Don't Bet On Gambling - It's A Mug's Game!
Here's my advice if your gambling has got out of control
Fancy a bit of a flutter? Go on, it won't hurt - gambling is only a game, right? Wrong! We’re seeing a large increase in problem gambling in the UK with over 280,000 problem gamblers. Unfortunately it's an addiction that apart from newspaper reports gets swept under carpet. That's because many people can’t grasp the notion it's a serious problem with massive repercussions for the gambler and their family.
People beg, borrow and steal to feed their gambling habit. Gamblers lose their homes, their jobs and more importantly their relationships and families. Things are only going to get worse with the widely available Internet gaming sites accessible 24/7. Gambling charity, GamCare, has seen the use of its online help forum increase tenfold in a year! Calls to its help-line have also increased dramatically. And guess what group other research has found is now most likely to gamble on the internet? A group you’d think would have more sense - middle-aged, married women!
Why such a startling rise when gambling’s been around as long as civilisation? There are a number of things fuelling these sad statistics. Cutting edge marketing has made gambling seem like a fun, bright and breezy game. Even sad, old traditional bingo halls have received facelifts to make them look like fashionable places to chill-out. Internet sites are made eye-catching and appealing, so increasingly gambling only comes across as a game rather than the very risky business it is.
We also now have a very lax attitude towards debt where it isn't seen as a problem or shameful. So when a gambler’s first in debt they’re unlikely to be concerned. And as we also expect instant results in our quick-service society, this drives those gambling to try and instantly achieve financial ‘success’ through gambling.
Underlying this is the fact we lead more disconnected and lonely lifestyles. Scratch the surface and you'll find many gamblers are lonely people, these feelings being exacerbated by our detached society. Equally many are risk-takers and easily susceptible to the emotional sensations they get when gambling - the excitement and the thrills. That explains the "bored housewives" gambling statistics. Most of these women gamblers admit to going online once their husbands or partners have left home for the day.
How can you prevent problem gambling?
* Don't gamble on your own. Instead make sure it's a "social" event like going for an annual trip to the races with friends.
* Avoid the isolation of online gambling. Some of the sites, e.g., the poker and other card games sites, give you a false sense of sociability. In reality it's still an isolating experience.
* Allocate a strict budget for your occasional flutter. Imagine this budget is the amount you could go out of your front door, throw into the road, and not worry about. So does that £50 at the racetrack seem a bit different in that light? Can you afford to throw £50 in the road? Essentially that's what you’re doing when you gamble.
If you're already a problem gambler try these -
* As most gamblers keep losses a secret the first thing you need to do is confide in loved ones or trusted friends that you're in trouble. I have a saying that "secrets make you sicker". The more you keep this secret and increase your gambling debts the worse it will get.
* If you feel you're not ready to face that challenge then at least get in touch with GamCare - 0845-6000-133. Their support will help you feel less alone.
* If you’re gambling on the Net then get rid of your PC or give it to a friend to "babysit" until you're safely able to use it.
* If appropriate hand over the control of your finances to a trusted partner or family member after allocating yourself a weekly budget to cover your outgoings.
* Get in touch with any person/company you owe money to and propose a reasonable repayment schedule. Once a repayment plan is agreed, put it in a formal letter of agreement to them.
* Explore the reasons why you chose this slippery slope to gambling problems. Were you lonely and bored? Or are you a natural thrill seeker who needs to live life on the edge? Exploring your life and choices, and then looking at alternative ways of sorting them out and facing them is the best long-term solution. For example, if lonely, you could learn to become more sociable and build up some friendships.
* Discuss with someone you trust about them taking on the role of crisis buddy. They’ll be the person that you ring when you’re tempted to have a flutter.
* Be aware of the unexpected temptation. It's easy to think you've got your gambling under control until you receive an e-mail advertising a new online site, etc. You think you can innocently check out the site and suddenly you're in the grip of gambling again.
* Finally, look for other non-harmful activities that give you a buzz. Maybe an action sport or taking dance lessons with a view to enter a local competition or taking up amateur dramatics.
With awareness that you're vulnerable and taking charge of your situation, you can conquer your problem gambling. But as there are enticing gambling outlets everywhere it's a sure bet that you can never let down your guard!
Published in The Express Newspaper