Responsible Gambling: When to Walk Away

November 1, 2018

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As it’s Responsible Gambling Week, we cast our eyes back on our article from last year’s campaign and delve into how the common gambler can bet responsibly and safely.

In mid-October, the UK Gambling Commission held their first ever ‘Responsible Gambling Week,’ taking inspiration from the moderately successful Australian model which has been running nationwide since 2013.

The Australian campaign is an annual occurrence every May, and receives backing from the likes of Melbourne Victory Football Club, AFC Victoria, and United Voice along with over 20 other organisations.

The Australian government provided nearly $6m to the cause in 2017, which focused mainly on the impact gambling has on family relationships.

“Responsible Gambling Awareness Week encourages gamblers to stay within their limits and highlights the support available to people who feel gambling may have become a problem,” says the attorney-general of Queensland, Australia, Yvette D’Ath.

“It’s important to raise awareness of responsible gambling not only this week, but throughout the year. When family and friends are aware of issues that may arise related to problem gambling, they can play an important role in supporting their loved one to seek help,” stated Relationships Australia CEO, Dr Ian Law.

UK’s Responsible Gambling Week

Meanwhile, in the UK more than 121,000 employees, 10,000 gambling venues, and a number of leading bookmakers such as William Hill and Bet365 took part in the UK’s biggest ever pan-industry social responsibility campaign.

The theme of the inaugural UK Responsible Gambling Week, led by the charities GambleAware and GamCare, was ‘let’s talk about responsible gambling,’ which was complemented with e-mails, Q&A sessions, posters, leaflets, banners, and information points from industry partners.

“It is imperative that gambling operators meet their obligations and take every step to ensure gambling is safe so we’re pleased to see the industry coming together to raise awareness of responsible gambling,” said the Gambling Commission chief executive Sarah Harrison.

“Public engagement is one of the twelve priority actions identified in the National Responsible Gambling Strategy. We need to learn from the experience of consumers and their families, and to use this to make gambling safer. So I welcome the theme of IGRG’s Responsible Gambling Week ‘let’s talk about responsible gambling,'” said Sir Christopher Kelly, Chair of the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board.

Like any awareness campaign, it’s difficult to measure the effectiveness of Responsible Gambling Week, especially so soon after the event, but both in Australia and the UK, there have been critics.

The British Labour deputy leader Tom Watson remarked, “So when I see initiatives like responsible gambling week I commend it – it’s a sign that there are some elements of the industry trying to do the right thing. But I can’t help but think, why just a week? Responsible gambling should be practiced all year round.”

In Australia in 2013, Dr Charles Livingston from the School of Public Health at Monash University was a tad more cynical, “Effectively it’s using this as a smokescreen to advertise their product. Those who are seeking to deflect attention are those who benefit most from this arrangement.”

When it comes to any kind of gambling initiative, it’s sure to prompt disapproval or at least scepticism.

A Shift in Focus

Gambling has been a mainstay of the British news agenda throughout 2017. In late October, plans were put in place to lower the maximum bet on fixed-odds betting terminals from £100 to as low as £2, but there have been calls from all sides of the political spectrum that more needs to be done.

Responsible gambling machines

However, John Hagan from the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling believes that the creation of the Responsible Gambling Week in the UK is a step in the right direction and a shift in focus, despite the criticism he pre-empted.

“There will be some negative press coverage but this is not a PR campaign, it’s a discussion,” said Hagan. “It may generate negative headlines from some with their own agenda, from those who don’t like gambling, but at least the information will be getting out there. I hope that by putting our heads above the parapet and raising this topic we will trigger interest and conversation.

“I really believe this week can make a difference by helping people understand what it means to gamble responsibly. It’s about helping people make informed choices about their gambling, so they do so from a position of knowledge.”

In both the UK and Australia, the Responsible Gambling Week promotes a number of specific tips that are designed to be the backbone of the campaign’s anticipated prosperity to help out gamblers that are struggling with their habit.

GambleAware, the leading charity in the UK committed to minimising gambling-related harm, published a ten step guide to gambling safely:

  1. Don’t think of gambling as a way to make money:
    The venue is using gambling to make money. It’s not designed to work the other way around. Over time you will give away more money than you receive! Think of gambling as an entertainment expense – just like buying a movie ticket.
  2. Only gamble with money you can afford to lose:
    Gamble within your weekly entertainment budget, not with your phone bill or rent budget.
  3. Set a money limit in advance:
    Decide how much you can afford to lose before you go to play. When it’s gone – it’s over! If you win, you’ve been lucky, but don’t be disappointed if your luck doesn’t continue.
  4. Set a time limit in advance:
    It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re gambling. Set a time limit or alarm, and when time’s up – quit! Odds are that the more time you spend gambling, the more money you will lose.
  5. Never chase your losses:
    If you lose your set money limit and then try to win some of it back before you leave, then you haven’t really set a money limit. Chasing your losses will usually just lead to bigger and bigger losses.
  6. Don’t gamble when you’re depressed or upset:
    Decision-making can be more difficult when you’re stressed or emotionally upset. Make sure you only gamble when you’re feeling happy and clear headed.
  7. Balance gambling with other activities:
    When gambling becomes your only form of entertainment, it’s unlikely that you’re still just gambling for the fun of it, and your gambling may even be a problem. Make sure gambling isn’t your only pastime.
  8. Don’t take your bank card with you:
    This is a good way to safeguard your money limit and not let being “in the moment” warp your judgment.
  9. Take frequent breaks:
    Gambling continuously can cause you to lose track of time and perspective. Step out for some air or a bite to eat at regular intervals.
  10. Don’t drink or use drugs when gambling:
    Drugs and alcohol cloud judgement and good judgment stands as your main line of defence against letting gambling get out of control.

In Australia, 2017’s Responsible Gambling Week was split into three levels: individual, organisation or venue, and community.

At an individual level, responsible gambling is about knowing how to gamble responsibly. It’s about:

  • Knowing the odds
  • Taking breaks
  • Setting limits and sticking to them

At an organisation or venue level, responsible gambling is about creating an environment where responsible gambling is enabled and encouraged by:

  • Separating gambling from other activities – particularly those involving children
  • Promoting responsible gambling to members, staff and visitors
  • Ensuring people who might be experiencing harm know there is help available

At a community level, it’s about making sure everyone knows what responsible gambling is and supporting that behaviour by:

  • Sharing responsibility for creating awareness of the risks
  • Being responsive to community concerns

The Art of Responsible Gambling

Throughout its life story, gambling has been looked upon by certain quarters with scorn and distaste, and when the authorities get the levels slightly wrong, as they admit they have done in recent times, the media and public hit them hard.

Fixed-odds betting terminals have already seen a change to their functionality, but with problem gambling on the rise as betting shops on the high street continue to open, the likelihood that the backlash will subside is minimal.

However, with initiatives like Responsible Gambling Week, and authorities like GambleAware and GamCare, steps are being put in place to stop the slide and bring the gambling world back to its usual conventional levels.

Gambling has been a mainstay throughout human history dating back all the way to 3000 BC when the first six-sided dice was found, but throughout its existence there has continuously been a strive for authoritative and individual balance to keep habits in check.

Learning to bet responsibly is a crucial art to master to make the most of the wonderful world of gambling which has been enjoyed for thousands of years.

Disclaimer: Online gambling is illegal in some jurisdictions. It is your responsibility to check your local regulations before gambling online. Only players over 18 years old can register at online casinos. Playing online casinos, slots or bingo should remain a form of entertainment.

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