Recent stats released by the UK Gambling Commission reveal that more than 400,000 Brits now have a gambling problem, with the most extreme bettors placing up to 90 bets per day. If you're concerned that you or someone close to you has developed an addiction to online betting, this guide will help you identify the tell-tale signs, and give you advice about where to seek help.
Problem gambling takes on many forms, which is one of the reasons it can be initially hard to identify and go undetected for so long. This is especially true since a lot of problem gamblers won't even be aware, or admit, they have an issue. While others will go to extreme lengths to hide their addictions from their loved ones and colleagues.
But research shows that problem gambling is a growing concern among UK bettors. And one main cause is the accessibility of gambling sites and sportsbooks in the UK today.
Whereas in the past casinos and bookmakers could only be visited in person, the internet has spurred an influx of online betting sites that make it possible to wager money 24/7. Also, these sites are no longer restricted to desktop devices, being they're readily available on smartphone and tablet. This makes it even harder for problem gamblers to rein in their betting.
The first step to recognising a gambling problem is knowing the tell-tale signs. Even something as seemingly insignificant as a minor behavioural change in someone close to you could be a sign of an underlying gambling addiction. Unfortunately, it's British men who are most at risk of developing a habit, with latest statistics showing that men are 7.5 times more likely than women to become a problem gambler in 2019.
If you, or someone you know, are displaying one or more of these symptoms, this could be a sign of a gambling problem. It's important to stop gambling immediately and seek professional intervention if you're unable to quit through willpower alone. You can find some British resources for help with problem gambling at the foot of this page.
Here are some common indicators of a gambling problem:
Far from being something you go through alone, problem gambling can cause a ripple effect that puts strain on the relationships with those you're closest to, as well as inflicting serious long-term consequences on your mental health and physical wellbeing.
Here are some of the most common effects that problem gambling, if left untreated, can result in:
Irritability and anxiety is common with problem gamblers. As your habit begins to consume you, and you feel control slipping away, feelings of despair can begin to take their toll. Once this kicks in it becomes even harder to believe there's a viable solution to your problem. And so begins an unhealthy cycle of blame, resentment and anger that can have devastating consequences on your mental health.
If you've allowed yourself to bet beyond your means you could find yourself in a sticky financial situation with mounting bills to pay, compounding the stress you already feel, and the threat of potentially losing your home to debt collectors or creditors. It's not uncommon for the most troubled of gamblers to fake illness and take prolonged time off work too, something most employers won't tolerate for long. In the most extreme cases, problem gamblers could find themselves having to declare bankruptcy as a result of their habit.
Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship, and one thing problem gamblers can quickly find themselves becoming is an expert liar, saying everything and anything to cover their tracks. But lies have a way of being found out, and once exposed can cause the total breakdown of relationships with your family, friends and spouse, whose wellbeing you may have risked in order to keep up your gambling on the sly. Think about seeing your problem through to a healthy resolution with the support of loved ones.
If you think you may have a problem with gambling, there are a number of free and anonymous services you can turn to in the UK for help. Here we've provided links to a few of the further resources that British online bettors can approach for impartial advice about problem gambling.
GamCare offers free counselling to those experiencing issues with online gambling in Britain, as well as online self-assessment.
Gambling Help Online
Although aimed primarily at Australian readers, Gambling Help Online is still a useful website for UK natives to learn more about problem gambling.
National Problem Gambling Clinic
This subsidiary of the NHS in England is targeted specifically at those needing help for an addiction to gambling.
Like Alcoholics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous is a forum where fellow problem gamblers can meet and connect to share their recovery.
GamAnon is a UK & Ireland service that is geared towards relatives of those suffering a gambling addiction, as well as compulsive gamblers themselves.