The vast majority of online bingo and slots players play for the pleasure of it and are in control of their spending and gaming time. A few, however, aren't and if you suspect that you or someone you know might be in danger of becoming one of the estimated hundreds of thousands of adults in the UK with some form of gambling problem, there are many ways to get help before it gets out of control.
- Spending time gambling when you ought to be working
- Spending time gambling when you ought to be carrying out family responsibilities
- Increasing stake size in order to try and win back losses
- Gambling with money that was supposed to be used for household expenses
- Gambling with borrowed money
- Selling things in order to get money for gambling
- Lying to loved ones about the amount of time or money spent on gambling
- Failed attempts to stop gambling
- Feelings of lack of control, worthlessness or depression over gambling
Keeping it under control from day 1
- It's meant to be fun! If you aren't enjoying it, don't play!
- Never, never, NEVER gamble with any money that you can't afford to lose (and that means lose ALL of it)
- All online gambling sites must offer players the facility to set deposit limits - and lots of them will set them for you when you sign up.
- Many players find that using a prepaid voucher system such as Paysafecard for deposits helps them to stick to their budget and keep gambling money separate from other spending.
- As a result of the most recent set of player protection measures which came into effect for November 2021 (at the same time as slot game autoplay was banned), all online gambling sites must show a display to anyone playing a slot game, of how long they have been playing and how much they have lost (or won).
- Loss limits
- Wagering limits
- Stake Size
- Session length
- Regular enforced breaks
- Curfew (block deposits at certain times of day e.g. late at night)
- Product Block (exclude yourself from specific games or from a product group e.g block slots but allow sports betting)
How bingo and slot sites can help if it starts to get out of controlUK licensed sites are required to offer an escalating range of measures:
- Temporary time out aka take a break - essentially, you can ask the site to freeze your account and ban you for a few days. This is less formal than a self-exclusion but can be a good first measure if you think you may have a problem and need some time and space to think it over. Ever since October 2015, bingo sites have been required to offer this for a variety of time periods. Some sites offer additional types of time out, including time outs for specified products or games only and curfews restricting deposits at certain times of day or on certain days of the week.
- Account closure - sites are required, as a condition of their licence, to make this quick and easy. It may not be enough for someone with a problem though, as they could just reopen it again or open a fresh account somewhere else.
- Self exclusion - this is a formal process where the player's account is closed and any monies returned to them. They are prevented from reactivating it for a minimum of 6 months and if they apply to reactivate it after that extra procedures have to be followed and they would not be able to start playing again right away, but would have to wait 24 hours or more. Generally if someone self excludes from one site in a group, the self exclusion also applies to other sites under the same licence. This can be far reaching - we have heard reports of players self excluding from an 888 licensed site and later finding themselves banned from every other 888 and Dragonfish site - but so it should be; if someone reaches the point where they feel the need to self exclude to regain control then the more sites they are unable to play at, the better. During the parliamentary debates over the new UK gambling legislation introduced in Autumn 2014, the idea of a centralised self exclusion register was first mooted. This would enable problem gamblers to self exclude from every single UK regulated gambling site in one go, with sites obliged to check the register whenever someone tried to open an account to ensure that they had not self excluded and marketing companies banned from sending any gambling related promotions to anyone on the register. Almost four years later, this finally became a reality (see below). Another rule about self exclusion was introduced back in 2015, stipulating that players MUST be able to self exclude from a site using an automated process - so without having to have a conversation with a member of staff in any way, shape or form. While the ability to self exclude from all online gambling sites in one fell swoop was still some time in the future, the ability to self exclude from all betting shops in the UK was already on the way. A pilot self exclusion scheme was tried in 36 Glasgow city centre betting shops in July 2015 and in October 2015 it was extended to cover 300 outlets, the goal being a cross-operator scheme covering all 9000 betting shops in the UK. In March 2016 the Bingo Association rolled out its national self-exclusion scheme for licensed bingo premises called SmartEXCLUSION. The casino equivalent is called SENSE.
- GAMSTOP - Gamstop is the national online self exclusion scheme and since 2o18, all UK licensed online gambling sites have been required to participate. Anyone who wishes to go for this most extreme form of self exclusion can register on the Gamstop website and be instantly self excluded from all participating sites in one go.
- Base Level - Business has systems and controls in place to comply with the social responsibility provisions of their gambling licence
- Advanced Level 1 - Business is developing or has adopted a range of safer gambling measures that go beyond the social responsibility provisions of their gambling licence
- Advanced Level 2 - Business is developing or has adopted a range of safer gambling measures that go beyond the social responsibility provisions of their gambling licence (but has gone further than a Level 1 business)
- Advanced Level 3 - Business has adopted a wide range of safer gambling measures that go beyond the social responsibility provisions of their gambling licence
Protecting children and teenagersIn the UK you must be 18 or older to be allowed to gamble online. As part of their licence conditions, operators must exercise proper diligence to keep underage players out. While all UK facing gambling sites can and do carry out verification checks to ensure that players that register with them are of age, it is also your responsibility to prevent anyone underage from using your account to gamble illegally. Here are some precautions you should consider :
- Making it impossible for children and teenagers who live with you to get into your gaming account (whether they do so by accident or by design)
- Don't have your password saved in the browser
- Be sure to log out when you have finished playing
- Consider password protecting the computer or tablet itself
- Blocking access to gambling (and other adult content sites) via NetNanny, Cybersitter or the like
- Monitoring and managing online activity either by means of software that allows you to set one set of permissions for yourself and different ones for your kids or (in the case of younger children) by being physically in the room and able to see the screen when they go online.
Where to get more information and help
- Gamcare or phone their National Gambling Helpline 0808 8020 133
- Gambleaware - an information site
- Gamblock - blocks access to gambling sites
- GAMSTOP - self exclude from all UK licensed gambling sites in one go
- QuitGamble - free online community with support groups & forum
- Betting & Gaming Council - industry body with the latest news on safer gambling initiatives
- The Big Deal - for young people
- YGAM - informs, educates and safeguards young people against gaming and gambling harms
- Gamblers Anonymous UK
- NHS National Problem Gambling Clinic
- Gambling Therapy Helpline - for expats
- Gordon Moody Association - residential program for those with a very severe gambling problem
- Gamanon UK - for family members
- Royal College of Psychiatrists - official leaflet and link to video