-2600.

Internationally: Gamblers Anonymous offers 12-step support meetings for people with a gambling problem, while Gam-Anon offers support for the problem gambler’s family members.

Visit Gambling Help Online, Gamblers Anonymous or Problem Gambling Australia for further information, tools and support.

 You can also watch videos of people talking about their experiences of problem gambling.

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