Gambling in Isolation
Gambling is portrayed as a fun leisure activity. Groups of friends at the bingo hall, at a race meeting, or putting an accumulator on with your mates on a Saturday afternoon.
Gambling adverts reinforce this and for many gamblers this may be a true depiction. However, with the increase in online gambling lots more gambling is done on our own. It makes sense, right? Having an online casino in your pocket gives people the opportunity to gamble 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.
When I started gambling, I took part in lotteries and sweepstakes at work. I spoke about my gambling and did it with others. It was not causing me harm back then and I certainly was not ashamed of it.
How that relationship changed though, and it changed very quickly!
I started to download bookmaker apps on my phone. I did not hide this because I was only betting on the outcome of football games. Within weeks this changed so that I was gambling in-play, as-well as on foreign football, horses, dogs, cricket, virtual dogs, and horses. The list goes on.
Then the online casino apps found their way on to my phone.
By this point I was spending my days and nights placing sports bets and using online casinos. I would spend my work lunchbreaks in betting shops or casinos. In fact, quite often I did not make it to work and if I did, I gambled there.
At home I was not spending time with my family. Instead, I would be found in my bedroom alone, or in the bath. The baths got longer and longer and gave me an opportunity to bet when I needed to.
You see that is the other thing. I needed to bet I did not want to. Gambling was not fun. I hated it, I was ashamed of it and yet I could not stop gambling.
I had very quickly developed an addiction and my gambling was no longer done within a group or friendship setting. It was done on my own.
I went from going to a bookie with a friend to going alone. The same went for going to the greyhound track or a casino. I added a password to my phone so that my wife, family, and friends could not see the gambling apps. As an extra safety barrier, I saved all the apps in a folder titled “Sport” rather than “Gambling”.
Everyone in my life thought I had stopped gambling. I did not make a big deal about it and they did not say much either.
They did not know the pain that I was suffering. The need to gamble at every opportunity and the hurt and shame that I felt. I was gambling (or thinking about gambling) every waking moment and that was all being done in isolation. Yes, I lost a lot financially but more importantly to me I lost precious time with the people I love, and my mental health deteriorated.
I realised I could not continue to live like this, and I arranged to go to a Gamblers Anonymous (GA) meeting.
By this point my life had become unmanageable. At my first meeting I became aware of the 20 GA questions.
If you answer yes to at least 7 of the 20 questions, then you are likely to be a compulsive gambler. Compulsive gambler is the term adopted by GA for someone who suffers gambling harm.
Answering the questions helped me to identify that I was a compulsive gambler. This felt good in a strange way, because it helped me to realise that I needed some help and help was readily available.
Problem Gambling Severity Index
In addition to the GA question set you could ask yourself the following Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) questions.
Q1 – Have you bet more than you could really afford to lose?
Q2 – Have you needed to gamble with larger amounts of money to get the same feeling of excitement?
Q3 – When you gambled, did you go back another day to try to win back the money you lost?
Q4 – Have you borrowed money or sold anything to get money to gamble?
Q5 – Have you felt that you might have a problem with gambling?
Q6 – Has gambling caused you any health problems, including stress or anxiety?
Q7 – Have people criticized your betting or told you that you had a gambling problem, regardless of whether or not you thought it was true?
Q8 – Has your gambling caused any financial problems for you or your household?
Q9 – Have you felt guilty about the way you gamble or what happens when you gamble?
The questions should be answered based on the 4-point scoring scale below, thinking about your last 12 months gambling.
- Never = 0
- Sometimes = 1
- Most of the Time = 2
- Almost Always = 3
A score of 0 means you are a gambler who gambles with no negative consequences.
Any score above 0 means you are experiencing some harm.
A score of 1 or 2 indicates a low level of problems with no identified negative consequences.
Between 3 and 7 indicates a moderate level of problems with some negative consequences and a score of 8 or more indicates gambling with negative consequences and with a possible loss of control.
Another option is to use GamCare’s online self-assessment tool called GamTest. The test is designed to identify risky gambling behaviour and provides feedback based upon your answers. The feedback is given under 5 different sections:
- Time Spent
- Your Finances
- Your Health
Links to useful resources are provided off the back of the answers given.
It is worth noting that GamCare also run the National Gambling Helpline (0808 802 0133) which is available 24 hours per day every day of the year and are also part of a campaign called TalkBanStop along with GAMSTOP and Gamban.
If you are worried, reach out for help, there is lots available. Call the National Gambling Helpline on 0808 802 0133, visit the GA and GamCare websites, check out their chat rooms. Attend a GA meeting or why not listen to a gambling recovery podcast? I will write a blog on podcasts in the future because there are some great ones out there, they are available 24 hours a day, and they continue to help a lot of people. For now, I will just mention my podcast which is All Bets Are Off. Please have a listen, you will hear from inspiring people who have tackled their relationship with gambling. If you need to change your relationship with gambling, you can too.
Twitter – gillsy1002_
Co-host – All Bets Are Off