It’s one of the reasons we’re supporting Safer Gambling Week, a cross-industry initiative that aims to create conversations about safer gambling.

The initiative, which runs from 19-25 November, drives awareness of how to gamble more safely, provides people with tools to help them gamble safely all year, and provides advice and support for people who think they may not be in control of their gambling.

We’ve been working with GamCare, the leading provider of support to those affected by gambling-related harms across the UK, to explore some of the reasons why people gamble and signs to watch out for, and share some tips that may help you if you feel you are becoming affected by gambling problems.

Why do people gamble?

There are of course many reasons why people gamble. For many it’s a fun pastime, a social activity and a part of everyday life that provides something to talk about with friends. But for others we know it can become a serious problem.

Research has shown that people who struggle to control their gambling find it hard to explain why they continue to do it despite it causing harm.

Often gambling can represent a coping mechanism for problems elsewhere in life, as it makes the person feel a certain way or lets them escape things they might not feel ready to deal with. For others, it’s could have been a part of life for so long it can make them feel safe or comfortable for the short while.

How can gambling affect your life?

Gambling has the potential to cause harm for the gambler, their loved ones, their colleagues and the wider community. Some of the ways this manifests include:

Finances – spending more than you can afford, hiding the extent of your spending, borrowing to maintain the habit, building up debts you can’t pay back.

Mental health – stress, anxiety and depression can all be caused by the compulsion to bet, mounting debts, and keeping things hidden from family and friends.

Relationships – strain is often put on relationships, not only by financial problems but by a lack of honesty and a breakdown in trust.

Isolation – all of the pressures detailed above, along with the ready availability of gambling via personal devices such as smartphones, can lead people to cut themselves off, to stop talking to those who care about them and to feel they have to deal with their struggles alone.

Spot the signs

Some of the signs that mean gambling is having more of a negative impact on your life than a positive one can include:

  • Spending more money and/or time on gambling than you can afford
  • Finding it hard to manage or stop your gambling
  • Having arguments with family or friends about gambling
  • Losing interest in usual activities or hobbies, like going out or spending time with friends or family
  • Always thinking or talking about gambling
  • Lying about your gambling or hiding it from other people
  • ‘Chasing’ your losses or gambling to get out of financial trouble
  • Gambling until all your money is gone
  • Borrowing money, selling possessions or not paying bills in order to pay for gambling
  • Needing to gamble with larger amounts of money or for a longer time to get the same feeling of excitement or 'buzz'
  • Neglecting work, school, family, personal needs or household responsibilities because of gambling
  • Feeling anxious, worried, guilty, depressed or irritable if you are not able to gamble.

Getting help

If any of those things ring true with you, the important thing to remember is that there are things you can do to help yourself get out of a negative situation – there is hope, and help is available, whatever your situation. Gambling does have the potential to be harmful, and not talking about it can make it worse.

You may not feel you have a problem right now, but you could know from experience that it might not take much to get you into difficulties. If that’s you, top tips for keeping safe include:

  • Only spend what you can afford
  • Set your limits – for time and spending
  • Don’t gamble when you’re upset or angry
  • Don’t let it interfere with your personal relationships
  • Remember gambling is not the answer to any problem.

More information on Safer Gambling Week is available here and a free information line can be reached at 0800 886 725. GamCare also offer an online chat facility, plus Forums, self-help resources and more via their website. And these resources can be utilised by anyone who might be affected – whether that is the person who would like help with gambling or it could be close friends or family members who are affected when they see people they care about being impacted by gambling.

If you are a customer and gambling is impacting your finances, we’re here to help, so please call our customer support team on 0345 6002 882. We also work with various external agencies that we can signpost you to for further support.