Gambling is one of the most popular activities around the world, and this is no different in Canada.
Here, gambling either at a brick-and-mortar venue or online is completely legal.
While the legal age does differ slightly from province to province, it has generally got a standardized set of rules in place for players. If you live in Manitoba, Alberta or Quebec, then you will need to be 18 in order to gamble – any other province and the legal age is set at 19.
While it’s an enjoyable pastime for the vast majority, there are some people who struggle to gamble in a responsible manner.
If this happens, it can cause people to begin problem gambling. This can lead to a number of problems and can even cause some people to carry out crimes in order to fund their gambling habits.
What are the signs of problem gambling, and how can you make sure that you behave responsibly and avoid them?
We’ve covered the most important aspects to make sure that you stay safe when gambling.
How to spot if you have the start of a gambling problem
For many people, gambling begins as a much smaller issue. They don’t spot it right away, and by the time they realize that they have an issue, it’s too late for them to pull away easily.
There are a lot of early signs out there though, and these can help people to spot when they might be starting to suffer from gambling problems.
Here’s a quick look through some of the most common tell-tale signs.
Lying about how much you bet
This is a huge telltale sign that you are starting to struggle with your gambling.
If you lie to your loved ones, or even yourself, about how much you are betting, then you most likely have a gambling problem.
Even if it’s just by small amounts, this is still an issue that can cause you big problems in the future.
It could mean that you are going over a budget that you had set for yourself. If this is the case, then it means that you are not in full control of your gambling.
Lying about how much you are betting is also a break of trust between you and other people.
A big part of gambling responsibly is not just having the trust of those around you, but it’s also about deserving that trust.
If you find yourself lying to people about how much you bet, then this is a sign that you are on your way to problem gambling.
Chasing losses is a big sign that you are on the road to a gambling problem.
Moreover, Chasing losses means that you place another bet that is aimed at covering a previous bet that you had lost. It’s a road that often leads to larger losses in the long run.
A big part of this takes place when you lose the bet that you have placed to chase your previous loss. It will lead to placing another bet to chase both of those losses.
From there, you can end up making extremely large losses and even spending money that you don’t have in order to try to catch up.
This is when you begin to have a problem, as not only do you not have the money that you have lost, but you also owe the person you got the money from.
If you have taken it from someone who doesn’t know about it, then it means that you won’t be able to pay them back and have effectively stolen from them.
If you begin chasing losses, then this is another sign that you have a problem with your gambling.
Constantly thinking about gambling
If you always had gambling on your mind, then this is definitely a sign that you have a problem.
If gambling is always on your mind, then it means that you are pushing out other aspects of your life purely to focus on gambling.
Just like any obsessive behavior, this is not healthy.
However, what makes it more of a problem is that gambling can cause large-scale losses if you’re unsuccessful.
It can also lead to you being unable to resist gambling.
If you don’t have enough money to place a wager but still do it anyway, then this is obviously a big problem.
It means that you will be spending money that you don’t have or even money that is supposed to be spent on other things, on gambling. In the long term, this will only end one way.
Spending money for bills on gambling
This is without a doubt something that should instantly set off alarm bells.
If you are spending rent, mortgage, electricity or food money on gambling, then you certainly have a big problem. This is money that you require in order to live.
If you’re spending on something that is supposed to just be a pastime, then you have a fully-fledged addiction. If you even consider doing this, then you have a gambling problem.
Why does gambling impact us so much?
Gambling can activate pleasure centers in the brain.
When you win a bet, this creates an endorphin high.
The brain enjoys this feeling and so it keeps trying to experience it. It’s actually not all about winning money. As it triggers this release of hormones inside the brain, people keep chasing that release.
While they think that they enjoy having more money, what they actually enjoy is the process of winning. Unfortunately, there is a cost associated with it when losses occur.
This goes beyond just losing money. It also impacts the brain in a similar way to how winning does.
When losing money, it makes the brain want to experience the high of winning even more. This causes players to attempt to cancel out the low feeling by betting again.
However, because the brain is so desperate to experience the high of a win, it means that your judgement is clouded.
As such, you won’t think about if your bet is a sensible one to place.
It could be on a sport you know nothing about; it could be with money you don’t have or could be way above your pre-set budget.
Whatever the issue, your judgement is clouded and it causes you to place a bet that you wouldn’t normally think about placing.
This will then have the knock-on effect of impacting your mental health.
You can fall into depression, insomnia, anxiety or a variety of other mental health problems.
It’s a vicious cycle as this can lead to people then trying to block out how bad they feel by gambling even more.
It can take people down to incredible lows where they would do things that they would never normally consider doing.
It can lead to stealing from loved ones, committing other crimes, and even skipping work in order to gamble.
This is why if any of the signs of problem gambling begin to show in you or someone you know, then you should immediately take steps. This can either be to help yourself or to help another person.
Getting help can be achieved in a number of ways.
There are a lot of different gambling support charities that provide specialized help.
While it is much easier to contact them if it is for someone else, if it’s for yourself, it can be a lot harder. Getting the courage to seek help is the first step.
It’s also the hardest step to take, as admitting that you have a problem is a lot easier said than done.
However, by getting in touch with a specialist who can provide you with the help you need, you have started yourself on the road to recovery.
There are also other ways that you can help yourself that don’t require you to publicly admit your issues.
If you are able to, many online gambling sites have what is known as self-exclusion policies.
These will prevent you from being able to use the different gambling sites. It means that even if you get the urge to gamble, you won’t be able to do so.
What is so good about these policies is that they are linked to other sites – so if you self-exclude at one site, you won’t be able to open an account at another site and start playing there.
While this isn’t a complete fix for your issues, it is a practical way to stop you from giving in to the urge to gamble.
Accept your issues
It’s also important to accept that you have a problem.
While self-exclusion will stop you from gambling, it won’t stop the desires or urges. You could still try to find another way to do it.
As such, getting help from a gambling support charity, and your family is the best way to try to recover in the long run.
There’s never anything wrong with getting help, and if you do it soon enough, then you may be able to stop yourself before it becomes too big of a problem.
Please note that this article is a sponsored post from Emma Gilbert. All views and opinions expressed in this article are her own.
Thanks for reading. Please let me know your thoughts and comments below.
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Sagar Sridhar is a personal finance blogger from Canada. His genuine passion for personal finance coupled with his unique style of writing is what stands out. Professionally, he is a computer engineer, agile certified and has a master’s degree in Project Management. His writing has been featured or quoted in the leading Canadian publications such as Credit Canada and many other personal finance publications. While he is juggling between his day job and blogging, he is the main author on this blog and has miles to go before making the final pit stop.