What is problem gambling?

Online casino gambling sometimes gets a bad rap because of its link to problem gambling. This issue is not unique to this branch of the industry and gambling addiction can affect anyone, not just online players. Here is what we know about gambling addiction and how players can protect themselves from a harmful habit.

What is problem gambling?

As with many things in life, moderation is the key to enjoying yourself without doing damage. This applies to many of life’s pleasures, from food to fast cars. Gambling is no different. This fun and exciting pursuit will be a positive experience as long as it is enjoyed in moderation.

For players who find themselves gambling more than they should, problem gambling can start very small – a change in behavior that is not terribly concerning. However, even small changes can lead to bigger, more damaging issues later on.

So what exactly is problem gambling? The American Psychiatric Association classes compulsive gambling as an impulse-control behaviour. New data however suggests that it should be classed as an addiction disorder, much like alcoholism and drug dependency.

A number of behaviours qualify as indicating an addiction. When a person feels they need to gamble more and more to feel satisfied, that can be indicative of a gambling disorder. Similarly, endangering or losing a job, significant relationship or important opportunity is a sign of trouble as well.

In essence, if a person’s life is being negatively impacted by their gambling habits in any way – financially, emotionally, socially – then it is time to seek help.

Signs of problem gambling

The best way to prevent compulsive gambling is to be aware of the signs. The main hallmark of a gambling addiction is secrecy, which can make it difficult to spot warning signs. It is important to remember that compulsive gambling, like any addiction, is a mental health issue and as such, you should not feel ashamed to get help.

These are some signs that can indicate a gambling problem:

  • A drastic change in financial situation such as money missing from accounts, regularly borrowing money, unpaid bills, or constantly being short of money despite having a steady income
  • A person struggling with compulsive gambling may become withdrawn and their performance at work or in their hobbies may suffer. Relationships may become strained as the person becomes agitated, frustrated, worried or depressed for no apparent reason
  • Being unusually secretive is a red flag for a gambling problem. The person might have unexplained absences at work or social events. They may often be late without reason and can take unusually long to complete simple tasks.
  • If questioned about their gambling, someone with an addiction problem might get angry or defensive. There could also be changes in other behaviours like sleep patterns, eating habits and intimate relationships.

What to do if you suspect a gambling problem

It can be difficult to recognise a gambling habit in yourself and others, and it can be even harder to broach the subject with a loved one you are concerned about. Luckily, there are a number of resources available to players who think they may have a problem.

Reputable casinos do their part to help gamblers take control of their play. Most offer self-exclusion programs that restrict the amount of money a player can wager or even access to their account altogether.

Another excellent is the BeGambleAware website. This is run by GambleAware, an independent charity dedicated to the research, education and treatment of gambling problems. It offers various types of support, including a live chat feature so you can get advice in real time.

Respected regulators expect casinos to do all they can to protect players from compulsive habits. Sticking to casinos that are licensed by reputable organisations will ensure that help is close at hand should you need it.