Multi-layered, public health-based campaign to help gamblers

Gambling: The sure way of getting nothing for something.

Wilson Mizner

Bet Regret

GambleAware, the independent charity tasked with reducing gambling harms in Great Britain, has launched "Bet Regret", a safer gambling campaign designed to raise awareness of impulsive betting in order to encourage moderation and reduce gambling-related harm.

Bet Regret describes the universal feeling of remorse sports bettors often get when they make an impulsive bet – the kind of bet that bettors say they will know they will kick themselves for the moment they made it.

Targeted at the audience estimated at 2.4m young men aged 16-34 who gamble regularly on sport, mainly online, the campaign aims to drive self-reflection, as well as help their friends and partners recognise the warning signs of Bet Regret. The campaign was developed after extensive research, consultations with academic experts and several waves of focus groups with frequent sports bettors.

Around 2 million adults suffer some level of harm related to gambling, including 340,000 that are considered to be problem gamblers.

If betting is costing you too much money, or costing you more than money, then maybe it's a problem

Gambling addiction can be as harmful to your relationships, work life, and finances as drug or alcohol addiction. And like any other addiction, the person who has it may be the last to admit it.

Gambling addiction - also known as pathological gambling, compulsive gambling or gambling disorder - is an impulse-control disorder. A compulsive gambler cannot control the impulse to gamble, even when it has negative consequences for them or their loved ones. They will gamble if they feel good or feel bad, whether they have money or are broke. And they will keep gambling regardless of the consequences - even when they know the odds are against them or they can’t afford to lose.

One can also have a gambling problem without being totally out of control. Problem gambling is any gambling behaviour that disrupts one’s life. If you’re preoccupied with gambling, spending more and more time and money on it, chasing losses, or gambling despite serious consequences in your life, you probably have a gambling problem.

Many problem gamblers also suffer with substance abuse issues (alcohol/drugs), unmanaged ADHD, stress, depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. To overcome a gambling problems, these will also need to be addressed.

Do you, or does someone you love enjoy playing lotto, buying lottery tickets or visiting the betting shop/casino on a regular basis? Has your desire to gamble ever resulted in your spending money that you really didn’t have to spend, getting in trouble or had negative effects on your relationships with friends or loved ones?

In the UK

As mentioned, it's estimated that some 350,000 people in total across the UK are suffering from a gambling addiction. In recent years, the number of people experiencing problems with gambling has increased due to economic troubles associated with the global recession and an increase in the number of gambling outlets. It is now easier than ever before to gamble, with a huge number of online betting shops and games sites enabling people to gamble 24 hours a day. Every year, over £7 billion is spent on gambling.

Sadly, the vast majority of people who could be classed as "problem gamblers" do not seek help for their addiction. In fact, NHS statistics show that only around 5% of people seek help and only 1% get treatment for their gambling problem. If a gambling problem is left to develop, debts can spiral out of control and people can become withdrawn and depressed, which can affect their professional lives and relationships with other people.

Signs of a gambling addiction (not all people have all of them):

  • A disproportionate amount of your money is spent gambling
  • You cannot pay for things you need because you spent the money on gambling - you suffer financial hardships such as loss of house, car, job, or other possessions to gambling
  • You owe money to others that you cannot pay back because you borrowed it in order to gamble
  • You gamble even when you don’t have the money
  • You may steal money to gamble or to pay debts or may sell possessions to acquire money to gamble or pay debts
  • You have been fired, evicted, and/or an important relationship has ended because of your gambling
  • You are preoccupied with gambling, playing lotto, going to the casino/betting shop, gambling online, etc
  • You avoid obligations at work, home or socially in order to spend time gambling
  • You avoid friends or family members who have voiced concern of a potential gambling addiction or people have expressed concern about your gambling
  • You can't control your gambling despite a desire to have such control
  • You neglect other financial obligations in order to gamble
  • You sneak around, telling lies about gambling or otherwise masking a potential problem
  • You deny actions or minimise problems or become angry or irritable when someone asks about your gambling
  • You feel bad after you gamble, but don't stop
  • You're always thinking about gambling
  • You believe that gambling is not a problem for you, or avoid thinking about how much time and money you actually spend on gambling.

Self-help for gambling problems

For many problem gamblers, it’s not quitting gambling that’s the biggest issue, it's staying stopped. The internet has made access to gambling much easier. However, recovery from gambling addiction or problem gambling is still possible if you surround yourself with people to whom you’re accountable, avoid tempting environments and websites, give up control of your finances (at least at first), and find healthier activities to replace gambling in your life.

The biggest step to overcoming a gambling addiction is realizing that you have a problem. It takes tremendous strength and courage to own up to this, especially if you have lost a lot of money and strained or broken relationships along the way. Don’t despair, and don’t try to go it alone. Many others have been in your shoes and have been able to break the habit and rebuild their lives. You can, too.

Need more help?

There's lots of support out there and problems with gambling are more widespread that you imagine.

  • Join a peer support group. Gamblers Anonymous, for example, is a twelve-step recovery programme
  • Seek help for underlying mood disorders. Depression, stress, substance abuse, or anxiety can both trigger gambling problems and be made worse by compulsive gambling. Even when gambling is no longer a part of your life, these problems will still remain, so it’s important to address them. Your GP should be able to help
  • Talk to someone on the phone about gambling or speak to someone online
  • There's also rehabilitation or counselling - speak to GamCare and other agencies.

DHC can advise employers and their people on addiction issues as well as providing signposting, guidance and referral for support.

Find out more about the campaign

Bet Regret