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Responsible Gambling: How to gamble responsibly and find help

Gambling can be a fun and entertaining recreational activity for responsible adults. For example, watching a race can be thrilling on its own, but placing a bet on the winner can add extra excitement to the experience for some. However, it is crucial that whenever you engage in sports betting or any other form of gambling, you always practice responsible gambling and be mindful of avoiding potentially harmful behaviors.


Responsible gambling starts with using moderation when you bet and never risking money you cannot afford to lose. That said, there are many other things you can do to make sure you are gambling responsibly, including educating yourself about the pitfalls of problem gambling and becoming aware of the signs and symptoms. 

Read on for more information about responsible gambling and to learn tips that can help you keep gambling an enjoyable, positive activity. Also find information below about what to do if you need assistance with problem gambling, including links to resources designed to help with prevention and treatment.

What is responsible gambling?


For those who enjoy gambling, responsible gambling typically means taking responsibility for your actions when you gamble. 


You might compare it to being a responsible driver. Every time responsible drivers get behind the wheel, they follow all traffic laws, they don’t drive while impaired, and they remain attentive in order to ensure their safety and that of others. Responsible gambling similarly means always being aware of what you’re doing, understanding the risks involved, and avoiding unnecessary risks.


Meanwhile, responsible gambling as a concept has a particular significance within the gambling industry. Casinos, sportsbooks, online gambling sites, lottery commissions, horse racetracks and other gambling providers speak of “responsible gambling” (or “RG”) as a guiding principle that governs how they offer their services. That means making sure they offer opportunities to gamble in ways that encourage patrons to be responsible.


A good way to understand responsible gambling more thoroughly is to think about it from both sides — the gambler and the gambling provider. Let’s consider some recommendations both gamblers and gambling providers can follow to ensure gambling remains a positive and entertaining activity for everyone. 


Responsible gambling: 10 tips for gamblers


There are a number of concrete steps gamblers can take to make certain they are practicing responsible gambling. Consider these “habits” or “best practices” you can follow every time you engage in any sort of gambling:


  1. Educate yourself about odds and probabilities and always know your chances of winning and losing when you gamble.

  2. Keep track of your gambling, including recording all your wins and losses.

  3. As you record how much money you spend gambling, don’t hesitate to self-impose limits if needed to ensure you aren’t spending more than you should.

  4. Be aware also of how much time you spend gambling, and if necessary place limits there, too.

  5. Never gamble with money you need for other essentials like food, rent, mortgage payments and other bills.

  6. Avoiding borrowing money with which to gamble, or gambling on credit.

  7. Be logical when you gamble, and don’t let emotions push you into making irrational decisions; for example, avoid “riding the rush” when you win or trying to “get back to even” when you lose and as a result start betting recklessly or more than you normally would.

  8. Stay away from gambling if you are feeling tired, anxious, stressed or distracted.

  9. Never gamble when intoxicated or impaired.

  10. Understand that you never have to gamble, and that you can always choose not to gamble.


If you follow each of these 10 tips every time you gamble, you are likely always going to be gambling responsibly. 


Responsible gambling: 10 tips for gambling providers


In a lot of cases, gambling providers are required to make certain those who gamble with them are given opportunities to be responsible when they do. An online sportsbook, for instance, can only operate legally if it is licensed by regulators, and often they must follow certain responsible gambling guidelines in order to keep that license. Here are some examples of those guidelines providers follow in order to make sure they are helping patrons practice responsible gambling:


  1. Make sure odds and probabilities are always posted and clear so customers know exactly what the risks are when they gamble.

  2. Be clear as well about any special terms or conditions customers need to know about (e.g., when offering a bonus).

  3. Never promote gambling in ways that obscure the risks involved, or even worse suggest there is no risk (and that winning is guaranteed).

  4. Avoid making light of problem gambling or appearing to celebrate “degenerate” gambling (e.g., in advertisements).

  5. Provide users with tools to limit their gambling; for example, an online sportsbook can provide tools to self-impose deposit limits, betting limits and so on.

  6. Also give users the ability to voluntarily self-exclude themselves either for a certain period of time or permanently.

  7. Be vigilant about preventing underage gambling.

  8. Make sure staff is trained to recognize signs of problem gambling and be ready to intervene to prevent problem gambling from occurring (e.g., imposing limits, denying service).

  9. Actively promote responsible gambling with concrete tips and recommendations.

  10. Provide information about problem gambling resources and how to use them.


As noted, in many instances gambling providers have to follow some or all of these recommendations in order to keep their gambling licenses. In any case, such tips are good to know about even for gamblers as they help highlight potential problem areas when it comes to gambling. 


Signs of problem gambling


Speaking of problem gambling, that, too, can be challenging to define. The fact is, what might constitute problem gambling for one person might not be for another. 


Essentially, whenever gambling creates any sort of negative effect either for the gambler or others, that’s when gambling becomes problem gambling. Even if gambling causes what seems only like a minor inconvenience or aggravation, that’s an example of problem gambling. So, too, are more catastrophic outcomes like losing one’s life savings or creating insurmountable debt. 


What follows are some examples of common signs of problem gambling. Be aware of these signs when you gamble, and also keep an eye out for them in others, especially friends and family members who gamble:


  • Spending more money or time gambling than intended

  • Being obsessed with gambling and always thinking about it (even when not gambling)

  • Becoming irritable or agitated when not gambling

  • Getting overly emotional about gambling (e.g., euphoria when winning, despair when losing)

  • Not being able to enjoy activities that do not involve gambling

  • Using gambling to escape from other responsibilities or pressures

  • Feeling guilty or remorseful about gambling

  • Lying about one’s gambling (e.g., not being honest about wins or losses)

  • Hiding one’s gambling from others

  • Unexpectedly trying to borrow money from friends or family

  • Making unexpected bank withdrawals or selling possessions to raise money

  • Being late paying bills, or not paying them at all

  • Being absent and/or performing poorly at work or school

  • Not attending to one’s health or hygiene


Sometimes these signs can be difficult to detect in others, especially because like with other addictions, the sufferer sometimes actively tries to hide these signs. They can be hard sometimes even to detect in oneself, but they are worth knowing about. 


Even if you don’t believe you are at risk of becoming a problem gambler, being aware of the signs can help make sure you avoid falling into these bad behaviors. 

National problem gambling resources


If you or someone you care about needs help with problem gambling, there are many national resources available that can help both with prevention and treatment options. Here are some of the better known national problem gambling resources available to anyone who needs them:


  • National Council on Problem Gambling — The most prominent problem gambling resource in the U.S., the NCPG can help you with self-help tools, finding treatment programs and counselors, and much more. You can reach the NCPG via a toll-free 24-hour helpline 1-800-GAMBLER or via live chat at

  • Gamblers Anonymous — A nationwide organization with local chapters throughout the U.S., Gamblers Anonymous employs a fellowship model designed to encourage those affected by problem gambling to help each other. The 12-step self-help program can also help those in need find a path to recovery.

  • Gam-Anon — Another program similar to Gamblers Anonymous except the focus is on those affected by others’ problem gambling (e.g., family and friends) rather than the gamblers themselves. Gam-Anon can help connect those in need with a variety of resources to help them cope with the effects of problem gambling. 

  • GamTalk — An online site with chat rooms and discussion forums helping people connect and help each other with issues and concerns related to problem gambling, including finding local organizations dedicated to prevention and treatment. 

  • — Another website with lots of information helping individuals diagnose and detect problem gambling, including links and contact info regarding other national and local resources. 


State-level problem gambling resources 


The national (and international) organizations described above are available to anyone in the US who needs them. Be aware as well that there are state-level resources dedicated to encouraging responsible gambling and providing help preventing and/or treating problem gambling.


Many of these state-level resources are government-funded. There are also many local nonprofit organizations in most states. In the majority of cases, you can take advantage of these resources with no cost at all, using them to get connected with groups and counselors in your area as well as treatment centers and facilities. 


If you visit the 1-800-GAMBLER website hosted by the National Council on Problem Gambling, scroll to the bottom to the section “Help by State.” You’ll see a list of all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, each linking to an individual page where you can find state-specific problem gambling resources. 


Also check out your state’s Department of Health and Human Services as you’ll often find information there about problem gambling programs focused on education, prevention and treatment. If your state has a lottery (as most states do), the lottery website often also has information about state-level gambling resources. 


Keep gambling fun by always practicing responsible gambling


For many gambling is just another recreational activity that provides a great deal of fun and entertainment. But for some gambling can involve risking a lot more than just the money you place on a particular wager. Those who are not responsible when they gamble are always increasing the likelihood of negative outcomes. 


Educate yourself about responsible gambling and be aware as well of the signs of problem gambling. Follow the tips and recommendations listed above to make sure you are always gambling responsibly, and if ever you believe gambling might be becoming a problem for yourself or anyone you care about, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.

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