In recent years, online gambling has become a huge part of culture and everyday life in the UK. And from our experience, it’s not out of line to say that many in the Forces enjoy a flutter more than most.
For most people, the odd bit of gambling won’t be a problem — even if, we must say, there probably are better ways of spend your hard-earned cash! But chances are, as long as you treat it as what it is, a game, the risk is minimal.
That said, there are times when it’s a good idea to stop for a second and check that things aren’t getting out of hand. As a credit union, we regularly see members spending a quarter, half or even more of their monthly salary on gambling, and in some cases, trying to apply for a loan to cover basic expenses.
Needless to say, over time, that level of gambling is likely to cause serious damage to your finances, credit file, family relationships, and potentially your armed forces career too, given that some types of financial decisions (such as bankruptcy or IVAs) need to be disclosed to your chain of command.
How to spot excessive gambling
If you’re looking for a hard ‘if you spend more than X%’ rule of thumb, unfortunately, we don’t have oone. The truth is that the question of how much gambling is too much is a personal one, and depends a lot on your personal financial and relationship circumstances.
Instead, professionals usually talk in terms of ‘gambling-related harms’. What this means is that you should judge your level of gambling based on its impact it is having on your own life and state of mind, and those of the people around you.
According to gambling charity GamCare, signs that you may have a gambling problem include:
- Spending more money and time on gambling than you can afford
- Finding it hard to manage or stop your gambling
- Having arguments with family or friends about money and gambling
- Losing interest in usual activities or hobbies like going out with friends or spending time with family
- Always thinking or talking about gambling
- Lying about your gambling or hiding it from other people
- Chasing losses or gambling to get out of financial trouble
- Gambling until all of your money is gone
- Borrowing money, selling possessions or not paying bills in order to pay for gambling
- Needing to gamble with larger amounts of money or for a longer time to get the same feeling of excitement or buzz
- Neglecting work, school, family, personal needs or household responsibilities because of gambling
- Feeling anxious, worried, guilty, depressed or irritable.
If any of that sounds like you, then it might be worth taking a moment with yourself to think about whether it’s time to do something to limit your gambling or to stop. The earlier you catch it, the easier it is likely to be to get back in control.
Where to get support for gambling
The good news? You are by no means alone. Unfortunately, in the lockdown over the past year, more people have been affected, using gambling as a way to deal with the stress, boredom or financial problems that many of us have experienced over the past year.
As awareness has grown, there are some pretty amazing tools and sources of support out there, . They can help you to look at your current levels of gambling, and to reach a decision about whether it’s wise to cut down or stop. It’s all completely confidential, and for the most part, free to access.
And if you do decide to stop, there are a range of things they can do to support you through it, including ‘self-exclusion’ tools, which will allow you to exclude yourself from all UK gambling websites and even software to stop gambling adverts from appearing when you browse.
For free advice, tools and for an honest conversation about your gambling, the place to start is the campaign TalkBanStop, which is a gateway to all of the sources of advice and tools you might want to use.