The Problem: How to Spot when Gambling is an Issue

According to research by the National Council on Problem Gaming in the US, approximately 1 percent of American adults are defined at "pathological gamblers." On top of this, a further 2-3 percent of people have "less serious but still significant problems" according to a paper published by Harvard Medical School.

Across the US, this means around 15 million either suffer from or are at risk of developing gambling addiction problems during their lifetime. Compared to the 322 million people estimated to be living in the US, that figure doesn't seem that high. However, like any social vice, gambling addiction is a problem regardless of how small it may be.

To fulfill our duty as a responsible online gaming expert, we want you to recognize the common signs of gambling addiction. In order for us to help you, you need to help yourself and that requires an understanding of gambling addiction's common signs.

Using Harvard Medical School's definition as a base, "pathological gambling" is:

  • Preoccupation with past, present, and future gambling experiences and with ways to obtain money for gambling.
  • Need to increase the amount of wagers.
  • Repeated unsuccessful efforts to cut back or stop.
  • Becoming restless or irritable when trying to cut back or stop.
  • Gambling to escape from everyday problems or to relieve feelings of helplessness, anxiety, or depression.
  • Trying to recoup immediately after losing money (chasing losses).
  • Lying about gambling.
  • Committing illegal acts to finance gambling.
  • Losing or jeopardizing a personal relationship, job, or career opportunity because of gambling.
  • Requesting gifts or loans to pay gambling debts.

What conclusions can be drawn from these points? In essence, problem gambling is a desire to control something that's uncontrollable. Through a lack of understanding about the nature of gambling (i.e. how luck swings both ways, but always evens out) and an addictive personality, people become fixated on "beating the house."

Losing and losing becomes the source of disappointment, anger and adrenaline. This cocktail of emotions is the reason why problem gambling occurs. We realize that gambling is an emotional activity, however, when someone is so invested in the games that they lose sight of reality then it becomes an issue. Therefore, if you notice yourself, or someone you know, becoming too emotionally invested in a game, then take note because it could be the start of a problem.

Problem Gambling Quiz

Gambling Addiction Resources

Question 1 of 10

Have your gambling activities ever caused you to take time off work/college or miss a social event such as a birthday party, meeting with friends or trip to see members of your family?

Missing important events in your life due to gambling is a sign you may have a problem. When the desire to place a bet is greater than your desire to socialise, there is a good chance that you're falling into the trap of gambling addiction. If your daily life is being pushed aside in favour of gambling, seek the advice of a professional and inform them that your habits are beginning to impact on your standard of living.

Yes
No

The Effects: How Problem Gambling Affects Lives

As with many social vices, problem gambling has a dual effect on both the individual and their surroundings. Using the above definition of pathological gambling as a base, it's easy to see how family members, friends and, potentially, innocent victims can get caught up in the web of gambling addiction.

In fact, referring to the problem as a web is an apt analogy. At the center, unable to move is the individual with a problem and around the outside is a sticky matrix of fibers entangling anyone within reach.

Initially the problem is isolated to the individual. Before finances become an issue, the individual is first subject to mood changes and guilt. It's at this point that money then becomes a problem and that's when things start to impact on everyone around the individual.

When the money dries up, people start to get desperate and that fuels a slew of negative emotions. In between paying living costs and trying to continue a gambling habit, those with an issue need cash and this is when other people are dragged into the mess. Whether it's borrowing or stealing, friends, family and individuals will all feel the effects of a gambling addict when money comes into play.

For some, moving away from the individual and cutting them off seems like the best option. If, however, they're a loved one this isn't always that easy. Moreover, leaving an individual with a problem to suffer alone isn't something anyone wants to have hanging over them. Because of this we want to tackle the issue and in our next section we've outlined some of the most effective ways to help problem gamblers.

However, before we launch into the solutions, let's quickly recap the problems and how they can affect everyone caught up in the web of gambling addiction:

Uncontrollable emotions - Gambling addiction is basically when someone losses control of their emotions. This can cause subtle then significant changes in someone's mood as they struggle to address the issue.

Deception and guilt - Once a person realize they have a problem (whether consciously or subconsciously), they will try to mask it. This process of lying to family and friends then leads to a large amount of guilt that often manifests itself in angry outbursts.

Frustration and anger - Stemming from an inability to control their habit and lying to loved ones, gambling addictions often go through noticeable mood swings. Hitting out at those closest is often the result.

Need for money - Once a person has lost control emotionally, the next step is financially. By the time money becomes an issue the person will be deep into their addiction. Stealing, borrowing and generally being guarded about their finances then becomes standard.

Fear and hurt - The final stage in the gambling addiction process is a sense of fear and hurt. Acknowledging the problem and trying to deal with it isn't easy and that often results in a sense of helplessness and despair.

Solutions: How to Combat Problem Gambling

Here at OnlineGaming.com we want to find you the best igaming deals in the world. However, we also want you to stay safe and problem free. So, as well as outlining the main tenets of gambling addiction, we here to offer some solutions. Although there isn't a "one size fits all" fix for problem gambling, there are some simple ways to help address the issue:

Learn the signs - The first step on the road to combating problem gambling is knowledge. Using the information in this guide as a start, educate yourself about gambling addiction before you join any of our recommended gaming sites. By knowing what the signs are, you stand more chance of spotting them and, therefore, combating them successfully.

Understand EV - Understanding the nature of gambling in all its forms is crucial. Whether you're playing casino games, poker or betting on sports, expectation (EV) is always at play. In a nutshell, EV is the statistical expectation of an event based on infinite trials.

For example, moving all-in pre-flop with pocket aces in a game of Texas Hold'em is +EV because in the long run it will yield a profit. However, this doesn't mean you'll win the pot every time you make this move. As a gambler your job is to make +EV moves and nothing else. Sometimes things won't go your way and sometimes they will. If you're able to understand this then it's much easier to separate gambling and emotion which should help to reduce your risk of developing a problem.

Manage your money - Having a set bankroll and not spending more than you can afford is also a great way to stop problem gambling. Based on the amount you have to spend, for example $1,000, you should wager no more than 5% in a single session. Sticking to these sorts of rules should help to keep your emotions in check and things under control.

Let them help you - All of our recommended online gaming sites will have player protection features. We've scoured the web to find the sites with the best options for players and we recommend you use them as much as possible. Deposit limits, cooling off periods and betting limits are all available and should be used by everyone, regardless of whether you have an issue or not.

Learn some skills - Another great way to tackle problem gambling is by learning some new skills. If you view your gaming activities as a test of logic and cognitive agility then it becomes less about the money and more about your skills. Once this becomes your focus, chasing losses will become a thing of the past as you'll be more interested in honing your skills in order to achieve the best results possible.

Talk - Our final tip for beating gambling addiction is simple: talk to someone. Whether it's before, during or after a problem, let someone know how you're feeling. Even if you don't have access to a professional, talk to someone you know and trust.

Limiting Access by Minors - Due to the nature of the internet, we cannot physically check a website visitor's age or prevent them from accessing our website. However parents can prevent their children from accessing gambling websites in the following ways.

Use child protection software - we recommend Net Nanny to monitor your child's online activities. Parents should keep their credit card or e-wallet information secure. Do not use the 'save password' feature on any installed gaming software. Create separate profiles for children on your home PCs.

Final Thoughts on Problem Gambling

Compulsive gambling benefits no one, not even an online gaming website. The key to controlling compulsive gambling is through education and support from friends and family members.While the majority of people do gamble within their means, for some it can spiral out of control. In order to help you keep control, we would like our visitors to remember the following.

Gambling should be seen as entertainment and not as a means of making money. It is best to look at gambling as spending on entertainment, and do not chase your losses.

Problem Gambling Resources

As well as helping yourself, there is also a host of professional resources out there to help problem gamblers. If you're based in the US and think you need some help, check out the following links and only once you feel confident that you can gamble responsibly, should you ante-up online.

US Organizations:

National Council on Problem Gambling:
http://www.ncpgambling.org/

Harvard Medical School:
http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/Problem_gambling.htm

North American Training Institute:
http://www.nati.org/

North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries:
http://www.naspl.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=content&menuid=30&pageid=1006

Other organizations:

Gamblers Anonymous International
Perhaps the most famous international help organization.
www.gamblersanonymous.org

Gamcare
The UK's top responsible gambling body.
www.gamcare.co.uk

Responsible Gambling Council
Based in Canada, with many responsible gambling resources available.
www.responsiblegambling.com

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