How to Gamble Safely
Gambling can be a fun activity and a good source of entertainment for adults, but it can also cause a lot of damage because of its addictive nature.
There are people who play casino games every so often with no real harm besides the smaller amounts of money they’ve most likely lost over time, while others get truly addicted to gambling, which jeopardizes not only their money and other assets, but also their lives and the lives of the people around them.
Problem gambling is a tough enemy to beat once it develops, which is exactly why it’s best to avoid it in the first place. We have created this article to list a number of tips, which, if followed, will help players to gamble safely and minimize the risk of becoming addicted. Hopefully, they can help you to stay safe too.
You can find our safe gambling tips listed below. Clicking any of them will take you to the part of this article with more information about the selected piece of advice.
- Understand that gambling is not a way to make money
- See gambling as a form of entertainment that costs something
- Only gamble with money you can afford to lose
- Don’t chase your losses
- Don’t play with borrowed money
- Keep track of the time and money spent while gambling
- Limit how much you can spend on gambling
- Use self-exclusion options whenever you feel it’s needed
- Don’t combine gambling with alcohol or drugs
- Don’t play when depressed, upset or anxious, and don’t play to escape other issues
- Balance gambling with other activities
- Watch out for the symptoms of problem gambling
- Don’t be afraid to talk to someone and get help
- Gamble only at fair casinos
Note: There is no guarantee that following these tips will stop you from becoming addicted. Even a small one-time mistake can lead to an unhealthy habit over time, and the only way to stay truly safe is to not gamble at all. The next best thing you can do is to follow the tips in this article and do everything you can to play safely.
1. Understand that gambling is not a way to make money
Many people keep on gambling with a view to winning money and getting rich, or at least getting out of financial difficulties. This mindset is very dangerous because the vision of a big win can get you hooked on gamblingand make it easy for gambling addiction to develop.
And what’s even worse, the ‘surefire’ life-changing big win never comes in most cases, and people who want to make money by gambling only dig deeper holes for themselves.
If you want to gamble safely and minimize the possibility of developing a gambling problem, you should get rid of this mindset as soon as possible. Gambling is NOT a way to make money. All casino games are set up in a way that mathematically favors the casino, which means that the odds are always stacked against players.
While it is possible to beat the unfavorable odds in the short term by getting lucky, it’s impossible to keep getting lucky forever. And what makes it even worse, the desire to win is not always satisfied by a nice one-off payout, which makes many lucky winners come back for more, losing everything they’ve previously won and even more.
Don’t make the mistake of gambling with the goal of winning money, getting rich and/or solving all your financial difficulties. You will only get into trouble if you gamble with this goal in mind.
2. See gambling as a form of entertainment that costs something
Instead of gambling to win money, you should see gambling as a form of entertainment. As with most types of entertainment, you have to pay for it.
When you go watch a movie, attend an event or enjoy a night out, you usually pay for your entertainment by purchasing tickets, meals, drinks, etc. When it comes to gambling, you pay for your entertainment by playing games at a disadvantage, while land-based or online casinos run a profitable business that provide you with entertainment.
Of course, money will always be a part of the picture, and the thrill that comes with a possibility of winning money is an inseparable part of it. It also adds to the entertainment value. Although some people enjoy playing casino games for free (e.g. our free games section), it is safe to assume that most people enjoy them more when money is at stake.
As mentioned above, money should not be the main reason why you gamble even though it does add to the entertainment value. If you want to gamble, do so because you enjoy the games and the thrill, but don’t do it because you want to win money. If you do it for money, it’s probably best to stop playing altogether.
3. Only gamble with money you can afford to lose
Getting into big financial difficulties is one of the most likely outcomes of gambling addiction. Problem gamblers often borrow money to gamble, and do everything they can to get more money to play with.
It’s also quite common for problem gamblers to cut back on other expenses just to have more money to gamble with. This often starts with unnecessary and/or luxury things, but once a fully-fledged addiction develops, it’s commonplace to start sacrificing necessities such as food, housing, etc.
To stay safe, it’s important that you set a budget and only allow yourself to play with money that you can afford to lose, without sacrificing yourself, family, purchases, savings and everything else that you need money for.
If you find yourself spending more than the budget you’ve set aside for gambling-related activities or cutting back on other expenses in favor of gambling, it’s likely that you’ve already developed a problematic gambling habit. If this is the case, we advise you to read our articles on problem gambling diagnosis and how to overcome it.
4. Don’t chase your losses
Chasing losses, i.e. trying to win back the money that you have lost is one of the surefire ways of losing everything you have. It often turns short-term just-for-fun gambling sessions into big financial losses, which can develop into gambling addiction.
It is true that it’s not a good feeling to lose money, and it’s quite natural to want to win it back. However, it’s important to have the right mindset when gambling, which brings us back to what’s already been said in this article: don’t expect to win money, and remember to view gambling as a form of entertainment that costs something.
If you expect to lose, which you really should when playing casino games, you won’t be tempted to chase your losses because you expected to lose money in the first place.
Wanting to win back the money that you have previously lost is a surefire way to dig a deep hole for yourself, one that might be very difficult (or even impossible) to dig yourself out of. You are playing at a disadvantage, which means it’s more likely that you will keep on losing more money instead of winning it back. Don’t make the same mistake that many other people have already made. Set a budget for yourself and stop playing once you hit it.
5. Don’t play with borrowed money
Speaking of common mistakes related to money and gambling, it’s important that you never play with borrowed money. We have already mentioned that you should only gamble with money that you can afford to lose, and the fact that you need to borrow money to play is a clear sign that you cannot really afford to lose it, even though you feel that you can.
Note: Of course, context matters here. There is a difference between taking out a loan so that you can gamble before your next paycheck arrives, and simply borrowing €20 from your close friend because there isn’t an ATM nearby (i.e. you have the money, but no cash). Although we do not condone any of these practices, we are mostly referring to situations closer to the former example.
Perhaps the most common situation that happens is borrowing money to gamble before the next paycheck arrives, with the intention of paying off the debt right after the payday. Although this might seem harmless, it’s often the opposite, for multiple reasons including:
- The fact that you need to borrow money to gamble is a sign that you don’t have extra money that you can spend on gambling.
- Carelessly borrowing money can create a dangerous financial situation and, basically, ruin a person’s life.
- You might get tangled up with loan sharks or dangerous people in general, which can be a danger in itself.
- Playing with borrowed money can be stressful for some people, which can endanger your health, cause you to make bad decisions and get you into even more trouble.
And the dangers don’t stop there. Regardless of whether you think you have everything under control, it’s never a good idea to borrow money for gambling. Don’t do it.
6. Keep track of the time and money spent while gambling
It is very easy to lose track of time when gambling. Especially with modern games, it can be a very engaging activity that keeps your brain entertained, which might make the time pass more quickly than usual. For example, you might feel like you’ve only been playing for 30 minutes, only to find out that it’s actually been two hours since you started.
And the same goes for money. It’s quite common to remember wins more vividly than losses, creating a biased overall image about all the money that you’ve lost on gambling over the years. We are sure that many frequent gamblers would be shocked if they found out how much money they’ve lost in their lifetime.
This is why it’s important to track how much time and money you spend on gambling. Always pay attention to the length of your gaming sessions. Note the current time when you start playing, and ideally set up a reality check that will keep you informed about the length of your session.
At many online casinos, reality checks contain information about the money lost or won during the ongoing session, which can be really helpful. However, these only inform you about how much money you’ve lost in one session. To get an overall picture of your gambling-related spending, you will most likely need to keep track of it yourself because not many casinos display long-term statistics to players.
7. Limit how much you can spend on gambling
You can go one step further than just keeping track of the time and money that you spend on gambling by setting up limits at your casino of choice. There are multiple types of limits offered by online casinos and, although not all are available at every gambling venue, you should be able to find at least some of them.
For this purpose, we suggest using the following combinations of these limits:
- Deposit limits or loss limits: Depending on which of them you use, these only allow you to deposit or lose a certain amount of money over a predetermined period of time.
- Session length limits: These only allow you to gamble for a certain amount of time over a predetermined period of time.
By combining these two types of limits, you will only be allowed to spend a limited amount of money and time on gambling. However, this certainly isn’t a bulletproof solution. These limits work only in the casino in which you set them up, which makes them easy to get around if you want to gamble more. This is why you shouldn’t solely rely on them to keep your gambling habits in check.
8. Use self-exclusion options whenever you feel it’s needed
If the aforementioned limits are not enough for you, and you’d like to stop gambling completely (at least for a certain period of time), try self-exclusion. This option is offered by nearly all online casinos and allows you to block yourself from playing for time periods ranging from a couple of hours to multiple years.
After doing this, you will not be allowed to play until the selected time period ends. This being said, some casinos might lift your self-exclusion when you ask them to, albeit not instantly, but after a cooling-off period.
Just as with the limits mentioned earlier, the self-exclusion options offered by casinos only apply to that casino. You can easily get around them by playing in another casino. To overcome this complication, you can either self-exclude yourself from all online casinos (which is extremely unpractical and almost impossible) or make use of apps that block gambling on a global level.
No matter how good the tool or app is, remember that these self-limiting and self-exclusion options are not a standalone solution for safe gambling. They can be effective, but a person that struggles with gambling can pretty much always find a way to get around them. Keep this in mind, and look for other solutions if you feel like your gambling is really getting out of hand.
9. Don’t combine gambling with alcohol or drugs
It doesn't take a lot of imagination to understand that gambling while drunk or on drugs is never a good idea. When under the influence of any substance, your judgement is clouded and you are unable to make good decisions.
Bad decisions can lead to losing more money than you would when sober, but that’s not all. Clear judgement is also needed to stop gambling from getting out of control. Playing under the influence can lead to a one-off loss, but it can also end up causing wider gambling addiction.
Alcohol and drugs are never a good idea, but if you start gambling on top of them, many serious issues can arise. You might get the urge to gamble every time you are out with your friends and having a few beers, and the mental link between gambling and drugs or alcohol rarely turns out well.
If you want to gamble, do so with a clear mind.
10. Don’t play when depressed, upset or anxious, and don’t play to escape other issues
Negative mental conditions such as feeling depressed, upset or anxious generally make you mentally weaker, and often also physically weaker. It’s hard to keep a clear head, which is at least a part of the reason why you shouldn’t play in a bad state of mind.
Firstly, you are prone to making bad decisions, just as when gambling when drunk or on drugs, but that’s not all. Negative feelings or mood disorders can cause tremendous damage in themselves, so you should take care of this. Trying to suppress them by gambling will not lead to anything positive, and your mental health will most likely only get worse.
What’s more, gambling to escape other issues usually ends up creating more problems than you started with. Gambling can be a fun activity if done in a safe way, but remember that it’s never a good solution to any of your problems, nor a way to escape them.
11. Balance gambling with other activities
Gambling too much can lead to a gambling problem. It can also be a sign that you already are a problem gambler and should do something about it, as problem gamblers tend to prioritize gambling over other activities or even the people in their lives. They start neglecting their hobbies, work or even family, all in favor of gambling, which has become too important to dedicate time to anything else.
If you want to gamble safely you need to do other things as well. It is important that your life isn’t just about gambling. Dedicate a sufficient amount of effort to your work, spend time with your family, and also set aside some time for your hobbies and free-time activities.
If you find this difficult to do and feel like gambling is becoming a predominant factor in your life, it’s time to do something about it. You can start by reading our article on how to overcome problem gambling.
12. Watch out for the symptoms of problem gambling
As with most psychological and biological issues people face, it tends to be easier to overcome problem gambling if you notice it in its earlier stages. If you realize that you are developing a gambling addiction (or have already developed one), you can take steps to overcome it before it does even more damage to your life and the lives of the people around you.
This is why it’s important to be on a constant lookout for signs and symptoms of problem gambling. Read our article on this topic and educate yourself on what a gambling addiction looks like. You will then be able to monitor your gambling habits and take action as soon as you notice that something doesn’t feel right.
13. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone and get help
Getting over gambling addiction is never easy once it develops, but it’s often beneficial to turn to a family member or friend who you can trust, or even a professional. Talking to someone is almost always better than keeping everything to yourself, as it makes the entire situation easier to deal with.
This is why you shouldn’t hesitate to seek help when you have the slightest suspicion that your gambling habits might be problematic. It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially if the potential issues are as critical as they often are with problem gambling.
We have listed multiple potential sources of help that you can turn to in our article how to overcome problem gambling, so make sure to check out these sources and find the most suitable alternative for you, if you feel like it could be beneficial. To find specific help centers, hot lines, therapists or rehabs available in your country, use our list of problem gambling help centers.
14. Gamble only at fair casinos
Last but not least, safe gambling is not just about gambling responsibly and avoiding addiction. To really gamble safely, you also have to select a fair and reliable casino.
You can be a perfectly responsible player who gambles just for fun, controls their expenses and makes sure that everything is done correctly, but if you choose a bad online casino that will try to screw you over at any cost, nothing will help you if you manage to win big and want to cash out your winnings.
To stay safe in online casinos, pay extra attention when making a selection, read the reviews, and take note of the complaints made by other players to see how the casino treats them. Also, check out our fair gambling codex to learn about problematic situations that often occur between players and casinos, to understand how do everything correctly and avoid breaching the casino’s terms and conditions or any other applicable rules.
Most importantly, remember to follow the advice contained in this article. Problem gambling is something that can completely destroy your life and the lives of everyone around you, so make sure to gamble safely and responsibly, and to look for help once you feel something might be wrong.