The Complete Responsible Gambling Guide

Responsible Gambling

What Is Gambling Addiction

Gambling addiction is a mental health condition, which is characterized by similar symptoms as other addictions (for example, drug addiction) and certain psychological disorders (like phobias). The simple description of addiction is that the person is unable to control or change their behavior patterns connected to the source of addiction, even when the person is already aware that the behavior patterns are harmful or dangerous for themselves or their social circle.

There are different reasons for addiction development, and in fact, various symptoms signaling about it. So, it is hard to identify addiction unless one reveals it clearly, or by checking side effects (like financial problems or avoiding work). To make the picture clear, let’s discuss the potential causes in the first place.

What Causes Gambling Addiction

The combination of factors that together can eventually contribute to the development of gambling addiction is unique for every single punter. Therefore, one cannot be blamed for developing a gambling addiction because they have financial issues and were trying to win some money, while others develop similar addiction being financially secure.

However, there are three main categories of causes that contribute heavily to developing a dangerous addiction to punting.

Biological Causes

One of the main set of causes is biological predisposition. Different people react differently to the same events or things - while some get excited, others are indifferent, etc. Each person’s brain is triggered by different factors. This is the reason why some person falls in love with you while others don’t, or why some people develop addiction to alcohol while others do not, even if they consume the same quantities of liquor.

With biological predisposition to gambling the story is the same. Researchers state that compulsive gamblers’ brains react to casino games as if the person consumed a chemical drug - the body released the hormones of happiness, excitement and even euphoria. Addiction to gambling may seem weird, as the person does not literally consume anything like it is with alcohol, drugs, or chocolate. However, the point is that the punter is addicted not to the game itself, but to the chemicals released by their brain when they are gambling.

Some scientists even state that predisposition to compulsive gambling can be genetically inherited - which is reasonable, because it means that the brain chemistry can be triggered by this or that activity in a certain predictable way. Biological causes of gambling are actually the most powerful.

Psychological Causes

While biological causes are pretty much direct in contributing into addiction development, psychological causes have indirect effect which is harder to track. The main reason here is the punter’s distorted thinking and their belief into the myths of gambling. If the person believes that they will be able to earn monthly income by playing slots at an online casino, they will proceed with playing even if the statistical data of their losses and wins shows that their plan was impossible.

Another side of the coin is that it is punter’s psychology that prevents them from admitting they have a problem, and getting help. They tend to be over confident, minimize their losses and boast about their wins, and deny the development of problem behavior altogether. Distorted patterns of thinking do not allow compulsive punters to recognize their loss, and they do not accept they could be wrong about their gambling presumptions. Their desire to win the lost money back is stronger than their self-preservation instinct that tells them to stop and take a pause.

Social Causes

A certain social circle, or lack of it, can also make an indirect but significant input into problem behavior development. When a person has issues at work or at home, when they experience troubles and face low to now support from their family and friends, they may envision escape from reality into gambling addiction. Real money betting can be both an escape from problems, and a desired way to “prove them all” that t

the person is worth something - when this person wins tons of money on jackpot.

The other potential social cause is simply one’s social environment. If everyone around is playing, the person is more likely to also give it a try at least once. If other factors contribute, or if there is a biological predisposition, a new compulsive gambler arrives. Moreover, social environment does not allow the person to stop problem behavior, because it means being dropped out of the circle and lose support of like-minded people. Social circles of gamblers often support myths and false beliefs about gambling, that influence the belief system, thinking, and psychology of other potential punters.

Recognizing You Have a Problem

The hardest step is to recognize that the problem exists, and the person has run into trouble. One of the hardest parts is not to stop gambling, but rather to admit the person has failed to keep the situation under control. However, we already know that addiction has little to do with control - especially when the biological cause, or a combination of causes, have contributed.

Another obstacle to managing the problem is the reluctance of the punter to admit the problem, because they may consider gambling to be “the only joy in life”. The punter may admit that their punting patterns are too much, but in their opinion, there is nothing in their life that could replace this activity and be equally satisfying. The punters may also successfully rationalize their behavior and hide the problem.

Yet, it is easy to go through a reality check by looking through a list of potential symptoms that signal addiction.

Problem Gambling - Symptoms

For different people, symptoms may differ, but the most common are:

Increasing investments Increasing investments

The deposits and bets increase with time, to achieve the desired results.

Irritation when no access to games Irritation when no access to games

The person is irritated or restless if they cannot play games (for example, if they are offline and can’t connect to the site)

Failed control Failed control

There were several repeated but unsuccessful attempts to cut on gambling or control it

Compulsive thinking Compulsive thinking

The person thinks about their playing frequently (like decides how to get money for next deposit)

Chasing losses Chasing losses

The person chases their losses - after losing money, they go back and play even more to at least “break even”

Escaping the reality Escaping the reality

Gambling becomes an activity to pursue when tired, depressed, or worried

Concealing gambling Concealing gambling

The person hides their punting habits, the size of deposits, and size of losses, from significant others in their lives

Borrowing cash to play Borrowing cash to play

The person seeks financial help from others to finance their playing

Chasing money Chasing money

Entertainment is no longer pursued when gambling - the punter has a goal to win money

Making gambling a priority Making gambling a priority

Gambling becomes a priority among other daily activities

Almost each of these symptoms can vary in depth and power. There are three benchmarks that can help identify the severity level.

The Benchmarks of Compulsive Gambling

There are three main stages or types of addiction - binge punter, problem punter, and compulsive punter.

  • Binge punter does not experience any issues most of the time. They can actually live for weeks and months without playing, or even play from time to time without showing any signs of addiction. However, in certain periods of their lives, binge punter stops controlling themselves and demonstrates compulsive gambling without borders. This can happen literally once or twice a year - or once a month. In any case, such predisposition will not obligatory result in problem gambling, but the probability always exists.
  • Problem punter plays on a more or less regular basis, and while their habits do not ruin their life, but they are already damaging to some aspects of life. Problem punters find themselves staying late at an online casino, or spending on games more than they could afford. Another symptom is that gaming episodes become more frequent and more time-consuming with time.
  • Compulsive punters are unable to control their desire to play. They make gambling a priority, they continue playing regardless of whether they win or lose, and literally can’t stop playing. Another typical symptom is ruined job or family, and financial problems when gambling becomes unaffordable.

The combination of behaviors can show what benchmark has been reached by this or that punter. In fact, uncontrolled punting on any level of severity cause certain negative effects and may have serious long term consequences on one’s life.

Negative Effects of Problem Gambling

Addictive punting usually leads to a whole array of problems - from mental health and self-confidence, to ruined families and lost jobs. The most common issues include: 

  1. finance - inability to control spending on deposits and bets leads to the person proceeding to play to the brink when they already can’t afford it. Besides spending their money, punters can start taking or stealing money from family and friends, accumulate debts from friends or banks, or spend all their wages on games instead of providing for themselves and their families. While a desire to “break even” after losing money at a casino seems natural, in reality, the most reliable way to break even is to stop playing and manage one’s financial needs. 
  2. mental health - uncontrolled addiction is dangerous and harmful not only because the person ignores their real life and pays all attention to playing. Uncontrolled addiction aggravates the mental predisposition to chemical reactions that take place in the brain as response to gambling. To achieve the same effect of euphoria, the punter will need more and more excitement with time, to be able to trigger their brain and endocrine system. Eventually, this may cause chemical disorders in the brain, and lead to severe depression, anxiety, aggression, or attempts of suicide. 
  3. relationships - problem punter often starts ignoring their family and loved ones, which causes conflicts and issues in relationships. In many cases, significant others may choose to leave the person alone, because they feel they are no longer a priority. On the other hand, when the family or significant others cannot leave for various reasons, such families often experience violence, depression, problem behavior, and substance abuse. 
  4. job and social environment - when the problem punter starts ignoring other aspects of life and makes punting a priority, they may even drop their job and avoid healthy socialization. These events lead to even more severe financial issues, and lack of social support whatsoever. 
  5. physical health - first and foremost, gambling addiction will certainly not contribute into punter’s fitness activities or self-care. Moreover, chemical disorders in the brain will eventually influence physical health, too. 

While playing games, especially online, seems as not something tangible, these negative effects are real and can be destructive. Therefore, it makes sense to learn Responsible gambling practices and play it safe. 

How to Avoid Compulsive Gambling and Play It Safe

We recommend to honestly assess your predisposition to gambling addiction. If it is mostly biological - like, you become over excited about any game or dispute - or if you have had any cases of noticing substance abuse, or if you know that your close family has or had cases of substance abuse or other addictions, perhaps you should stay away from betting altogether. Biological predisposition is extremely hard to control, and it is safer to avoid the problem at the source than solve it later. 

In case you would still want to play casino games or makes bets from time to time, check out the following recommendations: 

  • play at reliable, reputable, well-known and properly certified casinos, whether online or offline. While gambling is a business and its goal for the operator is to make money, the best operators always take care of their customers and take measures to prevent problem and addictive gambling. 
  • make entertainment, not winning cash, your main goal. Use punting to unload your brain from the impressions of a difficult day at work, not as a method to get cash. 
  • only make bets with the sums you are ready to lose. Not that casinos are only about losing; they are not, but let’s be honest - losing is inevitable. Even professional card players lose from time to time, regardless of their skills. So, make yourself a separate wallet or card with funds you can afford to lose betting, and when these funds are over, stop playing. 
  • keep track of your time, and don’t waste too much time on playing. At land based venues, they often do everything to make the players lose the sense of time - there are no windows, and no clock on the wall, and the celebration seems to never end. When you play in the web, it is easier to track the time spent. For convenience, you can even set an alarm clock, or ask your family to come and remind that your favourite TV show begins. 
  • avoid playing when you are drunk, high, or depressed. Firstly, both being depressed or being drunk/high means chanced brain chemistry, and triggering your brain even more with gambling can unlock the chemical chain to powerful addiction development. On the other hand, you may develop a simple Pavlovian conditioning that you need to gamble when drunk/high/depressed. 
  • don’t chase wins if you have already won. One win is enough, and even if you believe it is your lucky day, in reality, you can lose all money won if you continue betting. So, drop playing if you lose again and again, and if you win - stop playing as well.

How to Protect Minors

How to Protect Minors

Talking about addictive playing, don’t forget that not only adults are under the risk. If you have minors in the family, protect them from access to games in the following ways: 

  • talk to your kid and warn them about gambling dangers - including the danger of being persecuted for gambling as a minor, and also about the danger of scam and fraud that can happen online or offline. 
  • just to be on the safe side, install parental control software to prevent your kids from reaching out to casino sites. You should also install password onto your device to prevent them playing via your device. 
  • always log out from your casino account. Remove the casino from the tab bookmarks, and remove history of casino visits. Better login into the site every time, and make sure your password is not your kid’s birthday date. 
  • make sure you know exactly where the kid spends their money. It makes sense to order them a plastic card and track the spendings and cash outs on a regular basis. 

While these measures may seem too strict, and parents may think that these measures show no respect to their kid’s personal space, in reality, it depends on the parents’ approach whether the kid will feel their personal space violated or not. In any case, these measures will for sure prevent serious issues for the child.

Are Casino Operators Responsible?

Overall, it is not an operator’s or casino’s fault that somebody cannot stop gambling, because casinos and betting entertainments have existed for ages, but not each and every person who has ever made a bet developed an addiction. Moreover, as any other business, online casinos exist to make money, so the operators try to entice the potential customer, and also their loyal customers, to gamble more. 

As a result, generally, it is the punter’s responsibility to control their behavior and punting habits. However, it is a general practice in the gambling niche that reliable, reputable, and respectable platforms for betting and gaming have to provide means for addictive gambling prevention. 

The measures and options can differ, but the most popular means include: 

  1. Responsible Gambling Guidelines, resources, and Help centers contacts provided at the website 
  2. the customer should be able to set financial limits on their depositing, bet size, or spending (losses). The casino may provide technology that enables the player to set these limits, in case the player is unable to control themselves. However, not every online casino has such feature. 
  3. the feature that each and every online casino must have is the ability of the player to seek self-exclusion from gambling via being blocked at the site - for some time, or forever. The customer should be able to contact the Customer Support, or to use a simple-to-use page at the site, to request suspending or blocking their account, and choose timeframe for that. The casino, in its turn, must not send the self-excluded customer any bonuses, promotional emails, or exclusive deals. 

When you choose a web casino for punting, pay attention to those features and options. Contact the Customer Support for more information if you lack it. Even if you are not a compulsive gambler, checking this aspect is a good way to check the reliability of the site and operator altogether. 

How to Practice Responsible Gambling at Casino

How to Practice Responsible Gambling

Depending on the tools provided by each particular platform, you will have a set of options for limiting your gambling, and setting the boundaries to spending or losses. The most popular things many customers do include: 

  • unsubscribe from the casino’s marketing emails, and avoid exclusive promotion deals where possible. Keep in mind that, in reality, the less bonuses and promotions you use, the more chances you have to actually win real money - because dealing with the bonuses’ terms and conditions demands way more gambling activity than when you bet only on your own funds. 
  • set deposit limits, bets limits, and / or losses limits. Different sites may have different tools - if any at all for managing your spending. Remember to bet only with the money you can afford to lose, and keep the activity fun and exciting instead of the one piling on your hopelessness. In case the site provides no tools for financial management, do that yourself. Put money on a separate bank account or ewallet, and when this money is gone, don’t play. 
  • request being blocked at the casino - temporarily or permanently. Contact the Customer Support, and they have to do that immediately without questioning, barely after confirming your identity and that you are the account owner. 
  • set a time limit at the casino, if such tool is available. Time limit cuts your connection from the platform as soon as the time is up, and you will regain access to the site after some time passes. Of course nothing holds you back from maristering an account in a different casino and start playing again. 
  • if you still cannot stop punting, you can actually use software like parent control, to block your access to online casinos and betting platforms when you reach them.

How to Get Help with Problem Gambling

First and foremost, go through a reality check and analyze whether your punting habits have already shifted your priorities, or have already influenced some aspects of your life negatively. If yes, your next three steps are among the most complicated ones: 

  1. recognize that you do have a problem 
  2. talk to your family or close friend, someone who you can trust. 
  3. start taking action. 

Recognition of the problem is part of the solution, but merely admitting you have issues, and then doing nothing, is not solution. So, your next step is to take action: 

  • analyze your thinking patterns. What beliefs support your gambling habits? Do you believe you can earn regular income via gambling? Do you believe you can hack the system? Do you believe you can afford it? 
  • analyze your situation and reveal what is your most powerful trigger to gambling. Is it being sad, annoyed, or bored? Is it being drunk? Is it feeling lonely? Is it feeling hopeless and unsafe about your future? Your addiction is a problem in itself, but it often stems from other, disconnected, issues. 
  • search for self-help approach. Ask your friend to be your emergency contact you would call if you feel like punting. Search for healthy and satisfying socialization. Go in for sports or hobbies. Distract yourself with activities not less pleasant. 
  • seek group support. Besides talking about your problems and getting some psychotherapy, you will get support from peers and like-minded people. Not being alone, not feeling the only loser on earth, and being part of the supportive group is a powerful therapy. 
  • look for individual therapy and counselling. Psychotherapy, especially one-on-one, is more effective than group therapy. Moreover, the therapist or counsellor will help you reveal the accompanying issues and problems that lead to gambling addiction. Besides biological predisposition, addictions, phobias, and mental health issues often go hand in hand. By addressing your compulsive punting, you will be able to attack the underlying problems. 
  • seek medical treatment if necessary. There is no specific treatment to manage gambling addiction in particular, however, when unhealthy and addictive behaviors are caused by depression, anxiety, and other brain chemistry imbalances, medical treatment is extremely effective. Sometimes, your depressive condition can be literally caused by lack of vitamin D.

How to Help Someone with Gambling Addiction

While gambling addiction has a powerful negative effect on the life of the punter, and their family’s life, it can be very difficult to recognize specifically compulsive gambling behavior, and not cheating, for example. If you believe your loved one has issues with gambling, consider these points for reality check: 

  • they clearly lie about their punting habits and spendings 
  • playing games became a priority, relationships with you or others are a priority no more 
  • they start having financial issues - you can’t understand where the money goes, they borrow money or reveal unclear sources of income 
  • they spend more and more time on playing, sometimes staying up all night 
  • they start suggesting that maybe “they should play less” 
  • issues with job or other activities start to arise 
  • the person becomes irritated, anxious, or restless if their daily routines are interrupted, and they cannot spend as much time gambling as they like 

In case you suggest your loved one demonstrates some of these behaviors, take it serious and offer help. However, avoid one of the main mistakes that 99 percent of relatives do - avoid being judgemental and accusing. We understand your feelings about that, especially if your life is being ruined with someone else’s playing habits. However, the main task during your first steps is not to scare the person off. 

To avoid being judgemental, educate yourself on the problem, causes, and approaches. Moreover, you can take it a bit further and reflect upon potential circumstances that could lead to addiction. Maybe you remember when or how it all started, or recall a specific benchmark in life when gambling appeared. 

There is no guarantee that when you offer support to compulsive gambler, you will be able to persuade them to seek treatment, let alone get treatment and manage the problem. At least, don’t expect immediate reaction to your approaches. Unless the punter is your child, you have no power to convince an adult person to accomplish what they don’t want. 

One of the most popular strategies is family / friends intervention. The family and friends have to express their concern about one’s playing habits. However, this should not be done in a judgemental way. Moreover, before organizing an intervention, relatives should seek advice and counselling from an expert. This will enable them to build their strategy in a way that increases their chances to get into ear. 

Again, don’t expect immediate reaction. The first step is to make the person aware that their playing habits become unhealthy, and sometimes, this makes the person actually aware about that for the first time. As we have already mentioned, many binge or compulsive gamblers are very good at rationalizing their behavior. 

After the punter is aware of the situation and concern, offer your support, and let them assess the options. Ideally, the person should ask for further assistance and support on their own, but in most cases, you are the one who seeks therapy groups, therapists, etc., and then offers options to the punter. Please keep in mind that pushing the person to action is unlikely to have effect. The same is about financial help or help with their work/job - if you solve their problems without their effort, this will only support their belief that their playing habits don’t have consequences which are that negative for them.

Gambling Addiction Resources for Canada

Gambling Addiction Resources for Canada

In case you or your loved ones need counseling and assistance, please check out the following resources available in Canada: 

Global Gambling Addiction Resources

Global Gambling Addiction Resources

Global resources on education and assistance with compulsive gambling include: 

Gambling is fun and should be pursued as fun. With these resources, playing games and making bets can be pursued without harming one’s health and life.

Frequently Asked Questions

If I can afford my spendings on gambling, can I face negative issues?

Uncontrolled punting causes not only financial issues, but may ruin your relationships, or your health. So do not consider financial factor as the most crucial one. Losing a family because of gambling addiction is as critical as losing funds.

I play casino games from time to time, but when I do, I can’t stop. Is that addiction?

This looks like binge gambling. You may not feel much interest to playing most of the time, but your episodes of uncontrolled gambling can become more frequent. If they do, you are facing the risk of serious addiction.

Do only weak and irresponsible people develop addiction to gambling?

As we have already discussed, there are many factors that contribute to the development of addiction. If the main cause is a biological predisposition or brain chemistry disorder like depression, the power of will or responsibility has little to do with managing addiction.

Do only adults suffer from gambling addiction?

Children and teenagers are as vulnerable to mental health disorders as adults are. Moreover, with time, and technology development, more and more children and teens actually get exposed to gambling activities, so the risks increase.

Can I help an addicted loved one by paying their debts or providing for them if they lost a job?

This is one of the worst way to manage the situation. If the compulsive punter feels his problems are managed by someone else, they are not likely to change their unhealthy behavior. If you are not sure what steps to take, get a counselling with therapist.