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The Rise in Problem Gambling: How You Can Stay Safe

Penny September 22, 2022

An online survey done in 2021 revealed some alarming facts. The survey involved more than 18,000 adults and over 2.5 percent of them suffered from problem gambling. What worries experts is the gradual increase in these numbers globally.

Problem Gambling

When you gamble, you willingly put something of value at stake. You go ahead with the hope of getting something of even greater value. If you do this just for the sake of entertainment, it can be a fun. However, when it gets into your brain’s reward system, it leads to a form of addiction. It slowly begins to interfere with your daily life.

Soon it becomes disruptive or damaging to your family as well. This is when it turns into problem gambling. Most of the gamblers who play casually stop their game immediately upon losing a game. They might also set a certain limit on how much they are willing to lose.

Problem gamblers feel compelled to keep playing to recover their money. It then becomes a destructive habit over a period of time. Some among them might also resort to fraud or theft to get some money so that they can gamble more.

The recent increase in problem gambling

Kevan Mailey began visiting arcades in Glasgow when he was between seven and eight years of age. This planted a seed of casual gaming in him and soon became a problem by the time he was 13. This was when he got his first job as a paperboy. At the time he was spending all of his wages on races. Gambling began having an impact on almost all aspects of his life.

“Gambling ruined my life for almost 30 years,” he said, while speaking to The Guardian. Fortunately he got the help he desperately needed and it happened at the right time. In 2018, he entered the Gordon Moody Clinic’s 14-week residential treatment program and had a successful recovery. Today, Mailey works with Gordon Moody Clinic in Beckenham.

According to a nonprofit based in Washington, the instances of problem gambling has increased significantly since 2018. The numbers went up even further during the COVID-19 pandemic, when people had to stay at home. Those who frequented the land-based casinos now began gambling online.

Nearly a dozen states in the United States experienced an increase in calls on their helpline from gamblers. Most of them were in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. Sports betting also showed a significant hike across the country after the 2018 Supreme Court decision to legalize it.

Things you can do to stay safe

Problem gambling is likely to occur at any age. It can start as young as around 7, when children struggle to control the amount of time they spend on video games. People who work in casinos, arcades, or betting shops are also at a risk of developing this problem. If you feel that you’re slowly becoming a victim of problem gambling, you can take a few steps right now to overcome it. Casinos and online casinos have responsible gambling policies to help set time and spend limits. There are also steps you can take to help.

1. Put a limit on the amount you spend on gambling

The best way to avoid getting into problem gambling is to set a limit on your gambling spends. If you’re about to visit a land-based casino, take only a limited amount of cash and leave all your cards at home. On the online casinos and other gambling websites, set a limit to your account. These measures will prevent you from overspending on your casino games.

2. Stop considering gambling as a means of earning money

When you gamble, you must be prepared to lose. It is important to remind yourself that gambling is not a source of income but a game of chance. People lose more in gambling and winning happens on rare occasions. Gambling is not a way to make money and is certainly not an investment. You are just paying for entertainment with the possibility of a win.

3. Never borrow from friends and family

All the good relationships that you develop over the years are precious. Problem gambling can harm your relationship with these people when you start borrowing from them. Sooner or later, they will discover that the money you borrowed was for gambling.

You will end up losing their trust and permanently damage the wonderful relationship you have enjoyed with them. You, therefore, must make it a point never to borrow from your friends and loved ones.

4. Use your spare time for other things

Reduce the amount of time that you spend on gambling and use it for spending more time with your family. Stay away from those who have the habit of gambling, even if they are casual players. Join clubs or social groups that are engaged in activities that benefit the society. You can also take up a new hobby.

5. Talk to someone you trust about your gambling problem

Talk to someone whom you can trust in any given situation. Tell him or her about your situation and all the concerns that you have. A true friend or a good member of your family can help keep you away from problem gambling. This would be a great option to consider before taking professional help.

6. Plan some productive activities

You can plan your day ahead to avoid boredom. Problem gamblers are always tempted to fill their free time with gambling. Boredom is one of the major reasons why many people head towards casinos. Plan some productive activities for the day well in advance. You can do some good reading or take music lessons. You can also take up a part-time work if you have got lots of free time during the day.

7. Be vigilant

Problem gamblers always find it difficult to control their impulses. There are certain events that act as triggers. For instance, if you are a sports gambler, watching a sporting event can lead you towards sports betting. Or if you know when you visit a casino late night after drinking you are liable to stay too long and lose all your funds you must avoid going.

If you are having a hard time trying to maintain discipline, remind yourself about the ugly side of gambling. Tell yourself that to gamble is to lose all the money you have earned through hard work. Keep repeating the words that will discourage you from getting into the habit once again.

8. Take the help of a good therapist

If you have got no reliable friends or family members to speak to, you can consider taking professional help. There are some good counsellors and therapists who can help you deal with problem gambling efficiently. They usually identify some specific vulnerabilities and hidden triggers in you. Based on their findings, they come up with an effective plan for your recovery.

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