Playing at an online casino is supposed to be fun, and nothing else. This is why it's important to keep a few things in mind when you decide to play for real money, and it's important that you keep an eye on your own playing behaviour and recognise symptoms of an unhealthy gambling habit or even gambling addiction.
This guide aims to help you recognise some of those symptoms, and we also aim to explain what you, as a player, can do to protect yourself.
While most players won't experience any symptoms of problematic gambling, it's easy to miss subtle signs of gambling addiction. It's important that you manage your money, set yourself limits and that you are aware of how and why you are playing.
Never chase losses
One of the most important things to keep in mind, which cannot be repeated more often, is that you should never chase previous losses at the casino. You need to be aware that you can lose your money at the casino and not win anything, and that you won't eventually win if you keep playing the games.
Casino games are all a game of chance, and the casino will always have an advantage over the player (the house edge or RTP). This means that statistically the casino will win more often than the player, and this is how the gambling operators finance their whole business.
What you can influence, however, is how quickly you lose your money, for example if you play a low risk game and not a high-risk game. Some slot machines have a higher and some a lower variance, which is an indicator of how much and how often the slot pays out.
When playing roulette, the type of bet your place determines the risk of the bet. Some bets are called low risk bets, for example betting on red or black or columns. These bets are less risky than betting on a single number or four numbers. The higher the probability of a win, the less risk is attached, but this also affects how much you can win in the game.
While it can be tempting, and you may think that you will eventually get a lucky streak if you keep on playing, you risk losing all your money if you don't stop. So it's better to accept your losses, stop playing, calm down and log out from the casino.
To help you curb the temptation of continuing to play when you have a losing streak, you can set yourself limits, such as loss limits, that restrict how much you allow yourself to lose on a day or other period of time.
Never play with money that you can't afford to lose
It may sound like the no-brainer to most, but some people play casino games with money that they should instead spend on their rent or pay other important bills or even food for the family. It's important that you don't spend money on gambling if you can't afford to lose the money.
It's a clear sign of problematic gambling when you are using such money to gamble, possibly with the intention of winning more to pay the bills later. Gambling should not be seen as a source of income, as it is more likely that you lose your money and won't be able to pay the bills after all. Needless to say, don't borrow money to gamble, this will only cause more problems down the road.
This issue has torn apart many families of problem gamblers, so we urge you that you only play when you're in a good mood, and when you have some money to spend on gambling that won't hurt your pocket if you lose it.
Take a break from the games
Did you notice that time seems to fly by when you're having fun spinning your favourite slot or watching the cards at the blackjack table? Before you know it, an hour or two may have passed, and it only felt like a few minutes. The Reality Check feature can help you, and remind you how long you've played already. Many casinos give you the option to set a time limit for the Reality Check which you can usually find in the setting for responsible gaming.
It is advisable to take regular breaks from the games, as they can help you to keep a clear head when you play, especially if you play a strategy game like blackjack, where your decision can lead to victory or loss at the game. Being tired or exhausted can have a negative effect on your ability to make decisions, so it's best to take a break and get some fresh air, and then start fresh with a clear head at a later time.
Never play when you're drunk
Not much explanation is needed about how people behave when they're drunk. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and this can have negative consequences when you're playing at the casino.
You may not be able to make the right decisions or notice when you should stop playing. Spinning a slot is easy and being drunk won't affect the outcome of the game, but when you play a game where you have to make a decision about your strategy, like for example blackjack or other card game, then you may not be able to make the best decision due to an impaired sense of judgement.
Stop playing when you get angry or agitated
Playing casino games is supposed to be a fun and entertaining thrill, but when you loose too many rounds in a row, or you have too many close calls, you may find yourself getting more agitated as you play.
If you find yourself not enjoying the games anymore, stop and take a break. Do something else to calm down. Don't continue playing if you think after all these losses you'll be landing the big win soon. This may not happen and you may be more disappointed and angry afterwards. Remember, that you can set loss limits at many casinos.
Setting limits at the casino
Many licensed online casinos allow you to set various limits for responsible gambling. These limits include deposit limits, loss limits, playing-time limits, and more.
With a deposit limit you can restrict how much you can deposit during a period of time, which can be a day, week or month. Similarly, the loss limit will kick in if you're lost a certain amount.
The Reality Check can remind you how long you've been playing already,
Self-exclusion at online casinos
The casinos also offer the option to self-exclude. The exclusion works differently, depending on the country of residence, and some countries have national exclusion lists, like Gamstop in the United Kingdom or Spelpaus in Sweden.
Once you're registered with these exclusion lists, you won't be able to play at any UK- or Sweden-licensed casinos anymore for as long as you've excluded yourself.
Most times, and in most countries, an exclusion works with each casino, meaning that you can exclude yourself from that particular casino for a period of time or indefinitely. Some of these blocks also include all casinos from a particular operator, which would include all the online casinos they offer.
Take a test to assess your gambling habit
Are you unsure if you fall into the category of players with a tendency to problem gambling? You can take free and confidential tests to help you determine whether or not your habit is problematic.
These tests are based on DSM-IV or DSM V classifications of problem gambling and the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI), so they are not based on arbitrary criteria.
These tests are available at gambling support organisations that you can find in many countries. A few of them are listed below, but if your country isn't listed, you can contact them anyways, or look for one from your country.
A quick online assessment with 20 questions at gamblersanonymous.com ↱ can give you an idea, and depending on the outcome they may recommend you speak to a professional.
Remember, help is available, and it's free too. To keep gambling fun, play responsibly.
United Kingdom: www.gamcare.org.uk ↱ Freephone: 0808 8020 133
Canada: www.responsiblegambling.org ↱ Phone: +1 (416) 499-9800
Ireland: gamblersanonymous.ie ↱ Phone: 01 872 1133
New Zealand: www.gamblinghelpline.co.nz ↱ Freephone: 0800 654 655
United States: www.ncpgambling.org ↱ Freephone: 1-800-522-4700
Germany: www.spielen-mit-verantwortung.de ↱ Freephone: 0800 1 37 27 00
Switzerland: www.sos-spielsucht.ch ↱ Freephone: 0800 040 080