Online casino games and slots are so easily accessible, it's possible to fire up the laptop or mobile and gamble a few pounds in minutes.
And while it's great that gaming is so readily available, for a small minority it can become a serious problem. Gambling addiction is a problem in a small portion of people who bet online, and if they can't get a handle on it it can ruin lives.
Signs of addiction can range from losing your enjoyment of games (whether winning or losing) to lying to loved ones about the extent of the problem. But online casinos are well-equipped to deal with addicts in 2017. The first target is to recognise you have a problem yourself.
Recognising Your Problem
All casino players can get swept up on a wave of euphoria when they win: they might bet a little more than they're used to or play one too many games after hitting a limit. Similarly, a player might get dragged into a downswing, trying to chase their losses by playing faster and bigger.
Most players know when to stop when this happens, but a small percentage doesn’t. For addicts, the next best thing to playing and winning is playing and losing. Indeed, the two things become blurred together, with the physical act of betting money and playing more important than whether a jackpot is hit.
Without a long-term bankroll plan, addicts can get into debt, and that's where problems can start. Gamblers start to use credit cards or payday loans to fund their habit. Worse, they steal from loved ones to make another deposit.
How to spot you may have a problem with gambling:
Do you feel the need to gamble all day, every day?
Do you lie to close family or loved ones about how much you gamble?
Have you stolen from friends or family to feed an addiction?
Do you feel depressed when you're not gambling?
Do you miss work or social engagements to play online?
Do you gamble at increasingly bigger stakes, way above your comfort level?
Taking Steps To Help Yourself
Online casino gambling is easily accessible. And while that can be good for a quick play, it can make betting real money too tempting for anyone with a problem.
ORGANISE YOUR TIME: The first thing to do if you think your gaming is getting out of control is to set limits. Draw up a timetable and set aside hour-long slots to gamble. Gambling can only be done during those times (so if you're planning on playing a slots tournament, adjust your timetable accordingly). Gradually reduce the gambling time until you only gamble one day a week.
STAKING: Next, draw up a staking plan. Only bet 1 or 2% of your bankroll on a single game, and stick to it. Write down all your wins and losses - then you will have a better handle on what's going in and out. If you hit a downswing, switch off the computer and take a break. Similarly, if you're on a good run, have a 'win limit' where you will stop gambling and cash in your winnings.
UNINSTALL YOUR SOFTWARE: Many casino sites have download apps you save to your desktop. Uninstalling the clients is a good move as it's an effort to re-install. Similarly, you can remove the casino links from your Favourites list.
Top Tip: Software Blockers
If you find it hard to stay away from casinos and gambling sites, there is specialist software out there that can help. Programs like GamBlock (www.gamblock.com) and BetFilter (www.betfilter.com) sit on your machine and prevent access to any gambling-related site. This includes online and mobile casinos.
Top Tip: Self-Exclusion & Casino Responsibilities
Many online casinos now have special 'stop loss' limits where players will be prevented from playing when they reach a certain limit. Deposit limits can also be set up so gamblers can't load up too many times during the month.
Tabs are kept on accounts which appear to be being used frequently. Casino staff are now specially trained to help gamblers who seem to be losing more and more frequently. It's one of the requirements of a licensing jurisdiction.
If a stop limit isn't working, you can ask to be self-excluded from a casino (the casino will never force customers to stop gambling). You can request to be barred for a day, a week, or up to a year in some cases. You might be able to play Practice Money slots and games, but the real-money tables will be prohibted, and you won't be able to access the Cashier.
Guide To Professional Bodies & Charities
Online casinos are required to provide links to professional problem gambling charities who can help with expert advice. Some offer web-based support like forums and live chat, while others offer a free telephone service. In extreme cases, some charities will run residential treatment courses following an assessment. There are several organisations based in the UK and abroad:
Gamblers Anonymous has branches across the world, and assistance is given via a free helpline or organised meetings from former addicts. A treatment programme is also made available.
Another UK-registered charity, GamCare also provides excellent assistance via web or phone support line. There's also a great on-site forum where addicts and former addicts can provide advice.
Gamble Aware promoted good responsible gambling via expert information and advice. Like other organisations, they have a friendly live chat service and forums.
National Problem Gambling Clinic
A London-based organisation, the Clinic offers face-to-face services and treatment via referral. Assessments are made on a one-on-one basis, and individual or group short-term therapy is provided. Psychiatric assessments may also be made.
Responsible Gambling FAQ
What Is Problem Gambling?
Problem gambling affects players who spend beyond their means or become obsessed and addicted to betting.
How Can I Spot The Telltale Signs?
The symptoms of gambling addiction can vary, but excessive or obsessive gambling regardless of wins and losses is the most acute sign. Addiction can also lead to depression and relationship breakdowns.
Can Casinos Help Me If I Have An Addiction?
Yes. Online casinos have a duty to provide up-to-date information on handling addiction to players. They offer contact information for charities and support groups, and can also offer self-exclusion for customers.
What Are Good Ways Of Cutting Back On Gambling?
Keeping a diary or budget calculator to hand is a great way of monitoring your gambling spend. Most casinos allow limits on deposits, as well as providing periods of self-exclusion.
What Professional Help Is Available Out There?
There are many expert charities and support groups who can help with addiction and the causes. Most offer detailed information on their sites, as well as phone support, online live chat, and helpful forums.
Can I Get Help Anonymously?
Yes. Problem gambling charities will provide assistance in the strictest confidence.
Do Casinos Have To Pay Back Losses To Addicts?
No. Casinos are under no duty to pay back to addicts. It's up to the gambler to seek advice themselves.