How to Spot and Treat Online Gambling Addiction
Online casinos and online gambling websites in general are rated as one of the fastest grown internet-based business models in the world. In fact, recent estimates put the online gambling industry among the top three biggest revenue earners on the web. The growth in this sector, along with the global popularity of online casino gambling is actually quite easy to understand.
Online casinos are far more prevalent and widespread than land-based or so-called ‘brick and mortar’ casinos are. It is far easier to set up a virtual casino than an actual physical one. The overheads and running costs required for a virtual casino are also considerably lower and generally only include web hosting fees, software licensing fees, accreditation licensing fees, support staff costs and so on.
It is almost a no-brainer to open an online casino over a real casino and online casinos can not only offer the same sort of popular casino games, they can offer far more varieties than you could ever squeeze into a physical building. A built-in factor with all casino games, regardless of whether they are virtual or land-based is that, in the end, the house always wins. This is known commonly as the house advantage or house edge and trying to beat that house edge has been the downfall of many a gambler.
Casino games are designed to offer every player some chance at winning money and, in the short term this is not only possible but also fairly common. This is especially true of online slot games, where there is a pretty good chance of winning a substantial jackpot from a relatively low investment. However, the problems start to appear when online gamblers perpetuate the chase for the big win, knowing that they are in fact going against the house advantage and the probability of losing. This is often the start of a gambling addiction and, if not recognised and diagnosed in time, can lead to severe consequences.
How Online Gambling can be Dangerous
The convenience of internet-based gambling is ultimately a double-edged sword. On one hand, being able to log into an online casino account to play a range of fun and exciting casino games, even from a mobile device, is fantastic. On the other hand, being able to log into an online casino account whenever you like and for however long you like can have dire consequences.
Being able to fund an online casino account virtually often creates the illusion that the money being used is not real as online gamblers never actually hold the money in their hands.
When it comes to gambling in a land-based casino, if someone gambles non-stop for a few days on end, this will be noticed. Casino staff and even family members will not be able to avoid seeing that someone is beginning to lose their sense of normality. However, someone gambling online can do so behind closed doors without anyone ever noticing that the person has spent an unhealthy amount of time gambling. In fact, online casinos have made it so easy thanks to technological breakthroughs, for gambler to access a range of games anywhere and anytime. This means that potential gambling addicts never actual get a break from the temptation, they can access their casino account at home, at work or even between the two points, on their mobile device.
Another critically important factor which links back to the convenience of internet-based technology, is the fact that gamblers have instant access to their money via internet banking. This means that there is no break period where one would have to physically draw money in a land-based casino context. Quite often, this break away from the tables or the slots, gives one pause to rethink things for a minute. However, with online gambling so easily linked to online banking, it only takes a few seconds for a gambling addict to recharge their online casino account and continue playing, slowly burning through their money.
Another interesting trick that quite a few online casinos use is the demo or free game offers. What this essentially means is that online casinos will offer a range of their games to play for free. The idea being two-fold, to introduce players to a new type of game or, to entice players into switching over and playing for real money. Most players use demo or free to play games as a way to practice techniques and strategies or to find new games that they haven’t tried yet. However, for gambling addicts or players prone to addiction, this can be a very dangerous feature which could easily lead to more money being spent on online casino games.
Playing online casino games is a virtual process and quite different from the physical processes of funding and playing casino games. While all of us start off understanding that the online world is virtual but still requires physical action to make it happen (signing up, funding accounts and so on) some tend to forget this fact. Being able to fund an online casino account virtually often creates the illusion that the money being used is not real as online gamblers never actually hold the money in their hands.
Signs and Symptoms of Gambling Addiction
Fortunately there are ways and means of identifying possible gambling addiction through scientific processes that have been formulated through years of gambling addiction treatments. The following list is a commonly agreed upon list of signs and symptoms which may help you to detect gambling addiction early enough to treat successfully, either in yourself or a loved one.
- Gambling obsession or preoccupation: Signs can include planning on when to gamble next, how to finance this gambling activity or reliving gambling experiences previously enjoyed.
- Unsuccessful attempts to stop gambling: This generally entails more than one attempt in the past to stop online gambling altogether with no success.
- Upping the ante and excitement: This is characterised by a need for the gambler to keep spending more money to increase bets which in turn amps up the excitement level. This always increases with each experience and is akin to adrenaline addiction symptoms.
- Using gambling to avoid other issues: Some gamblers will use gambling as a way to avoid dealing with other problems or issues or as a way to improve their overall mood.
- Chasing losses: Essentially, trying to win back lost money by gambling away more money.
- Lying to loved ones: Lying about how bad the gambling addiction is, lying about what they spend time on or money.
- Asking other for money: This is quite common, asking family and friends for money for missed responsibilities as the money intended for rent, groceries and so on has been spent on gambling activities.
Once the symptoms and signs of gambling addiction have been identified and the person has admitted to the problem, it’s time to look into what avenues there are available in your area for getting help. There are several avenues and options that are available for treating gambling addiction including:
- Addiction rehabilitation clinics or centres: There are various experienced addiction rehabilitation centres for drug, alcohol and gambling addictions. Some are separate while others treat addictions together.
- Group therapy or individual counselling: There are several options for treating gambling addiction as group-based therapy and support or more intimate one on one treatment.
- Online support groups and self-help groups: These can include Gamtalk online therapy or Gamblers Anonymous (similar to AA/alcoholics anonymous programs).
Top Tips to Avoiding Gambling Addiction
Online casino gambling can be a lot of fun and can be an exciting way to pass the time or even win some money, all of which can be quite rewarding. As with anything in life, it is a question of balance, here are several tips designed to help you avoid the pitfalls of gambling addiction.
- Decide on how much you want to spend before you actually log into your online casino account. Once you have reached the point where you have spent/lost that money, log off your account and leave playing for another day.
- Decide on what you will do if you start to win with the money that you have set aside for your gambling session. Some players actually automatically bank winnings and continue to play with their predetermined budget. Other players decide before they start winning at what point they will stop, similar to the first point, this is called setting a win limit.
- Setting both loss and win limits is a great way to control your online gambling activities. You can further enhance this by setting a time limit on your online gambling session. Most online gamblers will generally settle on an hour, which is regardless of win or loss limits that have been set.
- Never ever chase losses, it is a sure road to ruin and gambling addiction.
- Be sure to take regular breaks during your predetermined gambling session. Even if you have set an hour limit to your online gambling session, it is a god idea to take regular breaks by actually getting up and walking around. Some gamblers make a cup of coffee, drink a glass of water or go outside to take in a breath of fresh air before returning to their computers.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I spot gambling addiction?
Gambling addiction can be hard to spot, however there are some signs. One of the biggest is gambling with money you can’t afford to lose, and another is neglecting work or your home life in order to gamble. Other signs include becoming easily irritable, chasing your losses, and having an overwhelming desire to gamble.
How do I get help with gambling addiction?
There are many great charities in South Africa offering help for gambling addicts. The biggest is Gamblers Anonymous, which operates meetings in all major South African cities. You should also speak to a doctor, who can provide other advice on overcoming the problem of gambling addiction.
How can I help a friend with a gambling problem?
Helping a friend or family member can be tough. It’s important to remember that they must want to change. Encouraging them gently is very helpful, but you shouldn’t become overbearing. Also, remember that relapses happen – don’t judge the addict for this, but instead help them to get over the relapse.
Can I ban myself from gambling at a site?
Yes, you can. Most online casinos have self-exclusion systems in place, and these allow you to ban yourself from a site for a set period of time. If you choose to ban yourself, you won’t be allowed to use your account under any circumstances – the site will never reverse the decision. Some sites will only reactivate the account if you can prove you’ve received help for your problem.
Does gambling addiction affect many people?
Gambling addiction is more prevalent than you might think, with many people suffering from this problem, or in the process of recovering from it. So, there’s no shame in admitting that you have a gambling problem – in fact, respect has to be given to those big enough to recognise that they’re addicted to gambling.
How can I prevent gambling addiction from starting?
Gambling addiction can start at any time, but you can protect against it by limiting the amount you gamble, and being extremely strict with yourself. Also, only allow yourself to lose a certain amount of money, and never attempt to recoup your losses with money you can’t afford to lose.
When should I stop gambling?
If you think you have a gambling problem, you should stop gambling straightaway. The longer you wait to stop gambling online, the bigger the problem could become, and this will make treating the addiction that much more difficult.