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Playing at an online casino can be lots of fun. You get to try so many unique and engaging games, all from the comfort of your own home. However, as enjoyable as online gambling can be, it's not without risks. Whenever you're putting your own money on the line, there is a chance you could lose it all.
Even worse is if you become addicted to gambling. Because these games are so enticing, it can be hard to stop. Responsible gambling is all about knowing your limits and making sure that you never get too far into your habit.
With that in mind, we want to dive into various aspects of responsible gaming, including how to tell whether you're getting addicted, what you can do to prevent it, and how you can stop before it's too late.
6 Warning Signs That You May Be Addicted to Gambling
The one line that everyone tells themselves is, “I can quit whenever I want!” While that may be true for many people, some individuals struggle with walking away. Here are the top warning signs that gambling may be more than just a fun hobby.
You Borrow Money to Pay Off Debts
The golden rule of gambling is never to spend more than you can afford. If you're going to put $500 or $1,000 on the line, you better be prepared to lose it. Even if you're super confident that you'll win, there is always a chance you could wind up with nothing.
One potential issue with online gambling is that it's so easy to access your bank account. In a brick-and-mortar casino, you have to walk to the ATM or cashier to get more money. When playing online, more funds are just a click away. This convenience works in your favor except when you're getting sucked into the game.
So, if you find yourself borrowing money from friends or family to pay off gambling debts, you likely have a problem. That said, while borrowing cash for gaming can be a warning sign itself, what matters most is what happens afterward.
For example, if you repay your friend right away and avoid making that mistake again, it was a good lesson. However, if you start borrowing more often or from different people to avoid confrontation, you're getting into dangerous territory. If that does happen, you need to stop gaming until you get back on track.
You've Sold or Pawned Items
Although there is nothing wrong with selling your stuff for some extra cash, the problem is when you start doing it to pay for your gambling habit. Realistically, if you have to sell or pawn something to play a game, you shouldn't be playing it. Remember the golden rule? That applies to liquid cash, not fixed assets.
The primary issue with selling items for gambling is that it is inherently unsustainable. Once you sell your TV or watch, you can't get it back. Even if you pawn them and pay the money right away, that habit will catch up to you eventually. When that happens, you can kiss your belongings goodbye.
One significant warning sign is if you sell items that don't belong to you. Once you've crossed this threshold, it's time to stop.
You Spend Most of Your Time Gambling
For many people, online gambling is a fun hobby that they do in their spare time. Perhaps they play on the weekends, or once every few weeks. Even though gambling can be a lot of fun, it can be a risky habit, so it's best to avoid playing too much.
So, if you find yourself gambling multiple times a week, it could indicate that you have a problem. If you start gambling every day, you're getting addicted. One way to determine addiction is when you feel compelled to gamble. Instead of playing for fun or just because you have some time to kill, you feel a strong urge to gamble. When this happens, the joy and pleasure of the game disappear, and you only do it because you “have” to, not because you “want” to.
Your Attempts to Stop Have Failed
We all like to think that we have complete control of our thoughts and actions. If you decide to step away from gambling for a while, you can hopefully go without any problems. However, if you find yourself logging back into your account when you swore you wouldn't, that is a sure sign that addiction is taking over. Again, once your habit becomes a compulsion, it is no longer within your control. The harder you have to fight to stay away, the more addicted you are.
One way to help succeed in your effort is to create some accountability for yourself. Tell your friends or family that you're trying to stop gambling and have them check in on you regularly. In many cases, this oversight can enable you to get back on track. However, if you start hiding your habits and avoiding your loved ones to go gamble, then you have a problem.
Winning Doesn't Give You the Same Thrill
The primary reason why gambling is so fun is the thrill of winning. Whether you hit a big jackpot or you're just on a lucky streak, winning can give you a hefty dose of adrenaline. That excitement can keep you playing, but it can also turn to dismay once your streak runs out.
For many people, the pain of losing is enough to prevent them from spending too much. However, once you become numb to both losing and winning, that's a sign that your habit has become a compulsion. If winning a big hand doesn't excite you anymore, you'll find yourself chasing that thrill, which can lead to even more significant losses.
Your Relationships Have Suffered
When gambling starts to take over your life, it can put a lot of strain on your personal relationships. As we've discussed, compulsive gambling can cause you to ask friends and family for money or make you avoid them as you try to hide your habit. When gambling becomes your primary focus, you tend to put other people off to the side, which can cause conflicts. If you have lost friends, co-workers, relatives, or a significant other because of your gambling, that is a sure sign that you need to make some profound changes.
How to Practice Responsible Gambling
Gambling addiction is a tough challenge to overcome, but it doesn't usually hit all at once. In some cases, you may be able to pull yourself back from the brink by practicing good habits and limiting your temptations. When it comes to responsible gambling, follow these strategies:
One reason why gambling can take over is that it can be hard to control. When you have no structure to your gameplay, it's easy to get carried away with bets and losses. Setting limits can provide clarity and signal when it's time to slow down or stop entirely.
When we talk about limits, there are three options available. Let's break them down:
- Win Limit – When you're on a hot streak, it can be hard to slow down. However, the danger is when your luck turns, and you start losing the money you won. As your funds disappear, you remember how much you used to have, making you want to fight to reclaim that money. Setting win limits can allow you to stay focused and avoid this temptation. For example, if you have a goal of reaching $200, you can stop once you get there. If you happen to win more than that, you can bet with the overage and keep the rest.
- Spend Limit – As we mentioned, you never want to bet more than you can lose. Be sure to have a strict spending limit when gambling. No matter how much you want to regain your losses, never use more money than what you budgeted. It's a slippery slope, so don't put yourself in that position. Even if it works out the first time, it will only tempt you to break the rule next time, when you might not be so lucky.
- Time Limit – An excellent way to ensure that you don't go overboard with gambling is to set a time limit. This way, no matter how much you win or lose, you stop playing once the timer runs out. Since your bankroll can shift quickly, time offers much more structure and discipline.
Use the Buddy System
Accountability can be a powerful tool to mitigate your gambling impulses. When it comes to online gaming, you can have a friend or family member call you at a specific time to remind you to log off. This tactic is highly valuable since it's easy to lose track of time when you're in the middle of a game.
Another rule of gambling is that the longer you play, the more likely you will lose. While you don't have to end your casino session outright, you should plan to take breaks to reset your brain and provide some clarity. Some excellent times to take a break include:
- When You're Losing – The term “full tilt” refers to someone who is gambling recklessly to try and regain their losses. To avoid going full tilt, you want to stop playing for a while and recollect your thoughts.
- After a Winning Streak – If you've been winning for a while, you want to stop playing as soon as the game turns sour. Doing this will ensure that you don't lose too much and will help you avoid the temptation of trying to keep the streak alive.
You can use your buddy to help you take breaks as well. When someone else is keeping watch, it's easier to pull yourself out of the gambling mentality.
When to Seek Help for Gambling Addiction
Ideally, you'll be able to recognize when your behavior gets out of hand and put a stop to it. In some cases, you might have to remove all temptations by avoiding online casinos and gaming of any kind. However, there is no shame in getting help. Addiction is a powerful thing, and it can be tough to overcome on your own. If you don't have a resilient support network, it can be even more challenging to avoid gambling.
As we mentioned, the surest sign that your hobby has turned into addiction is when you feel compelled to do it. Once you stop gambling to have fun and cut loose, it's time to get assistance. Professional help can set you on the right path and ensure that you don't get deeper into the hole.
Resources for Gambling Addiction
Fortunately, there are many organizations and helplines that can provide relief. No matter where you live, there are resources for gambling addiction. Here are some common options you can try:
This organization is international and has representatives in most countries. You can visit Gamblers Anonymous online and find a local chapter. In many cases, talking about your addiction with others who have been in the same position can provide clarity and insight. There are no fees to join, and you can attend meetings as often as you like.
Most countries have a national gambling addiction hotline you can call when you need assistance. These helplines put you in touch with trained therapists that can talk you through your situation and help you get to a better place. For a list of international helpline numbers, click here.
Self Exclusion Program
If you don't trust yourself to gamble responsibly, you can participate in a self-exclusion program. Many casinos, both online and in-person, offer the ability to self-exclude. This process means that you essentially request to be banned from a specific establishment. Typically, you can choose how long to exclude yourself, including permanently. This option is ideal if you're worried about relapsing.