Responsible Gambling at Online Casinos
As much as we love online gambling, every gambler has a personal obligation to gamble sensibly. After all, gambling is always more fun when played responsibly! We have built this comprehensive guide for our players covering all angles of responsible gambling.
In this guide you will find the following:
- How to manage your casino account
- Understanding addiction and how to deal with it
- Self exclusion
- Gambling superstition
- Free online support – Gambling Therapy & GamCare
- Responsible Gambling Trust
1. How to manage your casino account
Here are a few tips that every gambler should know about budgeting and organising their online casino entertainment. When gambling online, it really pays to structure your play (particularly if you hold multiple accounts). Unlike in a land-based casino, where rigid structures are enforced by casino staff, online gamblers have to set their own limits and control their own behaviour. Check out our article with tips on keeping your casino account safe.
This can be tricky, but there are a few things you can do to ensure you play sensibly and within your means …
✓ Establish a ‘play’ account
It’s always a good idea to keep your everyday life and gambling activities separate. Rather than playing out of your bank account with debit or credit cards, we recommend setting up a free eWallet using a payment service like Neteller or Skrill, and topping it up every month. Set aside enough cash enough for you to enjoy yourself, but keep well within your means. This will set discrete limits for your monthly gambling spend and help you resist the temptation of dipping into your savings. For more tips on this topic check out our guide on managing and keeping a casino budget.
✓ Set your own limits
When gambling minute-to-minute at an online casino, you should set two psychological limits: a betting limit and a session limit. Your betting limit is the maximum amount you are willing to wager in one go (e.g. a poker stake or a blackjack bet), while your session limit is the amount of money you can afford to lose in a single sitting. By adhering to both these limits, you will not be gambling more than you can afford to lose.
✓ Make use of the casino’s resources
Some casinos allow you to toggle the amount you are able to spend per day/week/month. If you find it difficult to stick to your own limits, you should definitely make use of this function.
✓ Steer clear of reverse withdrawal
Many casinos offer a ‘reverse withdrawal’ period, during which you can access cash for a certain amount of time even after you have started the cashing out process. In effect, this is the casino’s last attempt to recover some of your winnings, so beware.
✓ Watch out for certain games
You should be aware that certain gambling activities are more clearly linked to compulsive/addictive play than others. For instance, some slot games are described as ‘high variance’, meaning that you are more likely to win small prizes more frequently. This can be very compulsive, deceptively eating away at your bankroll. If you want to play these games, be careful not to get hooked!
2. Understanding addiction and how to deal with it
When gambling, it is essential to know your limits and play within your means. Failing to do this can be seriously costly – and not just financially. It is first important to be able to identify the difference between problem gambling and addiction.
Problem gambling VS addiction
The first thing to know about problem gambling and addiction is that they are not the same thing. This is because, while all addicts are problem gamblers, however not all problem gamblers are addicts.
Below, we have explained the difference between problem gambling and addiction:
Problem gambling: All it takes to become a problem gambler is to spend more than you can afford to lose. Put simply, if gambling becomes a problem in your life, for any reason, then you have a gambling problem. This could mean you are anxious about how much you spend, or you feel that your losses are out of control. However, this does not mean you are necessarily an addict.
Addiction: Gambling addiction is a form of behavioural addiction. This means that, unlike drinking, smoking, or drug reliance, it does not stem from chemical stimuli. However, the symptoms and characteristics are very similar to substance addiction. Addiction has nothing to do with the size of your losses; rather, it means you are incapable of regulating your play. Addicts are compelled to gamble, and their habit can rapidly consume their lives.
How to identify gambling addiction
Every specialist has a different set of criteria for defining addiction. The following were proposed by Dr Mark Griffiths of Nottingham Trent University, a leading addiction specialist:
- Salience: You find yourself uncontrollably drawn to gambling and ‘crave’ it in your down time.
- Mood modification: You use gambling to make yourself feel better, or to attain a ‘high’ or ‘rush’.
- Tolerance: You find that you need to gamble more in order to reach the same highs you previously experienced from gambling less.
- Withdrawal: You feel anxious or uncomfortable when you have not gambled for a period of time.
- Conflict: You know that you should stop gambling or reduce the amount of time you spend gambling but find yourself incapable of doing so.
- Relapse: You have returned to gambling after an extended period without gambling.
*Do most or all of these apply to you, or someone you know?*
Busting myths about problem gambling and addiction
There are many misconceptions about problem gambling and addiction, which can be extremely misleading for people who suffer from these afflictions.
Myth no. 1: problem gambling is all relative. If you can afford your habit, there is no problem
This is a very common belief, but the fact is the impact of problem gambling goes beyond money. It can cause breakdowns of trust within significant relationships and erode your sense of self-worth.
Myth no. 2: problem gamblers and addicts use gambling to escape bad things in their lives
While this can be true, some addicts and problem gamblers are otherwise very well adjusted and lead normal lives. Problem play really can spring out of nowhere.
Myth no. 3: you have to gamble frequently to become a problem gambler
You can gamble rarely and be a problem gambler. Losing a month’s salary on one punt can certainly be considered a problem.
Myth no. 4: addicts and problem gamblers are all just superstitious and lose because they play badly/play negative expectation games
Sadly, addicts in particular are often perfectly aware that they’re playing against the odds and will continue to bet and lose on negative expectation games.
At the same time, skilled poker players and sports bettors can develop very serious problems when things don’t go their way. Ultimately, losing a lot of money is losing a lot of money, whether or not you think you know what you’re doing.
Dealing with problem gambling and addiction
As we established earlier, problem gambling is not the same as addiction. However, no matter the circumstances, whether they’re winning or losing, happy or miserable, addicts cannot get gambling out of their heads. For a minority of players, gambling can have an extremely destructive impact on their lives. An unhealthy gambling habit can have a catastrophic effect on a person’s life – destroying their finances, careers and relationships. While there is a difference between problem play and gambling addiction both can be incredibly damaging. However, it is never too late to make a change, and there are steps that you can take to help yourself and the people you love recover from problem gambling.
Okay, I think I have a gambling problem, what should I do?
Well done, recognising your own problem is the first and bravest step towards overcoming your condition. There are things you can do for yourself if you have identified an active gambling problem.
Step 1: seek help: Now that you know you have a problem with gambling, it’s time to get some assistance with starting your recovery. If you are based in the United Kingdom, you can access a free addiction helpline through GamCare, who will recommend how to proceed with treatment. Alternatively, if you are not a UK resident, you can visit Gambling Therapy to locate an addiction specialist near you to learn more.
Step 2: engage with your own recovery: Seeking advice from specialists is only the beginning. You must also be willing to self-analyse, recognise when your problematic behaviour started and identify your personal ‘triggers’ (feelings, locations or people that cause you to gambling unhealthily). There will be a steep gradient at first and you may find yourself enduring unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, but it is important to persevere. Once you have committed to your recovery, you will begin to see how irrational and damaging your prior behaviour was.
Step 3: staying on the right path: Once you have your behaviour under control, you must continue to rationalise your actions and commit to better, healthier lifestyle choices:
- Think: take steps to prevent problem behaviour before the opportunity arises. Avoid places where you will be tempted to gamble and find things to distract yourself if gambling enters your mind.
- Money: if you have been an addict, it might be advisable to put somebody else in charge of your money so that you will not be tempted to gamble.
- Keep busy: schedule in a lot of enjoyable activities so that you will not fill your down-time with gambling.
- Talk: whatever has happened in the past, do not be ashamed. Be open and honest about your problems and let the people you trust help you avoid relapses.
Helping family and friends deal with gambling and addiction
Dealing with your own addiction is hard enough, but if someone you care about is suffering from an unhealthy gambling habit, tackling with the issue can be harder still. Even with the best intentions, you risk doing more harm than good if you broach the subject in the wrong way, but the following steps should set you on the right path:
- Help yourself first: Don’t blame yourself for somebody else’s problem and don’t be afraid to take any necessary financial or emotional steps to protect yourself.
Seek advice: The charities recommended above can also provide advice that will help you aid another person in the event of a gambling habit. Arm yourself with their knowledge and expertise before proceeding.
- Share the load: In addition to experts, approach friends, family and people you trust for advice and support before tackling the issue at hand.
- Remain calm: Try not to become angry with the problem gambler. They need you to be constant and controlled if you are to be any help.
- Don’t sweep anything under the rug: Do not exclude the problem gambler from everyday life and don’t try to conceal their issues from family or friends. If anything, the attention will help them self-determine towards recovery.
- Do NOT provide financial support: Addicts and problem gamblers are very good at asking for money to fund their habit. It is often not their fault, but you could actually inflict more harm by ‘helping them’ with hand-outs.
- Help them help themselves: Recovery has to be self-motivated. Addicts in particular must really engage with their own condition and make a conscious commitment to change.
3. Self exclusion
Time to move on? Follow these instructions to close or exclude yourself from your casino account:
Close your account
There are many reasons that players decide to close an active casino account.
You might have gone through a cold streak at a particular website, or perhaps you’re just looking for a change of scenery.
Whatever the reason, closing your account should be fairly straightforward.
To close your casino account, simply contact customer support through one of your casino’s recommended channels and let them know that you intend to cancel your membership.
You may wish to consult the website’s terms and conditions for specific instructions.
For a less permanent arrangement, you can request a casino exclude you from your account for an agreed-upon cool-off period.
This exclusionary period can be a matter of weeks, months or can be indefinite. During this time, you will also no longer receive promotional material from your casino.
- This page provides a very general guide to account closure and self-exclusion, as every casino has a slightly different process for closing accounts.
- Casinos will often try to prevent you from leaving by offering you new deals (they want to keep their custom, after all!) If you are determined to close your account, just be firm and clear and everything should be fine.
4. Gambling superstition
Learn to recognise when you’re betting smart and when you’re just going by your gut. Gamblers are, historically, a superstitious bunch, often trusting a lot of their bets to ‘gut instinct’ or a ‘good feeling’. There’s nothing wrong with this per se, but you need to know when you’re being irrational to avoid groundless ‘betting systems’ on games of chance as these can cost you a lot of money.
Heuristics: every gambler’s worst enemy
Basically a fancy word for ‘rules of thumb’, heuristics are the root of all irrational approaches to gambling. In the case of gambling, heuristics manifest in superstitions and false pattern recognition. Listed below are some of the more common examples of heuristics overriding good judgement in gambling.
The gambler’s fallacy
The gambler’s fallacy is the mistaken belief that you can predict future outcomes based on previous ones, even if they have no statistical connection. Every bet in a casino game is statistically independent from the last. Assume the ball has landed on red in roulette 50 times in a row. This does not make it more (or less) likely to come up red a 51st time when you come to place your bet.
This is because, while the odds of getting continuous heads doubles with every spin, the chances of getting red on each individual spin is always one in two (1/2). Presuming the wheel is fair (i.e. not biased towards a particular side or quadrant), each spin is independent from the previous one.
When presented with a figure, even with no relevance to a given situation, we will often use it as an ‘anchor’ for making estimations and decisions. This phenomenon is often exploited by casinos to keep us playing. A good example is when a roulette croupier rattles off ‘hot numbers’ – i.e. the numbers that have seen the most wins that night. As soon as those numbers are in your head, your brain is already leaning towards either betting on or close to those numbers. You should also look out for anchors in bet wording, and understand how spread values and handicaps will influence your judgements when playing.
Unsurprisingly, we find it much easier to remember events that leave a strong impression. We attribute greater significance to these events and assume that they will happen more frequently after they have happened once. Availability bias is particularly notable in sports betting because bettors tend to overestimate the frequency of events like red cards and corners, having falsely remembered them occurring more regularly in previous games. In casino games, big wins and losses stick in our heads more than breaking-even (or minor wins/losses). This can result in ‘double-up’ strategies with no statistical basis.
A heuristic phenomenon that will be very familiar to fans of slot games. When presented with multiple, simultaneous options, we generally ‘spread’ our choices to maximise diversity. This is the basis of placing spread bets, or plugging coins into various slot machines rather than sticking with one. While spread bets can result in a better chance of winning, they do not always translate to a positive expected value and players should be mindful of this.
Escalation of commitment: ‘sunk cost’
This is our desire to ‘get our money’s worth’ – once we’ve paid for something, we like to persevere rather than incur additional cost, even if the thing we’ve bought isn’t satisfactory. You regularly see novice poker players fall victim to this heuristic trap. Once they’ve bluffed their way to the turn with a lousy hand (raising over the odds in the process) inexperienced players will often call rather than swallow a smaller hit. Once they’re in, they are compelled to see their hand through.
Superstition in action
- Superstition in slots: The classic example from old-fashioned, land-based slot machines is the ‘bar, bar, cherry’. Any outcome where you are one symbol away from a jackpot can feel like you ‘nearly won’ but is, in fact, a loss. Don’t think you will have better chances on the next spin.
- Superstition in roulette: 50 consecutive ‘reds’ on roulette does not predict a higher or lower probability of reds on the next spin. Every spin is mathematically independent from every other, which is why ALL roulette strategies are false.
- Superstition in blackjack: So-called ‘voodoo betting’ strategies in blackjack, just like ‘roulette systems’. are based on gambler’s fallacy, with players increasing their wagers on the back of wins/losses rather than following a proper count.
- Superstition in baccarat: As a negative-expectation, house edge game, all baccarat strategies are based on the gambler’s fallacy or some other heuristic psychology.
- Superstition in bingo and lotteries: Buying multiple cards in bingo and lotteries is a form of diversification that carries an ultimately negative expectation.
- Superstition in sports betting: Sports bettors have a tendency to remember wins more clearly than losses; an availability bias which can negatively influence future bets.
- Superstition in financials: Similarly to sports bettors, financial investors struggle with availability bias and are subject to ‘gut feelings’. These irrational impulses can cause them to lose sight of their sound judgement and abandon long-term strategy on a whim.
- Superstition in poker: While poker can become a positive expectation game with practice, many players succumb to the same heuristics that plague fixed-odds casino games, misunderstanding (or ignoring) poker mathematics and strategy.
5. Free online support – Gambling Therapy & GamCare
There are a number of free online resources that help support you or your close ones through these trialling times.
Gambling Therapy – What is it and how can it be of help?
Gambling Therapy is an online support service for individuals who have been adversely affected by gambling. contains invaluable services and resources for problem players in all territories (the site is optimised for a number of different languages). It is a registered charity, affiliated with the Gordon Moody Association. The website contains comprehensive information and guidance on the causes, symptoms and impacts of addiction, while their extensive database can provide detailed information about local resources and charities close to you.
No matter where you are based, if you are suffering addiction, you will benefit from the services provided by Gambling Therapy. All correspondences are completely anonymous. The forums give problem players the opportunity to talk with people in similar circumstances in a safe environment, while a free helpline provides for one-to-one support around the clock.
If you are struggling with gambling, to any degree, you should definitely check out Gambling Therapy.
You will find all their details on their website – gamblingtherapy.org
GamCare – What is it and how can it be of help?
Since 1997, GamCare has been the UK’s leading provider of information, advice, support and free counselling from national experts for the prevention and treatment of problem gambling. The organisation is the largest gambling charity in Britain, manning national telephone and online helplines for anyone affected by problem gambling.
Unlike some charities, GamCare takes a non-judgemental approach to gambling. Its website states that it “does not wish to restrict the choices or opportunities for anyone to operate or engage in gambling opportunities that are available legally and operated responsibly.”
In addition to its free, anonymous helpline, GamCare can also arrange for face-to-face counselling for problem gamblers and works tirelessly to raise awareness about the causes and impact of problem gambling throughout the United Kingdom.
If you are based in the UK and suspect that you – or someone you know – is suffering from a gambling problem, GamCare should be your first port of call for help and advice.
You will find all their details on their website – gamcare.org.uk
“GamCare provides support, information and advice to anyone suffering through a gambling problem”.
“Gambling Therapy is a free online service that provides practical advice and emotional support to people affected by problem gambling who reside outside Great Britain.”
6. Responsible Gambling Trust
The Responsible Gambling Trust is an industry-funded charity committed to minimising gambling-related harm.
What is the Responsible Gambling Trust?
This independent, national charity is the leading provider of gambling education, prevention and treatment services. It aims to prevent people from getting into trouble with gambling by making them aware of the facts and ensuring that the industry takes sufficient steps to protect consumers.
It also works to ensure that those who do find themselves with gambling problems are quickly able to receive effective treatment.
To ensure trust and credibility, the organisation invites the government, the Gambling Commission and the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RGSB) to observe its operations.
The RGSB is the independent adviser of the Gambling Commission and produces an independent and unbiased national strategy, based on the best evidence available, to reduce gambling-related problems.
The Responsible Gambling Trust does not receive any public funding. Instead, it raises a minimum of £5 million each year from gambling operators in Britain via a voluntary, donations-based system.
The organisation asks every business that gains income from gambling to make some form of donation to help reach this target.
Companies that donate to the Responsible Gambling Trust receive a donor certificate and logo that they can display to show their support for responsible gambling.
Participating casinos can be identified by the presence of this seal in their website footer.
History of the Responsible Gambling Trust
The Responsible Gambling Trust was established as an independent, industry-funded organisation to ensure a higher standard of social responsibility from the UK commercial gambling market. The Trust was established in April 2012, as a result of the merger of The GREaT Foundation and Responsible Gambling Fund. The intention behind the merger was to streamline the process of fundraising and the distribution of money, to ensure that as much of the money raised as possible would reach those who need it.
How can the Responsible Gambling Trust help?
The goal of the Responsible Gambling Trust is to minimise problem gambling in the longer term. As such, its activities are mostly related to education and research rather than the provision of front-line assistance to problem gamblers. However, the Trust has commissioned effective services from treatment and education providers, offering grants to charities with more direct involvement in gamblers’ lives.
The organisations supported include GamCare, Gordon Moody Association and CNWL National Problem Gambling Clinic, all of which provide practical front-line assistance to those who are affected by problem gambling.
Responsible Gambling Trust, 35 Piccadilly, London, W1J 0DW