Gambling is a common pastime in the UK. According to research conducted by betting website Beating Betting, 38.7% of online bettors bet £10–£100 per month and 20.9% say they have lost ‘hundreds’ through gambling.
Falling into this type of debt can happen before you know it. Excessive gambling can easily become part of everyday life, especially when it comes to sports.
The BBC found that 95% of ad breaks during live UK football matches featured adverts for betting firms. These adverts can usually only be shown after the 9pm watershed, to avoid showing them to children, but live sports broadcasts are an exception to the rule. With this barrage of promotion, it is unsurprising that gambling continues to pose a problem.
TV channel Sky have introduced some rules to prevent this, restricting gambling adverts to a maximum of one per commercial break – including during live football. They’re also developing AdSmart technology to help viewers block gambling ads when they’re watching on Sky and Virgin Media.
How can gambling debt affect my life?
Struggling with problem gambling will be a different experience for everyone, but there are a few ways it can affect your life:
Understandably, those who struggle with compulsive gambling are likely to experience financial difficulties. This could be anything from having to cut back on buying to make room in your budget for gambling to being left without any money at all for your priority bills at the end of the month.
And in many cases, problem gambling can lead to problem debt. People tend to fund their habit with overdrafts, credit cards or payday loans and they might even be tempted to gamble more in an effort to pay off these debts. This can lead to a vicious cycle that may leave you with worse money struggles than before.
Experiencing debt problems is enough to affect anyone’s mental wellbeing, and research has shown that problem gambling can lead to anxiety, low self-esteem, depression and even insomnia. Gambling, like any addiction, can also cause people to lose interest in things they previously enjoyed, which can push them to spend even more time gambling. It’s a vicious cycle.
Those who are already vulnerable to mental health issues may turn to gambling as a distraction. However, this often makes the problem worse.
The money problems that gambling can cause more often than not lead to arguments between partners, which may stop them from talking about the problem. The obsessive need to gamble can also lead to people spending more time gambling, and less time with friends, family, or their partner.
It can also have an effect on a person’s work relationships and, in turn, their career. As problem gambling can cause anxiety and a loss of concentration, this can lead to people being distracted at work or finding it hard to focus, meaning their job could end up being at risk.
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What are the warning signs of problem gambling?
If you feel you have a problem with gambling, some of the below points could look familiar:
- Regularly spending more than you had planned on gambling.
- Spending on gambling instead of important bills such as rent or utilities.
- Using gambling as a distraction from other things going on in your life.
- Having feelings of guilt or shame about your gambling habits.
- Using things such as an overdraft, credit card, or payday loan to fund your gambling.
- Trying to pay off your debts through gambling.
- Noticing a change in the state of your mental health.
Signs of problem gambling in friends, family, or your partner can be easy to miss, but you know or think someone has a problem with gambling, some of the following signs may be familiar to you:
- Going to fewer events with friends and family.
- Hiding things about their money (if usually talking about money is normal).
- Having a lot of loans or credit cards.
- Having unpaid bills.
- Seeming worried or angry without a clear reason.
- Not doing well at work.
- A lack of food or other basic items in their home.
If you’re still unsure whether you or someone you know is struggling with this type of debt, the gambling charity Gamcare has a helpful self-assessment test which can show whether you might need some help to get your gambling under control.
How to keep on top of gambling habits
Problem gambling can be draining, and everyone deals with it differently. Below are some steps you can take if you think you may be struggling to keep your gambling under control.
- Make small personal changes– Look for any patterns in your habits and try to change things in your life to help break this. For example, you might be able to avoid places which tempt you to gamble.
- Practice self-exclusion– Betting shops should allow customers to exclude themselves. This means that staff will refuse to serve you, which will help to prevent you from gambling. This is also available on most gambling websites.
- Open up– Simply getting things off your chest with a friend or family member that you trust can help you to feel driven to deal with the problem.
- Speak to an expert– You can get free advice through gambling helplines. Some companies also provide counselling to help you find out why you gamble and advice on how to break the gambling habit.
- Find a support network– Help groups such as Gamblers Anonymous can provide a mutually supportive environment in which to discuss issues, and find friendly advice about the steps you can take to overcome them.
- Get help to clear your gambling debts– Writing off debts accrued by gambling can be a great motivator to keep such problems firmly in the past. You may be able to do this by entering into a debt solution such as an IVA or trust deed. However, you’ll need to prove that you are resolving your gambling problem before entering into any of these agreements.
Gambling debt can have a huge impact on your life, but at Creditfix we’re here to listen, understand and put you on the right path to get help for your circumstances.