Gambling is a well-liked and common pastime for a large number of Americans. In fact, the National Gambling Statistics show that 85% of Americans have gambled in some way during their adult life.
Spinning slot machines, playing a game of poker, or placing a bet on your favorite football team may all seem like quite standard, harmless activities to most players who partake in gambling. And in reality, they are – to most players. However, all those things can become problematic and downright dangerous to an individual when warped by a gambling addiction.
The National Center for Responsible Gambling (NCRG) reports that an estimate of about 1% of the adult population in the United States has a severe gambling problem. While that may seem like a small number when we consider the sizable population of the US we see that it amounts to millions of people struggling with severe addiction.
Furthermore, the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) suggests that apart from the 1% that has a diagnosable addiction issue, an estimate of 2-4 million people wrestle with gambling problems, even if not extreme enough for a diagnosis. If we account for an individual’s family and friends who are also affected by the gambling problem, the number of lives negatively impacted continues to grow even further.
To prevent yourself or anyone you know from losing themselves to a gambling issue, you should stay keenly aware of responsible gambling.
Keep reading to find out what this entails, how and where to look for help if you suspect yourself or someone you know is struggling, and which resources to access.
What Is Responsible Gambling
The majority of those who engage in gambling manage to do so in a healthy manner and will never suffer any addiction issues. However, it is impossible to know if this will be you in foresight, therefore taking precautions is a good thing to do – this is one thing you do not want to gamble on!
Ideally, every patron would stay informed on how to practice responsible gambling and how to make sure they are taking part in activities in an appropriate manner.
But what exactly is responsible gambling?
Simply put, it’s a set of behaviors and rules that patrons and service providers are to go by to keep gambling from having negative effects on people’s lives.
Also, responsible gambling is all about fun. Thus, it keeps gambling fun and an entertainment-only activity. To gamble responsibly is to do so for one’s own enjoyment and nothing else. It’s to see the money spent as the fee for the entertainment provided, and it’s to play with no expectations of a win that can be shattered. Remember that the house always has a slight edge and will likely come out on top most of the time!
How To Gamble Responsibly
We mentioned rules and you may be wondering what they are. Well, there isn’t exactly a booklet you can read. Responsible gambling habits are mostly self-imposed sets of rules that are meant to keep you from becoming engulfed by addiction, and also help you see problematic behaviors as they arise. Besides, here at GambleUSA, we have a responsible gambling policy and you can always contact us if you think you struggle with gambling addiction.
There are a few things to consider when attempting to gamble responsibly:
Keep it fun
Make sure gaming and wagering money remain purely for recreational and entertainment purposes.
While negative emotions such as stress, anxiety, or frustration may arise when playing any game, these must remain occasional occurrences for a player. The game should always be overall fun and enjoyable, and you should stay in control of your emotions and impulses.
If you no longer play for the sake of having a good time and have stopped having a positive experience altogether, you should simply end the game.
Gambling is an activity we engage in during our free time precisely because we find it so much fun. And time flies when you’re having fun!
This isn’t exclusive to gambling and applies to all your engagements: manage your time and money well! It’s part of being a responsible adult.
Staying in the realm of responsible gaming may sometimes involve allotting yourself only a certain number of hours in which to play. A responsible gambler will be able to log off when the time limit they’ve set runs out.
Do not overspend
We mentioned monitoring the time you spend playing, but the same goes for money. You should always be aware of how much you are spending, and how much you can afford to spend.
Despite all the advertised opportunities for people to win big and cash out large amounts of money, players should stay cognizant of the fact that casinos are businesses and need to make money themselves. Therefore the house will undoubtedly have the edge the majority of the time you spend playing.
Money used for gambling is for the entertainment the casino offers you. Gambling can earn you some money at times, but it is not a way to make an income, and should never be treated as such.
A patron should only be using the disposable funds he or she has decided to spend on amusement, and never go into finances that are meant for a different purpose, such as covering living expenses. When gambling responsibly, patrons should never even come close to falling into debt to support their gambling habits.
Stick to your rules
Knowing how to game responsibly is one thing, following through with it is another. You should be able to stick to your own self-imposed rules and deadlines. If you find it difficult to quit when you said you would, or you keep coming back after vowing not to, you may be developing a problem.
Sometimes casinos will help you regulate yourself by allowing you to set deposit limits, or disabling your own account for a short period.
Stick to the rules in general
Apart from respecting your own rules and regulations, stay aware and respectful of those set by the state and those by the gambling provider.
The United States of America has a federal system of governance, and because there is no federal law to ban gambling, states decide upon their own set of rules regarding the subject. Stay informed of your state’s gambling laws and regulations, how they change, and how they concern you specifically.
One thing to look out for is the age requirement to gamble legally. Neither GambleUSA nor any casinos support or encourage underage gambling in any way, shape, or form. Players should not try to circumvent this rule and fool the system. Only gamble if you are of legal age.
Gambling while underage is not only illegal but dangerous as younger people are more susceptible to falling into problematic gambling habits.
If you are sharing a computer with children or someone who should not be gambling, make sure they cannot access or use your accounts, or the sites in general.
Do not use gambling to cope
Gambling is not an escapism tool. It should not serve as a distraction or coping mechanism for any negative feelings such as grief or stress.
It also has no place replacing personal relationships or other addictions one may have. If you suspect yourself of being an addict or have had addiction issues in the past you should seek help and never engage in activities that will further feed into your problem. Gambling addiction is more likely if one has had other addiction issues in the past.
What Is Problem Gambling
Problem gambling is a broad term that encompasses many different patterns of harmful gambling behavior. These patterns always have a negative effect on someone’s life and tend to disrupt or damage personal or familial relationships and vocational pursuits.
Meanwhile, we need to also consider the term “pathological gambling”.
Pathological gambling is a mental health disorder of impulse control as defined by the American Psychiatric Association.
These two terms are related, but not to be confused. You can think of the relationship between them as such: pathological gambling is the illness, while problem gambling represents the symptoms and can indicate the presence of that illness.
Gambling As An Addiction
Gambling addiction is diagnosed using criteria similar to alcohol and drug dependence. A pathological gambler will increase his or her tolerance by increasing the amount gambled and experience an inability to quit. However, some criteria such as chasing losses will be unique to gambling.
Those who suffer from gambling addiction are often found to have the same risk factors that predispose an individual to other addictive behaviors. These factors include previous psychiatric problems, a tumultuous and difficult home life, and lack of community support.
Not only are those likely to fall into substance abuse also likely to fall into a gambling addiction, but many times people will turn from these previous addictions to gambling as an alternative. Unfortunately, this alternative can be just as unhealthy and life-ruining.
Gambling addicts have high rates of suicide ideation and attempts. It is crucial to take threats of suicide seriously. If you’ve ever had thoughts about taking your life, strongly advise you to confide in someone close to you with these thoughts and seek further help.
Gambling addictions are treatable and help is available but one must seek out and accept that help willingly. A key factor to any recovery is admitting the problem.
Problem gambling and irresponsible gambling habits are a result of pathological gambling. It has nothing to do with a person’s moral worth or conviction, and it is not simply a lack of self-control or discipline. Anyone can fall victim to problem gambling regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, or social class, and it is important to offer all these individuals the support they need.
Problem gambling is essentially defined by its negative effects on a person’s life. These effects can vary and may include:
When dealing with a gambling addiction, you will likely spend a lot of money always looking for that next win. Now, not only do the casinos have a built-in edge and will win most times as we’ve already mentioned, but even if a win is eventually achieved, and even in the event it covers all previous losses, someone with a gambling issue will continue to play waiting now on the next win.
Gambling addiction will most often conjure up a picture of a person losing all their money and assets, going bankrupt, or piling massive amounts of debt onto themselves. This isn’t without reason. Problem gambling will almost certainly cause heavy financial losses, and maybe even ruin. Therefore it is crucial to know when to spot a problem and stop.
A clear financial problem is the inability to cover your bills, loans, and credit card debt.
We don’t talk about the tremendous psychological strain caused by problem gambling nearly as often as we should.
An addiction is a psychological issue in and of itself but it can also create new mental health issues, such as depression, increase your anxiety and stress levels, or worsen any previous conditions you may suffer from. Problem players will experience massive frustrations when losing and may even go into fits of rage, causing damage to themselves and their surroundings.
Suicide is also an issue hugely prevalent among gambling addicts, more than with other addictive disorders.
An addiction can take up a lot of your time and take over your mind. After some time all you can think about is gambling and you lose focus on other things such as your relationships with others.
Gambling addicts may therefore tend to lose touch with their friends and become isolated. This withdrawal from the world outside their gambling habits only worsens the state of an addict.
To recover, gambling addicts should be offered a strong support system. If you suspect a friend or acquaintance is having issues, reach out to them.
The increased psychological issues and negative emotions a gambling addiction causes will lead a person to major issues in their familial life and destroy even family relations. An addict is more prone to be neglectful or abusive as a result of his or her addiction.
They may also cause financial issues in the household, which leads to fights and more strenuous relationships.
An addiction can take up time and certainly takes up a lot of energy, especially with the affected person’s mental health worsening. This can cause a severe decline in work performance and can lead to a person losing their job, or having to drop out of school.
When playing without the goal of enjoyment, but rather win chasing, a person will experience high levels of stress, anxiety, and frustration. Apart from affecting their mental state, the result of this is altered and ultimately harms the physical state.
Stress and anxiety may lead to cardiovascular issues, while the gastro-intestinal issues they cause are sure to plague the life of an addict.
How To Identify Problem Gambling
What makes matters more difficult in cases of gambling addiction is that the issue isn’t obvious, even to the person developing it. You may not realize what’s happening until an addiction has completely taken over your life. And from an outsider’s perspective, addiction is practically invisible. You cannot see a disease of the mind, and addicts tend to lie about their habits.
Being aware of what responsible gambling entails is key to noticing habits in ourselves that may indicate a problem forming.
The staff at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago developed the NORC Diagnostic Screen for Gambling Problems-Self-Administered (NODS-SA). It is a modification on the NODS which is a diagnostic instrument tested and shown to be reliable for general public use. The NODS-SA has not been validated, however, can be a useful tool in determining whether one should look for further help and resources. You can take the NODS-SA on the NCPG’s screening tools page.
Gamblers Anonymous offers a different quiz you can take to check on your gambling habits.
Ultimately the most important question to ask in determining whether to seek help is “Can I quit at any time?”
Recognizing an addiction issue takes a lot of honesty, so you need to truthfully answer. Also, consider if you have tried to quit already yet still come back?
Bottom line, if you have any doubts that you are not engaging in responsible gambling, you should check out the questions. These aren’t meant to give you a diagnosis, simply indicate if you should seek further help. Only a licensed professional may give you a diagnosis.
To get a diagnosis you would have to visit a professional, however, they are ways to self-assess if you need help regarding your gambling habits.
Self-exclusion and How It Works
Self-exclusion programs can be found in any state where gambling of any kind is allowed. Self-exclusion not only requires personal responsibility on part of the addict but also state enforcement.
We mentioned following self-imposed rules as key to responsible gambling. This won’t always be possible, however. People suffering from addiction issues will struggle to stay away on their own accord.
Therefore, when people want to go into recovery and address their issues they can place themselves on a self-exclusion list. This way they make the no gambling rule go from self-imposed to state-enforced.
People on a self-exclusion list are not permitted to enter any gambling facility under the jurisdiction of that list. Doing so is considered a crime and may land the perpetrator a hefty fine or even jail time.
Not only is the person on the list held responsible, but any casino or sportsbook that does not bar self-excluded people may be subjected to fines and sanctions.
When it comes to online gambling, the sites simply need to ban the self-excluded person’s accounts, and also watch out for new accounts they may create. It is a lot simpler than the physical casino’s job.
Self-exclusion lists operate differently depending on the state. One usually has to be excluded for at least a year before attempting to be reinstated. Sometimes, it is impossible to be reinstated.
Only the person who goes on the list may place themselves there. As with all recovery processes, it has to be voluntary. Once someone has placed themselves on the list it is irreversible.
Casino’s Role in Responsible Gambling
Aside from enforcing self-exclusion, the casinos you’ll find on our site are bound to inform players on responsible gambling and have a plan they abide by. At the end of the day, they are not out to cause financial and psychological ruin in people’s lives.
Casinos have a number of methods to inform and enforce responsible gambling. They may put up signs throughout the casino, educating players on the subject. The casino staff is trained to recognize the signs of problem gambling and may deter inebriated customers from playing.
Oftentimes, online casinos will set betting and deposit limits.
Some states may also tax gambling providers or require their financial contributions to problem gambling treatment programs.
Seeking Out Help
An addict must always want to seek out help. As difficult as it is, you cannot force anyone into recovery, unless it is yourself. However, if you know someone struggling with gambling addiction you can offer a strong support system and resources for them to use.
If you are struggling, or fear you are struggling with addiction, remember that there are always places to reach out to for help.
The National Problem Gambling Helpline – 1-800-522-4700
The network has 28 call centers and offers referrals and resources for all 50 states. It also includes text and chat services.
With this, online gamblers can access help from the same devices they would access a casino or sportsbook. The helpline is fully confidential and available 24/7.
A strong support system is always needed. Whether you’re looking for a sense of community, or to hear stories of recovery, or maybe even to interact with others affected by and looking to overcome problem gambling, check out Gamblers Anonymous, Gam-Anon and GamTalk.