The vast majority of online bingo 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 up to 590,000 adults in the UK with some form of gambling problem, there are many ways to get help before it gets out of control.
1) It’s meant to be fun! If you aren’t enjoying it, don’t play! (or, as the Senet Group put it – When the fun stops, STOP)
2) Never, never, never gamble with any money that you can’t afford to lose (and that means lose the whole lot)
We recommend deciding how much you want to spend and how frequently you want to spend it BEFORE signing up to a bingo site, and then sticking to those limits just as you would for any other form of entertainment. If you think you would find this hard to keep track of, ask the bingo site to set a deposit limit for you. Many sites will also let you set limits on play or on losses and some even provide helpful tools to help you keep track; more sites will be doing this in the future as it becomes part of UKGC regulations.
Reputable sites will offer an escalating range of measures:
1) Temporary time out – 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. From October 2015, bingo sites are required to offer this for a variety of time periods.
2) 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.
3) 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 in the same group – so if you were to self exclude from Gala Bingo, for instance, you would also be self excluding from Gala Casino. This can be far reaching- we have heard reports of players self excluding from a Cassava managed site and later finding themselves banned from every other Cassava managed 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 discussed. 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. The latest LCCP document from the Gambling Commission includes a provision for this to be implemented with one month’s notice to operators and it is envisaged that this will happen in 2017. Another new rule about self exclusion is that (from November 2015) it must be possible for a player 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 is still some time in the future, the ability to self exclude from all betting shops in the UK is already on the way. A pilot self exclusion scheme was tried in 36 Glasgow city centre betting shops in July 2015 and as of October 2015 it is being extended to cover 300 outlets; the plan is to develop a cross-operator scheme covering all 9000 betting shops in the UK, to be rolled out during 2016. In March 2016 the Bingo Association rolled out its national self-exclusion scheme for licensed bingo premises called SmartEXCLUSION.
In the UK you must be 18 or older to be allowed to gamble (apart from the lottery and scratchcards which are allowed at 16). As part of their licence conditions, bingo sites must exercise proper diligence to keep underage players out. While bingo 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. Here are some precautions you should consider :
1) Making it impossible for children and teenagers who live with you to get into your bingo account (whether they do so by accident or by design) – so don’t have your password saved in the browser and be sure to log out when you have finished playing (or else password protect the computer or tablet itself)
2) Blocking access to gambling and other adult content sites via NetNanny, Cybersitter or the like and/or monitoring and managing online activity either by means of software such as Cyberpatrol Parental Controls (which allows you to set one set of permissions for yourself and different ones for your kids) or by being physically in the room and able to see the screen when they go online.
Gamcare or phone their National Gambling Helpline 0808 8020 133
Gambleaware – an information site
Gamblock – blocks access to gambling sites
Betfilter – blocks access to gambling sites
The Big Deal – for young people
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 advice leaflet and link to video