Gambling is fun.
Most people would agree with that
Gambling’s a mix of games and prizes. Sort of like playing a video or board game that pays real money to the winners.
But it can go downhill fast.
Gambling can lead to addiction. It can put you on a destructive path littered with the broken families, severed relationships and financial ruin of those who walked it before you.
Gamblers – of all shapes, sizes, ages and backgrounds – find themselves on this path every single day. You don’t have to look any further than Reddit for proof.
Here are some headlines from the first page:
“How I lost all my savings in a span of a few months”
“Help? Maybe? I don’t know”
“My soul, it’s dying”
“I lost $1,800 worth of CSGO skins in 3 bets”
“Messed up again”
“I’m 26, need help.”
“Day 1: this time it will stick”
“Rebound – no control”
“I’m 25 years old and nearing $100k in the hole.”
“I just lost £140,000 in 5 minutes”
Scary stuff …and that was all published within the last month. And there’s plenty more where that came from.
Reddit’s only one example. With one Google search for “problem gambling stories”, you’ll come across a list of sad stories here. Or, you can read about Justin here, where you’ll learn about his sports betting addiction – including how he ultimately lost $80,000 riding the highs and lows that come from betting on sports.
The point of sharing all this is to show you how dangerous gambling can be. How real this problem is, and how destructive it can be to everyone involved, not just those struggling with the addiction.
More than awareness, though, we want people to know what gambling addiction looks like, how to get treatment, and how to curb cravings so addicts can finally kick their bad habits to the curb.
…before it’s too late.
Signs of a Gambling Problem
The first step to overcoming addiction is realizing when you have a problem. To do that you need to be able to recognize the symptoms.
Addictions.com says that 80 percent of American adults gamble every year. And that 3-5 out of every 100 gamblers struggle with some level of addiction.
This tells us that a lot of people struggle with problem gambling. But we may not realize it because we don’t know what the symptoms of problem gambling looks like.
So, here are some symptoms that signal that you or someone you know may have a gambling problem:
- Unable to stop gambling. People who gamble for fun have time or budget constraints they stick to. Problem gamblers don’t (or struggle to stick to them).
- Gambling with money you can’t afford to lose. There’s no separation between “fun money” and “bill money.”
- Chase losses. Problem gamblers continue to gamble after they’ve lost to try to recoup their losses even if it means losing more and/or playing with money they can’t afford to lose.
- Go to extremes to find money for gambling. This can be using student loans, borrowing money from family and friends, taking out bank or payday loans or even resorting to theft or hocking what you or someone else owns.
- Gambling becomes the #1 priority. It’ll come first before family and friends which means missing out on things like date night, work, holidays and school events.
- Severe and frequent mood swings. Gambling can invoke all sorts of emotions, ranging from frustration, remorsefulness, ambition, excitement, depression and rage.
- Avoid friends, family or coworkers who’ve shown concern over someone’s gambling.
- Someone who has lost their home, car or job – or have had their utilities shut off – as a result of their gambling.
- Sneaking around or lying to cover up their gambling.
Does this sound like you? Then the following sections will give you information that will put you on the path to recovery.
However, if these symptoms describe someone you know, your first task will likely be confronting that person. To express your concern and encourage them to seek help.
There’s a right and wrong way of going about this. Here are some suggestions:
What to Do
- Get help from other people in similar situations (partners or friends of a problem gambler). One suggestion is to check out Gam-Anon.
- Remember your partner/friend’s positive qualities.
- Explain problem gambling to the children.
- Be calm when you talk to your friend or partner about his/her gambling. Let them know the consequences of continuing down this path.
- Let them know you’re seeking help on their behalf because of the way it’s affecting them and those in their life.
- Understand the time and effort treatment involves (so you can prepare).
- Take control of your finances (review statements), or find someone who can (on behalf of your friend or family member).
What Not to Do
- Preach or lecture. Do not lose control of your emotions.
- Make threats or issue ultimatums (unless you’ll follow through).
- Alienate the person from family life or activities.
- Expect immediate recovery or that all problems will be solved once the gambling stops.
- Bail the person/spouse/friend out.
- Cover-up or deny the existence of the problem to yourself, the family or others.
This is a delicate situation, and approaching it the wrong way can escalate it, possibly even delay treatment.
Treatment for Overcoming a Gambling Problem
The next step is treatment.
Experts say treatment isn’t the same for each addict. Each addict will need to find the type of treatment that works best for them.
Here are some options:
These are group support meetings where people share and give support.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Helps people to change behaviors so they take more positive actions to cope with stress or other triggers (instead of turning to gambling).
For example, you might find a hobby, start a new business, or do something else to replace the thrill or rush you get from gambling. Other ideas include exercising, finding ways to solve your money issues (from gambling) or speaking to a counselor.
This includes staying at a hospital so you can receive around-the-clock care. This often includes intense therapy and counseling to reduce the chances of relapse. This is usually for extreme cases that has led to financial, legal or social problems.
Whatever option you choose, remember that relapse happens. There’s no need or sense in beating yourself up over it. Instead, just put all your focus into getting back on the wagon ASAP.
Dealing with Gambling Cravings
Relapse may be normal, but you don’t have to fear it. Not if you learn how to deal with cravings.
One of the best ways to deal with cravings is to understand when and where these cravings happen. What triggers them? How do they make you feel?
For example, many addicts gamble:
- For the adrenaline rush. For excitement.
- To be more social. To overcome shyness.
- To avoid problems.
- Because they’re lonely or bored.
- To relax or relieve stress.
- To solve money issues.
If you know these types of situations or feelings push you to gamble, you can create a battle plan. You can prepare for the next time you get a craving – maybe even prevent it altogether.
For example, you can:
- Get a second job or start a side business. This will help solve money problems, give you a rush, be more social and to relive boredom.
- You can exercise. Do this once you wake up, get off work, or before work. This can help relieve stress, boredom and can help you become more social if you go to a gym.
- Coach a team (maybe your kid’s). This gets you to be more social, spend time with your kids, relive stress and boredom, and to get a rush.
- Learn to meditate. This is especially useful for when you feel a craving. You’ll postpone it for the 5 or 15 minutes you meditate, all the while you’re relieving stress and boredom. You can also get a massage.
There are so many things you can do. Find a hobby, take a vacation or maybe moonlight on the side as a freelancer.
Whatever you do, I’ve found from experience (quitting smoking) that staying busy, having a support network and a “plan b” for really strong cravings, is the winning combination for overcoming an addiction.
From here it’s a matter of putting in the work, having patience and seeing the plan through.
How to Keep from Overdoing It Online
Whether you have a full-blown addiction or you’re afraid that you might develop one (some people have more addictive personalities than others), it’s a good idea to know how to prevent yourself from gambling online – even if it’s only temporarily.
One of the best ways to do that is by using a self-exclusion program. The best way to describe self-exclusion programs is like a self-imposed time out for adults.
These programs are mandatory for licensed online casinos operating in states like New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada.
Each casino handles the self-exclusion process differently. But here’s how casinos in New Jersey do it:
- In Person – You go to any one of their casinos and ask to be put on their self-exclusion list.
- In Person – You submit an application in person to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement at one of their physical locations. You can also mail it in.
- Online – Through their website, using their self-exclusion registration.
- Online – You do this through your player account.
The options they give you are one year, five years or lifetime. But this will vary from casino to casino. PokerStars, for example, let’s you choose from:
- 12 hour
- 24 hour
- 7, 30, 60 and 120 days
- Longer than 6 months
What’s important about these programs is that, under NO circumstances, will they let you play if you’ve self-excluded yourself. Even if you beg, cry or plead to have your account reinstated.
Moreover, if you self-excluded yourself at a casino, like one from New Jersey, they’re supposed to put you on a list so that you’re prohibited from playing at any casino they own, or any casino in the state.
Of course, they won’t be able to stop everyone. There’s some personal responsibility involved. You need to do everything in your power to restrain yourself from logging in online, or from heading to their live casinos.
But what if you truly don’t have a problem? What if you just want a way to limit yourself?
If you don’t want to ban yourself, another option is to impose a spending limit. I’ve not seen this option offered at too many offshore online casinos. However, it’s another option that legal online casinos have to have:
According to Borgota’s website:
Spending limits enable you to limit your daily loss. Once you specify a value for a spending limit, the system will warn you whenever you cross your limit. This warning is given whenever you buy-in to a poker or casino game or register for a tournament and if the “allowed spend” value is crossed for that day/week/month. The warning is also given during rebuy/add-on transactions.
This isn’t so much a ban as it is a “heads up” that you’re near or already have surpassed your budget. It can be a great way to keep from overdoing it if you’re prone to playing without paying attention to your bankroll.
The bottom line – you have many options to help yourself when gambling online, whether you just want to keep from overdoing it, take a time out, or stop playing altogether.
Conclusion: Where Else You Can Find Help
There’s only so much we can say, do or include in a guide such as this. It certainly won’t solve your gambling problem.
But there are lots of resources online dedicated to helping people with gambling addiction. They won’t solve your problems outright, either. But they CAN get you on the right path.
Here are some resources we think you should start with:
There are also many local programs, namely group support, therapy and treatment programs. A quick Google search for “gambling help your city/state” should provide you with plenty of options.