Gambling is risky and the law is designed to protect young people. A gambling problem is a form of addiction, so some types of gambling are restricted to certain age groups to give young people time to decide whether they want to gamble and how frequently. The UK is unique in that some types of slot machine are legal for any age group to play. It is important that you understand the risks involved with gambling and know how to gamble in a responsible way.
While you may not be playing with real money, you are still gambling with virtual money that has some value. Social gambling games can teach you how to play games like poker but it’s really important that players understand that they’re not set up like real gambling games. The odds offered are not the same as those of real gambling games most of the time; they’re usually at least a little better. This means that you may be more likely to win on social gambling games, but could lose much more frequently in real gambling games.
Anyone can develop a gambling problem. Two of the factors that seem to put young people at risk of developing a problem are a history of gambling in their family and the age they started gambling themselves. The earlier people start, the more likely they are to experience gambling-related problems later on. Teenagers who understand gambling and its risks are less likely to develop a gambling problem, which is why we’re here to help.
Being addicted to gambling can seriously damage your physical and mental health because you’re getting little exercise and your mind is focused on a stressful or intense situation. You might also eat more whilst gambling to pass the time. A gambling problem can result in the loss of social relationships, poor outcomes at school, and in severe cases committing crimes in order to fuel the addiction.
Gambling is often called the “hidden addiction” as it can cause people to think, feel and act differently without some of the more obvious warning signs that come with alcohol and drug abuse. Examples are that a problem gambler might suffer from depression and anxiety, be unable to account for money they’ve spent, lie about their whereabouts, and spend less time with friends and family.
If you are concerned about yourself or a friend, please visit the sections on signs and symptoms and contact us if you need further advice.
Think about whether you can afford the money and the time, and remember that you are not likely to win big sums of money as the odds are not in your favour. Don’t feel that you have to join in if you don’t want to. If you would rather not take part, suggest alternative things to do that don’t involve gambling.
Absolutely. People who are addicted to gambling feel an extremely strong and hard to resist urge to risk their money. This urge can make them do things they wouldn’t usually do, like go without food, lie, steal, or miss work or school.
Research shows that when gambling, the brain of someone with a gambling problem will produce endorphins. The brain naturally releases endorphins to soothe pain and they result in a feeling of great happiness, or a “high”. When someone with a gambling problem says they have an urge to gamble or feel like they need to, it’s partly related to their mind craving endorphins.
We can each fight this addiction and help others do the same by understanding the risks and the odds of a game, and by staying in control of our actions.
It might be a difficult subject of conversation at first, but the best thing to do is to talk to them. Don’t come across as judgemental or all-knowing, just give them a chance to think about their gambling and have someone to chat to about it. Do this in a casual place and keep it friendly and you’ll probably find that you both find it much easier to discuss.
If it turns out that they do have a problem and want help, suggest that they take part in more activities with friends and family or take up a new hobby. Let them know that you’re worried and that you care about them, and tell them about this website so that they can find out more in their own time, suggesting that they contact us if they require further advice.
This can be a difficult situation because a parent might not want to take advice from their child, but showing that you’re concerned in a caring way may have more of an effect than you think it will. Tell them how you’re feeling, as this will help them to understand how their gambling is affecting you personally. Again, try to talk to them about it in casual surroundings, suggest that you both take up a new activity together, and if the situation requires a stronger approach you can contact GamCare for more in-depth advice.