Gambling has been a popular form of entertainment for centuries. Not only can it be fun, but there’s the added bonus of winning some cash if you get lucky. However, for this age-old pastime to remain enjoyable, it’s essential to gamble responsibly. While many players do gamble within their means, a huge number of people do find themselves negatively impacted by gambling. The Gambling Commission estimates around 138,000 have problems with gambling, and these problems can be difficult to overcome.
At TopRatedCasinos.co.uk, we believe it’s best to take an active approach to responsible gambling, which is why we’ve created this guide to help you. We want to help you get the most out of your online gambling experience and help you avoid the potential pitfalls of wagering at gambling sites.
Let’s take a look at how you can stay in control of your relationship with online gambling, spot the signs of unhealthy gambling habits, and what to do if you’re concerned about your gambling.
What Should I Consider Before I Start Gambling?
It’s important to be mindful about your gambling habits from the beginning, as this can help you spot signs of trouble early on. Here are some factors you should think about before you start gambling online.
Choosing licensed operators
Check that an online casino or bookmaker has a valid gambling licence from a governing body, such as the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) before you sign up. The UKGC holds licensees to high standards when it comes to customer protection and fair play protocols, and non-compliant operators risk hefty fines or loss of licence. Licensed casinos and betting sites must meet various responsible gambling requirements, such as provision of on-site limiters to help customers control how much time and money they spend on gambling, plus registration with the GAMSTOP service so those who’ve self-excluded will be barred from accessing the site.
Decide your gambling budget
You should never bet more than you’re prepared to lose, which means it’s vital to set yourself a strict budget before you start gambling online — whether this is weekly, monthly, yearly, or even just for a single session. We recommend all players make use of the account limiters at gambling sites to ensure they don’t overspend. You might also want to consider payment methods like Paysafecard to keep track of your spending.
Understand why you’re gambling
It’s important that you start gambling with the best intentions. Whether you’re playing online casino games, taking a punt on your favourite sports, or betting on esports, you should be doing so for the enjoyment and thrill of the game. Don’t treat gambling as a way to make money — you’re never guaranteed a win, no matter what. We also caution against gambling if you’re feeling stressed, upset, or angry, as this can make it more difficult to gamble responsibly.
How Can I Stay in Control?
Not only is it important to make mindful decisions before you start gambling, but there are also a number of steps you can take throughout your online gambling journey to ensure that you’re betting responsibly.
Never gamble under the influence
Betting responsibly involves being aware of your betting decisions at all times. Gambling under the influence of alcohol or drugs can impair your judgement, leading you to take more risk than you’d usually feel comfortable with.
Education is key
It’s important to understand the game you’re playing. Familiarise yourself with the rules, return to player (RTP), and odds of your chosen game before you wager any money. A thorough understanding of a game before you start playing can help you avoid losing money while you’re still getting to grips with the rules and controls. At TopRatedCasinos.co.uk, we recommend playing free demos of online casino games to get started, as well as doing plenty of research into strategy and gameplay tips before you place any bets online.
You should also watch out for gambling tipsters that claim to have secret strategies to guarantee a win. Most casino games are down to chance, and dishonest advice can encourage you to spend more money following a strategy that just won’t work. As with many things in life — if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Set time limits
Gambling should be a hobby like any other, rather than an activity that takes up the majority of your time. Just as you’d set aside a certain amount of time to watch a movie or read a book, you should limit how much time you spend gambling online. Likewise, it’s important to have other hobbies beside gambling — it shouldn’t be your only source of entertainment.
Stop when you hit your limits
While it can be tempting to try just one more spin on your favourite slot machine or play just one more hand in blackjack, you should stop gambling the moment you reach your predetermined betting budget. Don’t let a winning streak tempt you — it won’t last forever! Don’t chase losses either. Long streaks of bad luck are part and parcel of the gambling experience, and you’re never ‘due’ a win. Making deposits with prepaid vouchers is a great way to keep on top of this, as you’ll only have access to the predetermined amount of money you’ve loaded onto the card.
What Signs Should I Look Out For?
While implementing healthy habits is essential to keeping your gambling fun and enjoyable, responsible gambling doesn’t stop there. You should stay on the lookout for warning signs that your gambling could be causing harm, so you can quickly seek help and support if you’re concerned. Keep an eye out for these signs.
- Neglecting other aspects of your life
If gambling becomes your main priority — over socialising with family and friends, meeting work deadlines or looking after yourself — this is a warning sign. Ask yourself how much you value the role of gambling in your life in comparison to other things — if it comes out on top and you’re arranging other aspects of your life around it, it’s time to take a break and reassess.
- Keeping your gambling secret
Do you openly discuss your gambling hobby, or are you going out of your way to hide it from people around you because you think they’ll disapprove? Feeling ashamed or anxious about your gambling means it’s likely to be impacting you negatively.
- Gambling to earn money
Are you becoming reliant on gambling as a source of income, or are you finding yourself betting higher stakes to get the same thrill from gambling? You should never gamble with the intention of earning money or making a profit.
- Borrowing money to gamble
If you can’t afford to gamble, you shouldn’t. If you’re having to sell possessions or borrow money to pay for bills in order to sustain your gambling habit, you shouldn’t be gambling.
- Gambling as your only source of happiness
Do you feel content and satisfied in other areas of your life, and could you feel happy if you were to take some time off from gambling? Are you gambling to make you feel better when you’re upset or angry? It’s important to have other hobbies and sources of happiness besides gambling.
- Constantly thinking about gambling
Are you able to focus on other tasks when you aren’t gambling, or does it occupy your thoughts all the time? If you find yourself thinking about gambling more than anything else, it’s worth seeking some support.
What Can I Do to Keep My Gambling Habits Healthy?
If you’re concerned with your gambling or feel like it’s negatively impacting you or those around you, there are a number of steps you can take.
All UKGC licensed casinos and bookmakers offer self-exclusion services. This means you can ask an operator to prevent you accessing the site. Your account will be closed and any remaining balance returned to you. The minimum time for self-exclusion is six months and the maximum is usually five years, though some gambling sites have the option to self-exclude permanently. Once you self-exclude, you won’t be able to access your account until the time limit is up. You can either self-exclude from individual gambling sites, or through the GAMSTOP national self-exclusion scheme. By registering with GAMSTOP, you’ll be prevented from accessing all UKGC-licensed gambling sites.
- Set time-outs
Some players may not want to exclude themselves from gambling completely, but would like to take a break for a specific period. Licensed casinos and betting sites allow customers to set a specified amount of time in which they won’t be able to login to their account. Some operators will ask for the reason you’re taking a break, which can help them take steps to prevent these problems in the future.
- Set deposit limits
Most licensed gambling operators offer customers the chance to set limits on how much they can deposit into their online account over a specified amount of time. This limit should always be in line with your predetermined budget and should never be more than you can afford or are prepared to lose.
- Use loss limits
Just as operators offer deposit limits , gamblers can also set loss limits on their account. Once you hit them, these limits stop you from placing any more wagers until the time period has elapsed — be it a day, month, or year.
- Unsubscribe from promotional offers
Do you find it hard to avoid the temptation of gambling offers and promotions? Unsubscribing from marketing emails and notifications can help.
- Contact customer support
If you’re unsure of the best way to act, or if you need guidance when it comes to site-specific responsible gambling tools, don’t hesitate to contact the customer support team at your gambling operator. Many sites have a live chat service, so you can access support round the clock without needing to speak to anyone over the phone.
How Can I Seek Help?
There are plenty of organisations with trained advisors offering free confidential support to people in need of help with their gambling. Don’t hesitate to get in touch as soon as you feel like gambling is having a negative impact on your life.
GamCare operate the National Gambling Helpline, and offer gambling support via telephone, online chat , online forum or by text from 8am until midnight 7 days a week. You’ll even be able to use their self-assessment tool to take stock of your current relationship with gambling. GamCare also has a network of treatment providers to help offer face-to-face counselling sessions. Friends and family of people having difficulties with their gambling can also access support and advice from GamCare.
- Call the National Gambling Helpline: 24/7 freephone 0808 8020 133.
GamCare also recently launched the MyGamCare service, where users can gain a better understanding of their gambling behaviours by tracking their moods and urges. The site also lets users set targets and goals in order to make positive changes in their lives. Alongside these tools is an abundance of responsible gambling resources and articles to help you stay on top.
BeGambleAware offers a range of support on its website, providing information on how to spot the signs of harmful gambling behaviours and the steps you can take to gamble responsibly. BeGambleAware can also advise you where to seek help with gambling or other related issues.
Gamblers Anonymous is a support group of men and women working together to overcome gambling addiction. Their site offers a range of literature on how to tackle unhealthy gambling, as well as anonymous forums and chat rooms in which you can support one another. You’ll also be able to find information about your nearest Gamblers Anonymous meeting on the site.
Gambling addiction is a recognised medical condition. The NHS is a great place to seek support if you’re having problems with gambling. It runs a number of gambling clinics around the country, and recently announced it would open seven more — bringing the total to 15. Around 3,000 people are expected to be treated at these clinics every year. If you feel like your gambling is having a negative impact on your life, consider making an appointment with your GP as the first step.
Protecting Underage Users
UK gambling laws stipulate that you must be over 18 to start gambling. This means it’s important to protect underage users from gambling. There are a number of steps you can put in place to do this.
- Use computer software to block gambling sites from your children’s computer. The Internet Matters website provides reliable information on how to protect your children from these sites.
- Use separate password-protected computer profiles for yourself and your children.
- Never leave your device unattended when you are logged into your online gambling account.
- Use guidance from the BigDeal website to understand how to educate your children on the potential dangers of gambling, and find advice on how you can protect them from these dangers.
Whether you’re gambling online or at bricks-and-mortar casinos and bookmakers, it’s important that you’re gambling responsibly . Don’t hesitate to seek help if you believe that you, or someone you know, is suffering from a gambling problem. The best time to act is now.
Organisations We Actively Support
BeGambleAware.org provides free advice and support on how gambling works, how to know whether you or somebody you know may be struggling with their gambling, and how you can stay in control. We actively support BeGambleAware.org through an annual financial contribution.
Safer Gambling Week is a cross-industry initiative to promote responsible gambling in the UK and Ireland. The most recent campaign ran from 17–23 October 2022. It’s a fantastic time to raise awareness of the issues related to gambling, and to educate both gamblers and non-gamblers about how to play safely.