Compulsive gaming is when a person risks something in a hope to get something bigger in return. Gambling addiction is the urge to continue betting no matter what impact the losses have on one’s life. In 2012 the American Psychiatric Association has officially recognized this addiction similar to drug consumption and alcoholism.
Responsible gambling is a set of initiatives and rules, which ensure fairness of operations and raise awareness on the harms that the addiction may bring. In today’s article, we would like to raise awareness on the issues of betting addiction and to help people overcome the problem or help their beloved ones. We will discuss the causes of gambling craving, its signs and symptoms, tips and advice on how to prevent this addiction, and what organizations may help.
What are gambling addiction causes?
We still don’t know the exact cause of gambling addiction because in most cases it is a mixture of several of them. However, there are irrefutable links between mental health, social life, and background. The three main reasons for gambling addiction development include:
One of the main causes of compulsive gambling is of biological nature because some of the aspects are similar to the ones that cause other types of addictions. Brain imaging witnesses that gambling win produces a response that is similar to the one of cocaine or an alcohol addict.
Serotonin and norepinephrine deficiencies, chemicals that are responsible for stress, wellbeing, and happiness, are also related to compulsive actions. Dopamine agonists, medications that are used in treating Parkinson’s disease, may also cause compulsive behaviour, including a gambling addiction.
Players, who suffer from anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder are also more keen on betting. Several studies made by scientists from The University of Utah have shown that some people can be genetically predisposed to addiction disorders. This means that they are at a constant risk even not knowing about it.
Free Access To The Games
It is rather easy to find a gambling site nearby or to play a few games online. There is no need to go to an offline casino to make a few bets: everything is available within a few clicks. It’s also rather simple to pass by restrictions and even children can play in an online casino when being a bit inventive. All they need is to use parents’ IDs and credit cards to indicate valid information about personality and payment options. However, the latest restrictions make the process a bit harder because face recognition technologies can detect a child and ban access to the website.
Availability and accessibility of these games make it rather difficult to control the gambling market and to prevent potential addicts from playing.
Another factor that may influence the development of gambling addiction is the personality one. Even though it may refer to indirect causes of compulsive betting, it still plays an important role in the process.
The personality factor includes treats of the character like being impulsive, easily bored or restless. Even superstitions may influence the choices a player makes in an online casino. Being a workaholic can also contribute to the development of gambling addiction. These people are trying to find a way to ease the stress of daily lives and to escape reality. Statistics show that if a person is stable, calm, leads an active lifestyle, and has hobbies, it is rather unlikely that he’ll develop an addiction.
The last but not the least factor is a social one. Latest researches show that people, who have problems in personal life or at home are more likely to develop a gambling addiction compared to those who are satisfied with their life.
Relationships play a crucial role in acquiring wrong gambling habits: if your relatives or friends have problems with betting the chances that you will also have them are rather high. That is why you need to choose the surrounding wisely and to make your own choices.
Those who have low income are also at risk – poverty makes people believe that they can win big money without spending too much and not putting any efforts. However, this almost always ends up in losing everything and feeling stressed and even depressed.
Signs And Symptoms Of Gambling Addiction
There are many signs of addiction. Some of them are easy to notice, while others require attention and watchfulness. Here are the most common symptoms that you should keep an eye on:
Even when you’re losing while you’re gambling, your body is still producing adrenalin and endorphins.
- Neglecting other life aspects;
- Keeping this activity in secret;
- Making money only via gambling;
- Borrowing money to spin the wheel;
- Thinking that ‘gambling is the only pleasure in life’;
- Occupying mind only with online casino games;
- Being able to steal something to get money for gambling;
- Needing to play a game just to feel the thrill;
- Failed attempts to control or stop playing;
- Feeling irritated or even aggressive when it is impossible to gamble;
- Losing opportunities or relationships because of gambling;
- ‘Chasing losses’, i.e. trying to get back the money you have lost.
If you feel that you or the person you love has several symptoms and signs from the list above, we recommend taking our gambling-addiction quiz to detect gambling addiction:
Gambling Addiction Phases
There are three different phases of gambling addiction, each of which requires different approaches and treatments. They include:
1. The Winning Phase
Usually, gambling addiction starts with winning big, which increases the bets and frequency of the game. With a more optimistic and blurred picture of the future, gamblers start fantasizing about future winnings. However, some players never experience this stage and skip to the losing phase at once.
2. The losing phase
On this stage gambler sees that big wins don’t happen and needs to face reality. However, thoughts about gambling occupy his mind, and personality changes take place. Such people borrow money, lie, and try to fence themselves. As a result, relationships with colleagues, friends, and family deteriorate.
3. The desperation phase
The gambler is not able to pay debts and is looking for loans. At this stage, the person is sure that the big win is just around the corner and will solve his problems at once. The signs of anger, depression, and irritation are becoming more evident. There may be thoughts about suicide.
According to the John M. Grohol’s research there is also the fourth – the hopeless phase. At this point, the consequences are almost always irreversible and lead to divorce, arrests, alcohol and drug addiction, depression, and even suicide. The gambler knows that it is impossible to catch up but he doesn’t care. Around 20% of gamblers attempt suicide in the hopeless phase .
Tips On How To Gamble Online Safely
There is nothing wrong with spending a couple of minutes a day on spinning the wheel of fortune or playing poker with friends. But when you feel that gambling is occupying more of your time and you can’t stop thinking about it, it’s better turning to the following tips, which will make your gambling experience safe and positive:
- Gambling for fun. It should bring joy, relaxation, and excitement. Avoid negative feelings and anxiety. Stop playing once you notice that the game is no longer relaxed and entertaining.
- Bet the sums that you are not afraid to lose. Control your budget and never exceed it. This will prevent you from spending savings, exceeding the deposit limit or even incurring debts. When betting the money you are free to lose, the game won’t be able to control you.
- Never play drunk. You may overestimate your abilities and spend more than intended to. In addition, alcohol makes players more aggressive, they can’t think straight and do not give a report to their actions. This harms not only the player but also those around him.
- Decide in advance how much time you will spend on a game. It is easy to lose the track of time, especially if you have snacks and drinks at arm’s length. But even if you have no plans for the day it’s better playing with breaks and setting the time limits in advance. Even if you are dying to spin the wheel one more time.
- Stay true to yourself. Keep the promises you have made even if you want to continue gambling. Instead, go out and grab a lunch with your friends. Find the things that you like and put them first. There are so many things around that it’s a real crime wasting hours on a casino game.
- Casinos always benefit. Don’t forget that odds are always against players and casinos put their interests first. Thus, it is quite a challenge to leave the site with a win. Always remember this rule when playing.
- Stop playing if you win. Once your bet has played, it’s necessary to quit the game. Thus, you’ll have more money, good mood, and won’t have to suffer from stress and anxiety.
- Never borrow money for the game. It is the first and one of the most important rules of quality gambling. Rely only on the funds you have and can spend without harming other expense items. When a player is ready to borrow or even steal money for the game, it indicates that he’s already in troubles.
In case you want to dive in this theme more deeply, don’t forget to check our article with useful tips for responsible gambling in HEX Blog.
Preventive measures – How to protect yourself
Those who understand that they have a problem and find enough strength and courage to face the addiction can start with applying the following prevention measures:
- Register at GamStop. It is a service, which offers users a chance to exclude from gambling for 6 months, one year or 5 years. Thus, you won’t be able to play in online casinos no matter how hard you try.
- Set time-out in an online casino. After a certain time in a game you won’t be able to continue playing. Such breaks are necessary to return to reality and devote time to the things that matter.
- Set deposit limits. Not to exceed the budget many online platforms offer players to set deposit restrictions. Thus, the gambler won’t be able to spend more than intended to.
- Set limits on losing. Once you lose the indicated sum, the casino won’t allow you playing further. Unfortunately, not all platforms offer such a service.
- Unsubscribe from casino’s newsletters. They always contain news about bonuses, promotions, and other attractive features. Thus, you’ll avoid extra temptation of joining the game.
- Contact the support team and ask to ban your account. This is one of the most effective measures because even if you decide returning to the platform your account will be deleted. A player won’t be able to regain access to the personal page.
- Distract from the urge. Think about the things you enjoy or even make a list of them. Every time you feel like playing in an online casino, call a friend, go out for a walk or read a book.
- Manage finances. Never keep extra amounts of money on bank cards and accounts that are used for casino transactions. Thus, you won’t have additional sources of funds and won’t be able to spend more.
How to cope with gambling addiction
If you find it hard or impossible to control the addiction or want to help a person you love, pay attention to the following ways of overcoming the problem:
Joining a support group
Many gamblers attend self-help groups like Gambler’s Anonymous. It is a 12-step program, which uses many techniques from the Alcoholics Anonymous program. Spouses or relatives of addicts can visit Gam-Anon meetings to learn how to help the people they love.
Turning for professional help
Seeing a therapist is one of the most effective ways of fighting gambling addiction. The standard treatment includes cognitive behavioral therapy when an addict and a therapist work face-to-face to change destructive thoughts and behavior. This therapy helps to build positive skills and to develop cognitive tools to resist the need to gamble. These sessions teach addicts to deal with everyday events and situations, which urge them to return to gambling.
In some cases, addiction can be treated with medication. However, it is often the last resort and should be carried out under a doctor’s supervision.
Applying regulatory mechanisms
If you don’t have an addiction but worry there may be one in the future, it is better to regulate how much money and time you spend online. If you attend offline casinos make sure to bring only cash. And if you feel that you are already a pathological gambler it is better to choose a trusted advisor, who will control your finances.
How to help people with gambling addiction
There are different types of gamblers and often they don’t have many things in common. The two most wide-spread types are action and escape gamblers. Action gambler is a person, who likes games with beating the odds and required certain skills. For example, poker. Action gamblers are confident, extroverted, and often arrogant. Escape gamblers are trying to escape the routine and are mainly introverted and unhappy.
Here are a few signs that will help to detect a gambling addict:
- Absorbed by gambling;
- Takes more and more risks;
- Re-lives previous gambling experiences over and over again;
- Feels guilty after playing;
- Avoids responsibilities, work or family gatherings to gamble.
Identifying the signs and symptoms of problem gamblers is the first and often the most important step to solving the problem. If you realize that the person has a gambling addiction follow the steps below:
- Discuss the problem with a person. The first thing to do to solve the addiction problem is talking about it with a gambler. This may happen right after you notice the first signs of addiction or after the person has gotten into big troubles.
- Explain possible consequences. Stay calm but firm. Explain the consequences that may follow: deterioration of relationships, job loss, depression, bankruptcy. You shouldn’t be angry. Be logical when presenting facts and statistics about the harm that compulsive gambling can make.
- Offer to call a gambling hotline. Suggest the person call a gambling hotline as the first step of fighting addiction. This may help him to admit the problem and understand the consequences that the habit may have. If the person refuses you can be the one to call the hotline and ask for help. Usually, the support team has instructions for friends and relatives of gambling addicts.
- Offer treatment. Try to persuade the person to get treatment. Gambling is an addiction and there are multiple techniques and medications that are working. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to overcome gambling addiction without turning to a therapist or support group.
- Encourage. The process of recovery takes lots of time, nerves, and devotion. It is a difficult road that no one wants to take alone. The gambling addict may feel lost and hopeless. You can help him by encouraging, remaining positive, and focusing on the achievements instead of failures. Try to persuade the person to take one little step at a time.
- Offer to be his designated person. People with different types of addiction greatly benefit from having a designated person that may help during the recovery. Any time the gambler wants to get back to the casino be the person he can turn to any time of the day.
Negative consequences of excessive interest for gambling
It is not a secret that gambling addiction may lead to multiple negative consequences. But we rarely think about them when starting a game. So what consequences this dangerous hobby may have?
Betting on a regular basis may lead a person to serious financial problems. In most cases, a compulsive gambler can get into debts and end up being poor or even going bankrupt. Gamblers lose their savings, cars, and even homes. Financial problems often result in legal issues because some addicts have to steal to finance the addiction.
The negative effect, which gambling has on a person is rather difficult to notice and recognize. Actions, which an addict makes as a result of his hobby usually cause problems in behaviour. The addiction often leads to uncontrolled anger, depression, and even suicide. That’s why it’s really important to detect gambling addiction in the early stages.
Gambling addiction has a direct impact on the people who surround the addict. According to the research made by Dr. Mark Griffiths, a professor of gambling studies in the psychology division of Nottingham Trent University, families of an addict are more likely to face domestic violence or child abuse. Even those children who didn’t suffer from problem gambling directly may experience depression and behavioural problems in the future.
In addition, gambling addiction influences relationships with friends and colleagues because most of the time addicts are stressed, annoyed or depressed. This results in the absence of positive communication, misunderstanding or even open aggression.
Responsibility of gaming companies
It is as clear as day that casinos and betting platforms place profits first. And considering how difficult it is to control the online market we should keep an eye on the problem and make sure that companies are able to bear responsibility for their actions.
Online casinos shouldn’t make money on players, who suffer from gambling addiction. Here are only several unwritten laws that must be respected and followed:
- All players should have a chance to leave the casino without any obstacles;
- Players should be able to set limits on the maximum bet, time, and money they spend in the online casino;
- Gambling platforms should offer fair online tests for detecting gambling addiction and it should be easily on the casino’s main page;
- The support team of online casino should approach all requests for closing an account seriously and help those who are seeking help.
If both sides of the gambling process (casinos and players) will consider gambling seriously, it will be possible to prevent hundreds of thousands of gamblers from addiction, saving their families as well.
Children are growing up in a completely different world than their parents did. According to the Gambling Commission, only in the UK 450,000 11- to 17-year-olds are gambling over £15 per week. 55,000 of them are problem gamblers and 70,000 – are at risk.
We are all responsible for preventing children and teenagers from the harm, which gambling causes. Of course, gambling operators should be the first to blame but social media, sports organizations, media, and broadcasters shouldn’t forget that every day they transmit commercials and ads that lead to gambling and betting.
Parents should discuss gambling risks with their children, teachers must provide their students with more information, and even doctors should ask their patients about gambling habits. We should all have conversations with youngsters before it becomes too late to fix the situation.
How to get help with gaming addiction? Where to go?
If you know a person who has faced gambling addiction or realize that it is you, who has a problem it is better not to waste time and to get familiar with the resources that are available online. Luckily, there are many independent organizations and agencies that can help addicts and their families both online and face-to-face.
They organize personal or group meetings, and even sessions with therapists and doctors. It doesn’t matter whether you need a person to talk to or to start a full treatment program: there will always be someone to help. Here are only a few reputable organizations, which are ready to help:
GamCare is an independent UK-based charity that provides information, support, and advice for any person that is directly or indirectly affected by gambling addiction in England, Scotland, and Wales. GamCare was established in 1997 and apart from direct support it provides materials and training to the gambling industry in order to improve the protection of players and social responsibility of gambling establishments.
Website: https://www.gamcare.org.uk/ How to contact: 0808 8020 133
BeGambleAware is one of the most popular UK charities, which aims to reduce any harm that is related to gambling. It is an international charity, which is funded by donations. The organization supports education and treatment services and aims to broaden people’s understanding of the harm that gambling may bring. Every year BeGambleAware raises more than £8 million in donations from the Great Britain gambling industry. Such a system of donations was proposed by the Gambling Commission in the License Conditions and Codes of Practice.
Website: https://www.begambleaware.org/ How to contact: 0808 8020 133
GA was founded in 1957 has local groups both in the USA and around the globe. There are absolutely no requirements or restrictions. A person should just be genuinely interested to stop gambling. Gamblers Anonymous program consists of 12 steps that help gamblers not only to recover but also to avoid gambling in the future. The organization also offers groups for addict’s families (Gam-Anon) and their children (Gam-A-Teen).
Website: http://www.gamblersanonymous.org/ga/ How to contact: (626) 960 3500
National Council On Problem Gambling consists of 18 specialists in psychology and psychiatry and provides counseling, social, rehabilitative, and legal services to people with gambling addiction. The NCPG also operates the National Problem Gambling Helpline. It is a network, which contains all the necessary resources for those who need help with compulsive gambling. The network has 28 call centers. Support is available around the clock and is confidential.
Website: https://www.ncpg.org.sg/en/Pages/home.aspx How to contact: 1 800 5224 700
Useful Gambling Addiction Resources For New Zealanders
When none of the above methods work and you feel that the situation is out of your control, it is better to reach professional support. Here are the websites for New Zealanders that may be of great help.
Gambling Helpline is a national free-to-phone service for people from Aotearoa, who are affected by gambling. How to contact: 0800 654 655
This agency provides comprehensive information on online gambling and supports those, who are facing addiction from casino games. How to contact: 0800 654 655
PGF is an organization that helps those who suffer from gambling addiction, as well as their friends and relatives. Apart from online help, they have support groups and meetings. How to contact: 0800 664 262
- Asian Family Services (for Asian gamblers)
They provide nationwide, professional, and confidential support to Asians that are living in New Zealand. How to contact: 0 800 862 342
Since 1883 the Salvation Army has helped New Zealanders with social, educational, legal, and other issues. Each year they help over 120,000 families and individuals with food and clothing, consulting, support and comfort. How to contact: +64 4 802 6269
Organizations that will help you with paying the debt
If you have a lot of debt and no one to turn to there is a risk of running into scammers and exacerbating the situation. Here are organizations that may help to pay the debt and won’t cause you even more troubles:
- Debt Advice Foundation. It is a registered education charity and national adviser that offers free and anonymous support to those, who are facing loans. Being a charity organization means that the help they provide is based on the interests of the people.
- Debt Support Trust. It is a non-profit charity organization with experienced and friendly advisors, who help those in need. Their team guides people through the process of becoming free from any debts and loans.
- National Debt Line. For over 25 years they have been providing professional help and support that concerns loans and debits. Their services are free and confidential.
- Step Change is the name of the Foundation for Credit Counseling. It is a charity organization that operates in the UK. This charity offers free help with loans and money management and can be reached through a helpline or via the website.
Remember, you are not alone and there are always people that are ready to give you a helping hand. When playing in online casino or visiting gaming guides like Casino HEX make sure you’re gambling responsibly and controlling your financial and moral condition.