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Avoiding Problem Debt from Online Gambling

Posted 27 September 2018

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Online gambling can be fun - until it becomes a problem, because of debt, addictions or both.

 Here are some tips to help you ensure your online gambling is safe, fun and healthy; identify when it’s not; and get some help if you need it.

Be realistic

Remember that:

  • Gambling is a form of entertainment which you pay for, and it is not designed to make money for you
  • These are games of chance rather than skill
  • Over time, you are statistically certain to lose money.

Keep track of how much you spend

It’s easy to get a distorted idea of how much time and money you spend on gambling if you don’t keep accurate records - just like the people you see on Secret Eaters, who don’t have a realistic idea of just how much they snack. Meanwhile, there’s some evidence to show that people who do keep records are able to stick to healthy habits: for example, a food journal helps you achieve your nutritional goals, and a money diary can help you save.

Keep a gambling diary to write down how long each session is and how much money you win or lose - and keep a note of how you felt at the beginning and end of each session. This will help you avoid gambling when you’re in a bad mood and to keep an eye out for any negative patterns (see below).

Make sure it’s not your only hobby

You might find yourself looking forward to your visit to the online casino at the end of a hard day - and there’s nothing wrong with that. Just be sure it’s not the only thing you’re looking forward to. What are you reading? When is it your next night out with friends, or with your partner? Don’t neglect all the other fun stuff in your life.

Don’t gamble in a bad mood

If you find yourself gambling as a response to stress, worry or anything that is making you unhappy, that’s a cause for concern. Partly because it suggests you’re not dealing with that negativity head-on, and also because when you’re in a bad mood, you’re more likely to gamble outside those healthy limits and to take dangerous risks.

Recognise the signs of problem gambling

Some of the indicators that gambling might be turning into a problem for you include feeling unable to stop even when you’ve passed a certain amount of time or money spent on gambling; hiding your gambling from friends and family; making gambling the sole focus of your attention and neglecting other areas of your life; and gambling in response to life stress or unhappiness.

Another sign is financial trouble. If you’re building up gambling debts, you may need help with your debt as well as to address your relationship with gambling.

The NHS website has a questionnaire you can complete to get an idea of whether you should be concerned about your gambling behaviour, and where you can go if you ever need help.

Gambling debt

It goes without saying that you should never borrow money to gamble. But if your gambling has got out of control you may have built up debts that you are struggling with.  In many cases people try to ‘juggle’ by missing other bills such as council tax, rent or utilities to try to meet debt repayments.  You might even by cutting back on your spending on essentials like food. You should avoid doing both of these – it is vital to keep up to date with priority bills such as tax, rent, utilities and food. If you are worried about your debts, then the good news is that there is plenty of help available. And however bad you think your debts are, there is always a solution: you can see what options may be suitable for you here.

by Christine Walsh

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To find out more about managing your money and getting free debt advice, visit Money Advice Service, an independent service set up to help people manage their money.