Advertisements for gambling and online betting tell us to “gamble responsibly”. But what does this mean in reality? And how can you gamble responsibly online when another bet is just a click or swipe away?
A total of 64% of Australian adults gamble at least once a year, with one third of gamblers participating in multiple forms of gambling. Lottery is the most common form of gambling among those who gamble regularly (76%), followed by instant scratch tickets (22%) and electronic gaming machines (or “pokies”, almost 21%).
Up to 160,000 Australians experience significant problems from gambling, and up to a further 350,000 experience moderate risks that make them vulnerable to developing a gambling problem.
In about the past 15 years, there’s been a rise in online gambling. While rates of online gambling for Australians are low compared to traditional forms of gambling, participation in online gambling appears to be increasing rapidly.
If this continues, online gambling may soon replace traditional, in-venue gambling, particularly for young people.
Young people exposed to gambling when watching sport
Advertisements for gambling and online betting are particularly common in Australian sport. While there has been a recent shift to regulate when and how gambling is advertised during sporting matches, there is still a heavy presence.
In fact, three in four children aged eight to 16 who watch sports can name at least one betting company.
The public health campaign, “Love the Game, Not the Odds”, was released addressing the issue of reducing the exposure of young people to sport betting.
It aims to disrupt the notion that gambling is a normal part of sport and being a spectator. And it aims to help start and facilitate conversations with children and adolescents about gambling not needing to be an integral part of gaming.
How to ‘gamble responsibly’?
The phrase “gamble responsibly” on advertisements and websites was used for years before researchers and public health advocates looked at the types of behaviours that underpin it.
Responsible gambling is defined as:
Exercising control and informed choice to ensure that gambling is kept within affordable limits of money and time, is enjoyable, in balance with other activities and responsibilities, and avoids gambling-related harm.
Ways of achieving this include:
- ensuring gambling is affordable by not gambling with money needed for necessities (such as bills or food)
- ensuring gambling doesn’t dominate your leisure time, and you are engaging in other social and leisure activities
- avoiding borrowing money or using a credit card to gamble
- avoiding gambling when under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, or as a way to manage emotions when you are bored, depressed or anxious
- setting limits around how much and long you with gamble for, setting a limit on your maximum bet size, and avoiding increasing bets when winning or losing.
Additional tips for people gambling online include:
- setting limits on how much you can gamble by only using websites with a daily limit spend
- avoiding having multiple online gambling accounts.
How do I know if I have a gambling problem?
There are clear signs when gambling moves from being a hobby to becoming a mental health concern. These include:
- needing to gamble with increasing amounts of money to achieve the desired excitement
- feeling restless or irritable when trying to stop gambling
- trying to stop or cut back gambling unsuccessfully
- spending a lot of time thinking about gambling
- gambling when you’re feeling anxious or upset
- chasing losses (by trying to make up losses with more gambling)
- lying to others to conceal the extent of your gambling
- relying on others for money
- jeopardising relationships, job or opportunities because of gambling.
If you are concerned about your gambling, seek professional help and exclude yourself from gambling venues and websites.
In practice, for online gambling, this might mean disabling automatic logins and deleting accounts.
Authors: Anastasia Hronis, Clinical Psychologist, University of Technology Sydney