Gambling is supposed to be fun. When someone is gambling responsibly, they will only bet what they can afford to lose, won’t gamble in a way that can cause them or others any harm, and will stop when it is no longer fun. However, gambling can lead to serious problems for certain individuals and their families, and it’s important to recognise signs of this occurring so help can be sought immediately.
What Is Problem Gambling?
Problem gambling can affect anyone. It occurs when gambling stops being a fun, short-term experience that’s taken part in casually from time to time and becomes an unhealthy activity that negatively affects the life of a person and even their family.
It’s important to recognise that a gambling problem can occur no matter what a person is betting on – sports, slots, table games, scratch cards, brick-built casinos, and their online counterparts. No matter the form, problem gambling can affect how much someone spends on bets, their relationships, and even their mental health.
Many people don’t realise that problem gambling can occur before an addiction develops. You don’t have to be gambling all day, every day to have a gambling problem. People can gamble sporadically and still have a problem – if gambling affects your life in any form of negative way, it’s a problem.
What Is Gambling Addiction?
Gambling is classed as an addiction when a person cannot control the urge to gamble regardless of the consequences. A gambling addict will feel the need to gamble whether they’re rich or poor, happy or sad, can afford to lose or not, and even if it is negatively affecting their family and friends.
Gambling addiction is a serious issue on its own but can also coincide with other mental health problems such as stress, depression, anxiety, and so on. Although many gambling addicts feel like there is nothing that they can do to stop gambling, help is available to regain control.
What Are the Signs of Problem Gambling?
There are plenty of signs that point to problem gambling and gambling addiction. It’s important to note that you don’t need to see all these signs to know you’ve got a problem. Any of the following examples may indicate that there is an underlying issue to address:
• Spending more money on gambling than you can afford
• Spending a lot of your time gambling
• Struggling to manage or stop gambling
• Thinking or talking about gambling more than you usually would
• Hiding your gambling activities from friends and family
• Lying about gambling
• Having arguments about money or gambling with people you care about
• Spending less time with your friends and family or losing interest in your usual hobbies
• Gambling until you lose all your money
• Borrowing money, selling your belongings, stealing, or avoiding bill payments to pay for gambling
• Chasing losses
• Gambling to get out of financial issues
• Neglecting your responsibilities
• Feeling the need to gamble with larger amounts of money or for a longer time to get excited
• Feeling depressed, irritable, anxious, worried, or guilty
How to Remain in Control
Of course, gambling should be fun, and there are ways to play that can help to stop it from becoming a problem or an addiction:
• When gambling stops being fun, stop gambling
• View gambling as a short-term form of entertainment and not a way to make money
• Only gamble with an amount that you can afford and are comfortable losing
• Do not borrow money or sell your belongings to fund gambling
• Do not chase losses
• Do not gamble when you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs
• Do not gamble as a distraction to real-life responsibilities and issues
• If you or anyone else notices a potential problem, stop gambling, and seek help
What Support Is Available if I Have a Gambling Problem or Addiction?
If you have a gambling problem or addiction then several organisations in South Africa can provide help and support, including:
• South African Responsible Gambling Federation – Providing free and confidential treatment and counselling to people affected by problem gambling and their family members.
• Recovery Direct – Personalised therapy programmes online and in person.
• National Gambling Board – Offering free problem gambling counselling 24/7 from the National Responsible Gambling Programme.
What to Do if You Have a Gambling Problem
If you have developed a gambling problem or addiction, then it’s important to seek help. Confiding in your friends and family is a good start but the organisations above will provide professional help and support to get you back on track.
However, there are several things that gambling sites themselves can do to help you take control. Not all providers will offer every feature below, but the best sites around are likely to be able to help you if you get in touch with their customer support teams:
This is something you can request via a gambling site’s customer support team or sometimes from the account settings section. When put in place, self-exclusion means that you’re voluntarily taking a long-term break from the site. As such, you will be unable to log in to your account for a predetermined amount of time and will not be able to lift the lock or create a new account.
This is similar to self-exclusion and you will again need to request a time out via the customer support team or account settings section. However, a time out is generally for a shorter length of time than self-exclusion, even though you will not be able to log in to your account for the duration.
These are useful for all players and will provide pop-ups sporadically when you’re playing to tell you how long you have been playing for and how much money you have won or lost.
Deposit limits are often set when an account is created but you can also request them to be changed via customer support or in the account settings section of a site. These limits determine how much money you can deposit into the gambling site within a predetermined amount of time.
Likewise, some gambling sites will allow you to set loss limits on your account. Once you reach this limit, you will not be able to place any more bets for a predetermined amount of time. This kind of restriction helps to prevent people from gambling more than they can afford to lose and loss chasing.
If you are having problems with a certain type of game, some casinos will allow you to block the product entirely. Although you’ll still have access to other areas of the website, you will not be able to load the blocked game.
Knowing When to Stop
Although some of the above steps are useful for all kinds of gamblers, they are unlikely to be truly effective if you have a problem or addiction. With so many betting sites available, blocking one isn’t enough, and it would be almost impossible to block every single one.
As such, it’s important to monitor your gambling behaviour always to make sure that no problems are beginning to manifest. If you do have a problem, then reaching out to professional organisations is the best thing you can do to put an end to it and regain control.