As enjoyable as the world of gambling can be, it’s important to remember that it can be just as dangerous. Problem gambling affects millions of people worldwide. It’s important to stay in control of the money and time you spend gambling. Let’s take a look at how you can maintain a safe relationship with gambling, identify signs of problem gambling and what you can do if you’re concerned about your gambling habits. 

What is Problem Gambling?

Gambling becomes a problem when it has negative consequences on your day to day life. When someone has the desire to stop but is unable to do so, this suggests that gambling has gone beyond the fun and enjoyable activity that it is supposed to be.

Problem gambling can harm your finances. Being unable to stop at the detriment of paying for weekly essentials or important bills means that your gambling is no longer a fun pastime.

There is no set amount that you can gamble for it to be classed as a problem. The amount can vary from person to person and is down to their personal circumstances. For some, this could be hundreds of Euros a week. For others, gambling just a few Euro a week could have negative consequences. It is important to know your budget and what you can comfortably afford to lose.

Beyond the financial consequences, gambling is also a problem when it begins to affect your loved ones. If they have raised issues with your gambling habits, or if you feel the need to keep your habits a secret from them, then this suggests that your gambling may be an issue for you.

Gambling is problematic when it begins to harm mental health. If it is causing stress, depression, or anxiety, then this suggests that it may be time to stop.

The important question to ask yourself about gambling is, ” Is this still fun?”. If the answer is no, then this is the time when you should consider taking a break.

Signs of Problem Gambling

Betting more than you can afford to lose

Does the money that you spend gambling cause you to miss important bills or payments? If so, it is likely that you are gambling beyond your limits. The amount that you bet should never exceed the amount that you are prepared to lose.

Being dishonest about your gambling behaviours

Do you have a problem admitting to friends and family the truth about how much you spent gambling or how long you have been gambling recently? This is a telltale sign that you are engaging in a habit that is ultimately are trying to cover up a habit that deep down you know is it unhealthy.

Impact on other areas of your life

If your gambling behaviour starts to negatively impact your relationships or your work life, and even your friendships, this is a sign that something needs to change. Gambling should never take priority over your personal and professional life. 

Relying on gambling proceeds as a form of income

Sure, you can get lucky and win a nice sum of money at an online casino. But, as is the nature of games of chance, you can just as easily lose money. While there may be tipsters, casino experts and strategists who claim to have all the secrets to winning at casinos, there is no such thing as a sure bet or guaranteed profit. Income from gambling is largely based on luck, and it should never be seen as a sustainable source of income. 

What Can I Do to Stay in Control?

If you stick to playing with licensed gambling sites, there are measures in place to keep you safe from the perils of problem gambling. We highly recommend implementing these before you play, even if you haven’t experienced any issues surrounding your gambling habits.

Set deposit and loss limits

You should never gamble more than you can afford, or want to lose. To remain in full control of this, you should set yourself a budget before you start playing, and stick to it. You can set a deposit limit. Once set, it’s impossible to exceed this figure with a certain time frame. Loss limits work in a similar manner, but instead, limits your gambling activity once you have lost a certain amount of real money. 

Apply time restrictions

Of course, it’s important to stay in control of your spending, but it’s important to monitor how gambling affects your life other than financially. It can be a huge help to apply time restrictions to your gambling sessions, as this can also help you to closely monitor the amount of time that you commit to this habit.

Do not combine gambling with alcohol

Alcohol, much like gambling, can be enjoyed in moderation, but when the two are combined it very rarely ends well. Alcohol can impair your judgment when trying to make logical choices, and it can also overinflate your confidence. This can lead to betting more than you normally would do, as well as making speculative bets that will only result in further losses of money.

What if I Have a Gambling Problem?

If you recognise any of the keys signs in your own behaviour, then it may be that your gambling has become a problem. If that is the case, there are steps that you can take in an attempt to control this. Although not a regulatory requirement in Ireland, responsible gaming operators will provide assistance in the form of:

  • Allowing product blocking
  • Enabling reality checks
  • Offering time-out
  • Self-exclusion
  • Deposit limits
  • Loss limits

Product blocking

This allows you, following a request, to block access to certain products on a gambling site. If you are experiencing issues with certain games, then you can ensure that you are unable to access them.

Reality checks

Responsible gambling sites allow you to set yourself a reality check. This allows you to set a time, in minutes, that you are willing to spend at a screen in a single session.

Time out

This is where you recognise that it may be beneficial to take a break from gambling. Responsible operators will allow you to specify a time that you want to take a break for. During this time, you will not be able to access your account.

Self-exclusion

This can be seen as a longer-term option to time out. With self-exclusion, you are usually taking a break for a minimum of 6 months. This is something that you need to request via the operator. Once granted, your access to your account will be blocked for the agreed time limit.

Deposit limits

Responsible operators will also allow the opportunity for you to set a deposit limit. This means that you can only deposit a set amount of funds within a set timeframe. This amount and time are determined by you so, make sure that the amounts are within your budget.

Loss limits

Some gambling sites will also allow you to set loss limits. This allows you to set an amount that you can afford to lose over a certain time span. If you reach your maximum amount of losses, you will not be able to place any more bets until the time period has elapsed.

What Support is Available?

Should you feel that your gambling is out of control and becoming a problem, there are numerous organisations that you can contact for help and support. These include:

Gamblers Anonymous Ireland

Gamblers Anonymous Ireland is a support group for those facing gambling problems. Their website contains advice for gamblers, as well as information to support families. A core part of what is offered involves regular meetings.

Helplink

Helplink operates a free gambling problem counselling service. They provide support both online and via telephone. All counsellors are fully trained and accredited to deal with addictive behaviour, including gambling.

Gambling Therapy

Gambling Therapy is an online service offering free support to those affected by gambling. They offer online support groups, support forums, and email support. Although based in England, support is also offered to residents of Ireland.

Knowing When to Stop

It is important to recognise any change in your behaviour and to monitor for the key signs that gambling may be becoming a problem. Often, if you do not recognise these signs yourself, it will be a loved one that points them out.

Having the courage to hear what is being said and to take active steps to control any gambling problems can prevent issues escalating beyond control. Where you need additional support, it is vital to reach out to the organisations listed above.

Remember that gambling is supposed to be fun. If you reach the stage where this is no longer the case, it is probably the time to stop.