We’ve heard the phrase ‘money won’t buy you happiness’ since childhood, but as adults, we call that into question.
More and more people in the US are leaving college a hundred thousand or more dollars in debt, and with no real career pursuits on the horizon. People are getting laid off, and even those in their 60s, the traditional retirement age, are having to remain in the work force because without the income they would not be able to pay their bills and put food on the table.
People are in dire financial straits, and the prospect of visiting a casino and having their entire life changed by a lucky spin and a big jackpot, or picking the right numbers on the Mega Millions, is just too tempting to pass up.
One of the biggest problems, especially among people who don’t have a lot of, if any, income that is ‘disposable,’ or will not make an impact on them if that money is lost, is that they are playing to hit the jackpot for money that they should be putting toward bills or food or saving in an emergency fund.
As fun as gambling and betting can be, it has the propensity to get out of control quickly.
Responsible gambling should be a cornerstone to anyone who frequents their local casino, racetrack, online casino, or local convenience store.
We want to share with you some responsible gambling musts, which will allow for a more fun and less stressful gambling experience. Listed at the end of the article will also be the warning signs of gambling addiction, and who to contact if you or a loved one check some of the boxes.
Top 5 Secrets to Responsible Gambling
Now, there are a lot of responsible gambling tips that we recommend you follow, but for now, here are the top five to always keep in mind when you feel the urge.
Gambling is Not a Career
We’ve all watched the high-rollers compete in the World Series of Poker and thought “Wow, I wish I could make a career out of this game just like they did.”
But don’t be fooled by the flashy watches, expensive cars, and lavish lifestyles. These players are the outliers. The average gambler should not treat their favorite game the same way they treat a 9-5 job. You don’t punch in to the slot machine when you sit down and punch out when you get up.
Gambling establishments of all kinds operate on the near-guarantee that in the long run, you will lose more than you win. They bundle with resorts to ensure that even if you win some money in their casino, you’ll spend your winnings and more somewhere else on the property.
It’s a fun activity for a vacation or the odd day out, but if you find yourself thinking that your only reasoning for stepping into a casino or logging onto your online casino of choice is that you need to win the money to pay off a bill or a loan, it’s imperative that you do something to curb your expectation and dependency.
Play With Only Disposable Income
Here’s a good litmus test. Before you gamble, ask yourself if that same amount of money were to accidentally blow out of your hand in the wind or fall out of your pocket without your notice, would you be okay without it, or would you struggle financially?
What we mean to say is that if you could just as easily literally DISPOSE OF that money without it having any sort of impact on you financially, then and only then should you gamble with it.
It is absolutely imperative that you only gamble as much as you are able to afford without it having any sort of impact on your life or financial status. What we recommend is sitting down to work out your finances every week or every payday.
After you have set money aside for bills, rent, tuition, groceries, gas, and any other absolute necessities, take what you can afford to take out and create a savings that can be used for fun things like tickets, movies, or gambling.
Spontaneity is not a word you should be using when it comes to your bank account, so before you start playing, ensure that you can AFFORD to play.
A vitally important quality for a gambler of any kind is willpower.
Whether you are playing online, at a casino, or at a race track, setting limits for yourself is key. And beyond setting limits, you need to stick to them.
If you have had trouble exercising willpower in the past, especially with gambling, start by setting time limits for yourself. Give yourself a maximum of twenty minutes to a half hour. If you are going to a casino, you can very easily lose track of time among the noises and lights, so set an alarm on your phone or watch and leave as soon as the time expires.
Don’t say, “I’m up $X; just one more spin,” or “I feel okay right now; I’ll give it another 10 minutes and then I’ll leave.” As hard as it may be the first few times, it’s important that you leave as soon as your half hour is up.
Resist the gambler’s fallacy. A few wins in a row doesn’t mean you’ll keep winning, even if you stay on the same machine or at the same table. EVERYTHING is random, and the result of the last spin or hand has absolutely no impact on the next one. Winning streaks are nothing more than a way to describe a few rounds of good luck.
If a time limit is too loose for you, try a spend limit. Again, the only way these will help you exercise responsible gambling is if they are followed without exception. Don’t bargain with yourself after the time is up or after you have reached your spending limit.
Don’t Gamble to Cheer Yourself up
Gambling when you’re depressed or sad is dangerous because you may find yourself eventually leaning on gambling as a type of comfort, and it will make you less likely to practice restraint and mindful spending.
When people are confronted with something that makes them happy when they are feeling down, even if that activity will later be to their detriment, they are less likely to be able to practice restraint.
If you are feeling down, adopt a healthy habit to cheer yourself up; don’t lean on something potentially unhealthy.
Don’t Drink and Gamble
Alcohol lowers your inhibitions; I’m sure you’ve heard it hundreds of times. When gambling, though, your inhibitions are what keep you from spending your entire life savings at the craps table. One drink is okay — two if you have a higher tolerance — but stop there. You don’t want to be drunkenly spending every penny to your name.
Spend smart, gamble responsibly, and stay sober.
Problem Gambler Warning Signs
The Responsible Gambling Council defines problem gambling as, “Gambling that is done excessively and negatively affects other areas of a person’s life, such as their physical or mental health, school or work performance, finances, and/or interpersonal relationships.
People with gambling problems often bet with money they can’t afford to lose, max out their credit cards, borrow money in order to gamble, and do other things that compromise their personal values.
Despite these negative consequences, they may deny that they have a problem, continue to chase losses, neglect family, friends, work, and even their own self-care (they may not eat or sleep properly, for example, or care about their physical appearance). Problem gambling can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, race or social status.”
There are a lot of warning signs that you or a loved one can pick up on, and you can find the full list at NYproblemgambling.org or responsiblegambling.org, but we’ve listed a few here for your convenience.
- Using gambling to escape a problem or amend a depressed mood
- Losing time from work or school to focus on gambling
- A personality change (generally more irritable)
- Gambling with money you do not have, or using money allotted for bills to gamble with
- Feeling anxious or empty when you are not gambling or miss out on time gambling
- Borrowing money from others; not paying those debts back as promised
- Neglecting real-world duties to gamble (cleaning, work, family time, etc.)
If you feel that you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction to gambling, please contact the National Council on Problem Gambling’s 24-hour confidential help line if you live in the US, or utilize your country’s equivalent.
Gambling is first and foremost a form of entertainment. If you begin to think that it has become more than that to you or a loved one, it’s important that you immediately seek help from someone that understands the importance of responsible gambling. Don’t let this pastime control your life, wreck your financials, and put a strain on your relationships.
Practicing Responsible Gambling
We know that at first glance, these guidelines may appear overly restrictive. But following them will make for a positive, fun experience overall, whether you’re sitting at the slot machines, playing a few hands of a card game, betting on your favorite sports team, or sitting in the comfort of your own home and playing in an online casino.
These rules even apply to lottery scratch-offs and other convenience store games.
If you feel yourself getting out of control in any capacity, save yourself the future headaches and get help right away. Practicing responsible gambling will make for a more positive, stress-free experience, as it should be.
If you prefer sports betting, there’s nothing wrong with doing some research in order to make an informed bet; in fact, it is important that you do so, but if that research begins to bleed into time that should be spent with family, on household chores, or at work, that is when the fun pastime turns into problem gambling.
It’s important to remind yourself non-verbally that betting is an activity for entertainment purposes only. It is not meant to be seen as a career or a necessity to your everyday life.
The suggested tips will put you on the right path to being a mindful gambler, and never be afraid to ask for help if you find yourself struggling with them.