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3 Ways to Protect Yourself from Problem Gambling


It is estimated that 1 percent of the U.S. adult population have a gambling disorder, but just how many suffer from problem online gambling is anyone’s guess.

Because online gambling isn’t legal nationwide, there simply aren’t enough people to conduct comprehensive studies, says Christine Reilly, senior research director at the National Center for Responsible Gaming. But, she says, looking at general gambling disorder research conducted by Harvard University and European iGaming sites, like bwin, can help paint a picture.

While there may be differences in the types of games people play online versus at a brick-and-mortar casino, Reilly explains, some of the behaviors are similar. Exact symptoms may be different for different people, but signs that someone may have a gambling disorder—whether playing online or at land-based casinos, include:

  • Losing large amounts of money continuously, especially money you can’t afford to lose
  • Spending excessive amounts of time gambling online, so much so that it interferes with you personal and professional life
  • Hiding how much time or money you spend gambling from friends and family
  • Feeling irritable, anxious, impulsive or guilty
  • Jeopardizing important relationships in your life because of gambling
  • Resorting to stealing or other illegal activities
  • Asking people to constantly bail you out of financial situations

“I think it’s important to remember that every time there’s a new technology, there’s a lot of fear,” Reilly says. “There were fears about the social risks of automobiles. There were fears about radio. There were fears about television. So to be fearful of a new technology, thinking that it’s going to cause problems, is normal, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be harmful. People can follow responsible gaming advice to keep themselves from getting into trouble.

Online gambling should always be fun and never create problems. But, when the fun stops, that’s when you might have a problem. Here are three ways to protect yourself from falling into problem gambling:

1. Budget for Your Play

You need to budget both your time and money when gambling online to keep you from going overboard. Keep track of how much money you’re wagering, along with your winnings and losses—and, be honest. If you’re spending and losing more money than you can afford and you’re also spending more time then you can afford, something might be wrong.

2. Self-Exclude When Necessary

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement and many legal online gambling sites allow players to self-exclude from both online and land-based play.

Reilly says research has shown that self-exclusion can be helpful for some people who are trying to break away from gambling. She says many people with gambling problems are triggered by certain cues, and self-exclusion lets them control those cues.

3. Assess Your Behavior

If you’re worried you may have a gambling disorder, assess your behavior using the Brief Biosocial Gambling Screen available at the NCRG website. The three-question assessment, based on research by Harvard’s Division on Addiction, can help you identify if you need a formal evaluation or treatment. However, a small percentage of individuals with a gambling disorder ever seek help, Reilly says.

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call the National Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-522-4700.

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