- Problem gambling is best combated with preventative measures
- Reputable casinos provide several features for self-management
Problem gambling is a serious issue, especially since the rise of online casinos, which grant unprecedented access to the world of casinos.
You can’t join an online casino without seeing some reference to responsible gaming, which is a good thing- it means that they take player safety seriously and comply with their government-issued license.
However, few players think that the problem gambling warnings actually refer to them.
That’s the trouble with addiction; it happens gradually and affects how you see your behaviour, so it’s hard to know that something’s wrong. That’s why operators provide a raft of tools for self-management, which all players should consider as a preventative measure.
What is problem gambling?
Gambling addiction is an impulse control disorder. This simply means that it becomes very hard for the addict to stop playing; they get the desire to gamble and cannot resist. However, there’s also an element of brain chemistry. The thrill of winning is rewarded with the chemical dopamine, which comes with withdrawal effects when the gambler stops. Worse still, for regular gamblers, the body begins to build a tolerance to this effect, so that they only feel the high when playing for increasingly large stakes.
How can I self-manage at my online casino?
All licensed casinos should have a responsible gaming section, which will give thorough advice and access to practical tools that combat problem gambling. Sites will also offer some or all of the following controls, which range from ways to limit your spending to essential responses to addiction.
Though it may not sound like it, auto-spin is a useful way to keep an eye on spending. Most games let you choose how many spins the auto-spin makes, or how much credit it can wager before stopping. This makes it harder to lose track of your spending, or to succumb to the temptation to spin one more time.
Many sites now ask you to set a ‘reality check’ interval as soon as you open a game. This is a simple countdown, usually from 15, 30 or 60 minutes, which will alert you on-screen if you spend that long playing. This helps players to avoid getting lost in the online casino game.
You can usually set limits on your ‘My Account’ section. This feature prevents you from depositing more than a certain amount each week. This is probably the best tool for self-management, as it won’t stop you playing but does put a hard limit on how much you spend. However, be wary- you may find that you can still cancel and spend withdrawals.
A milder form of self-exclusion, this option allows you to temporarily close or limit your account. Many sites let you do this on your ‘My Account’ area, but you may have to contact the support team. A cool off or ‘break’ is usually for a week, two weeks, a month or several. Once activated, you will be unable to deposit any real money to this account. This seems dramatic, but it’s a great way to avoid temptation if you’ve recently spent more than you should.
This is just like a cool off, but much more drastic. Self-exclusion can usually only be activated by contacting the site’s support team. Once done, this will make you unable to access your account for a much longer time, 6 months, a year or more, though time periods vary. This process cannot be undone, no matter how much you ask, because it assumes that you are susceptible to problem gambling. Consider this if you have identified a real gambling problem and need time to get help.
Help is available
Whether or not you use these features, remember that the best weapon against to problem gambling is awareness. On most online casinos, you’ll also find links to organisations like Gamcare, Gambleaware, Gambler’s Anonymous and Gambling Therapy, among others. Should you have any concerns about addiction in yourself or others, these groups are happy to discuss it and provide sound advice.
Online casino games are great fun and the vast majority will be able to enjoy them without ever worrying about problem gambling.
But if you ever do start questioning if you are spending too much time or money at online casinos and it is having a negative effect in your life make sure you take advantage of the help that is out there.
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