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Home > Gambling



While most people gamble as a casual form of entertainment, there are others who let it control their lives. This type of gambling, known as problem gambling, can not only affect the gambler, but their loved ones as well.

What is gambling?

rouletteIn the most basic sense, gambling is the wagering of something with material value on an event that has an uncertain outcome, with the intention of winning additional material value.

Gambling is a major worldwide commercial activity with the legal gambling market totalling hundreds of billions of pounds.

Components of gambling

Unfortunately, most people gamble without fully understanding the intricacies of what they are doing. Every casino game is based off of a set of basic principles that any gambler should understand:

  1. Probability

    At the core of every casino game is probability. It determines the odds you receive on your payouts, and it dictates the design of the game so that the house always has an ‘edge’ over you. Probability is simply the likelihood of a specific outcome or event occurring.

  2. Randomness

    Randomness is also a fundamental concept in gambling. An outcome is considered random if each possible outcome has the same probability of occurring.

  3. Odds

    Also relevant to probability, a player’s odds is the chance that the player has at winning a specific bet.

  4. House edge

    House edge is the statistical advantage that the house (casino, bookie, etc.) builds into their games to ensure they always win in the long-run.

What is responsible gambling?

Responsible gambling means acknowledging that gambling is an entertainment expenditure, and one should not risk more money or time than they can reasonably afford.

What is problem gambling?

Problem gambling is a type of gambling behaviour that causes harm to a gambler and anyone close to them. Problem gambling can cause stress, depression, and anxiety, all of which can negatively affect someone’s work and personal life.

Problem gambling is a very insidious condition. Unlike many other addictions, there are often no physical effects to discern. Even worse, it can manifest itself at any time, and to anyone. Unfortunately, the scientific community has been unable to establish the precise causes of problem gambling.

If you even suspect that you are a problem gambler, you should never gamble. A problem gambler is often unable to restrain themselves. Gambling in this condition will only further compound your pre-existing mental, physical, and financial problems.

Signs of a problem gambler

The following are some of the tell-tale signs that you may be a problem gambler and should consider seeking out immediate help:

  • Sudden changes in personality, behaviour, or mood.
  • Sudden changes in relationships.
  • Unusual tardiness to work or school.
  • Using gambling as an outlet to escape other problems.
  • Feeling compelled to be secretive about your gambling.
  • Telling lies about winnings.
  • Takes out loans or stealing to fund your gambling.
  • Taking out a second job without a change in finances.
  • A need to gamble with increasing stakes to feel exhilaration.
  • Constantly reliving past gambling experiences or thinking about future gambling.
  • Expressing thoughts that quitting gambling is futile.
  • Your family and friends express concern.
  • Neglecting children or dependents.


How to keep your gambling responsible

In order to avoid problem gambling, you should keep the following considerations in mind the next time you think of gambling:

  • Don’t view gambling as a mechanism to make money.
  • Only gamble what you can afford to lose.
  • Set a limit on your losses and the time spent gambling, and always quit when you reach that limit.
  • Never try to recoup your losses.
  • Keep a weekly log of your gambling expenditures.
  • Never gamble when you’re in a compromised emotional state (e.g. depression).
  • Never gamble when you are consuming alcohol or drugs.
  • Bring cash to the casino and leave your bank cards at home.


Common gambling myths

In order to help yourself or others address a gambling problem, you must be aware of popular gambling myths, and their respective truth. Listed below are some of the more important and misconceived gambling notions:

  1. “The longer you gamble, the more likely it is that you will have a big win.”

    While this may intuitively make sense, it has no basis in mathematics. Each event outcome is completely independent from those before or after.

  2. “If you keep gambling for long enough, you are bound to make back your losses.”

    The simple reality is that the house has a mathematical advantage over any player, and in the long-run, you are likely to keep losing.

  3. “Studying previous results can make me a winner eventually.”

    While this may be true for those who are making errors in their betting, the odds are always stocked in favour of the house so no matter how much study your past results, you are likely to lose in the long-run.

  4. “Gambling is a way to make money.”

    While this can be true in rare circumstances, for the majority of people, gambling is a surefire way to lose money. The best attitude to adopt is to view gambling as a form of entertainment that you have to pay for, similar to a dinner or movie. There’s also the added possibility for your entertainment to pay for itself and more.

  5. “You are only a problem gambler if you gamble every day.”

    You can gamble only once in a blue moon, but it can still trigger your addiction, and result in large losses and emotional and physical distress.

  6. “Problem gambling is not a problem as long as you can afford it.”

    Even if a problem gambler can afford his losses, the time spent gambling can take detract from his personal relationships.

  7. “The best way to help a problem gambler is to bail him out of his debts.”

    While it is hard to resist the urge to help your friend, family, or loved one, bailing them out will only enable them to continue gambling, which will only exacerbate their problems.

How to approach a gambler

Many times, the person who you are trying to approach for help does not believe that they have a problem. When approaching them, you must make sure to use statements that are positive, and avoid being confrontational or critical. If you act defensively or are overly-critical, you will only further alienate them. Here are a couple of examples on how to address their problem:

  • “You know I care for you and I would never want you to harm yourself. You can tell me what’s going on, I promise I won’t judge you.”
  • “I can see that you look distressed. Is there anything I can do to help?”

During the course of the conversation it is imperative that you listen attentively to what they have to stay and do not interrupt. You must do your best to avoid them becoming defensive. You should remain patient, calm, and appear non-judgemental. Even if they start making excuses to justify their gambling, do not interrupt them, you can easily voice your opinion later on in the conversation when it’s your turn.

Get help

Even though we’d like to believe that we are always capable of treating our problems by our self, the reality is that we’re not. We are often biased by our own emotions, and it is sometimes necessary to have an objective third-party lend a hand. The following organisations have proven track records in helping countless individuals overcome their problem gambling issues:

Gamblers Anonymous

Gamblers Anonymous is a self-help group that individuals join to tackle their gambling problems.
T: 020 7384 3040 (National)
T: 08700 50 88 81 (Scotland)
Website: http://www.gamblersanonymous.org.uk

Gordon Moody Association

The Gordon Moody Association provides in-depth and intensive residential treatment for people with severe gambling addiction. Treatment is provided for free if the individual is eligible for State Benefits.
T: 01384 241292
Website: http://gordonmoody.org.uk
Email: help@gordonmoody.org.uk

National Gambling Helpline

The National Gambling Helpline offers free, confidential support and information on problem gambling over the telephone.
T: 0808 8020 133
Website: http://www.gamcare.org.uk

National Problem Gambling Clinic

This clinic provides free, confidential support services to those affected by gambling.
T: 020 7534 699
Email: Gambling.cnwl@nhs.net.

For help with your debt problems, please view our helpful organisations page.

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