Keeping Your Eye on the Ball: When Does a Hobby Become a Bad Habit?
You know that moment when you’ve got just one bingo ball to-go before hitting a full house, and at the last moment, another roomie swoops in and steals it from right under your nose? In a moment of frustration, you then immediately buy the maximum amount of tickets for the following game, even though you’ve already spent your daily budget, because you’re absolutely sure that the next win’s going to be yours. Now, you wouldn’t say that you’ve got a gambling addiction would you…?
Knowing when you’ve got a problem can be a very grey area. Plus, it’s not just bingo fans who can be affected by this issue; people who buy scratch cards, National Lottery or Euromillions tickets, online casino players, and sports-betting enthusiasts can all fall foul of the desire to take gambling risks, even when they know there are negative side-effects.
Recent studies show that online gambling is one of the fastest growing addictions in the world today, with an estimated 360,000 to 451,000 problem gamblers in the UK. You might be curious to know more about gambling addictions, or even be concerned about a friend or family member that you think might be getting out of control online. If so, there are a number of websites in the UK that can help to dispel the myths, and give you the straight facts, as well as provide advice and support for those who are affected by addiction.
GamCare is a registered charity that provides support, information and advice via their website, telephone and free counselling sessions. They also offer a really useful forum and chat room, where you can talk to other people affected by gambling addiction, and even reformed addicts. They offer a free-phone number where you can talk to a trained advisor between 8am and midnight, seven days a week. You can also find out more about responsible gambling, gambling laws and which land-based and online operators have been awarded GamCare’s own certification, which has strict requirements.
GambleAware aims to educate people and businesses about responsibility in gambling. It’s funded and run by the Responsible Gambling Trust, which is an independent national charity that funds education, research, and treatment. Their website is packed with useful information, from how to recognise a problem, and how to manage your gambling, through to regulation and consumer protection advice. Whilst they don’t personally offer trained advisors that you can talk to, they do list contact details for all the main UK support groups that you can turn to for further help, such as Gamblers Anonymous and the National Problem Gambling Clinic.
The people who addiction affects look just like you and me, so it’s almost impossible to tell who’s a compulsive gambler or not, unless it’s someone you know. There are, however, certain signs that you can keep an eye out for in your own gaming that might give cause for concern such as:
- Feeling the need to be secretive or hiding the fact that you gamble, or lying about the amount you’ve spent;
- Being unable to walk away once you’ve started playing;
- Gambling even when you can’t afford to; plus, borrowing or stealing to fund your habit;
- If friends and family members are concerned, there’s a reason. Listen to them carefully and have a long hard think about how gambling is affecting your life.
Things that you, or the affected person, can do to help themselves include:
- Accepting that losses are an unavoidable part of the gambling process;
- Setting limits on how much you can afford to spend and sticking to them, as well as setting yourself set amounts of time that you’re prepared to spend gambling;
- If you lose, and you’ve spent your allotted budget, walk away and don’t be tempted to carry on, as you’re only likely to lose more;
- Avoid playing online games if you’re under the influence of alcohol, or you’re feeling upset, angry or depressed, as this can seriously affect your sense of judgement.
Playing online games should be fun, not stressful, so stick to these guidelines to enjoy the best possible gaming experience you can have, and if you become concerned about your own, or a loved one’s gambling habit, don’t hesitate to seek help or advice from the support sites mentioned above.