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Gambling and Problem Gambling

Knowing where the fun ends and trouble begins is sometimes difficult to determine. It varies with each person, and isn’t just about money spent gambling (because everyone has a different amount of disposable income).

Gambling problems are likely to develop when a person:

  • Cannot follow limits on time and money spent gambling.
  • Misses work or other important events to gamble.
  • Tries to win back money they have lost.
  • Gambles to make money or believes there is a system to beat the odds.
  • Is preoccupied with gambling or obtaining money to gamble.
  • Disregards the consequences of continued involvement in gambling.
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1. Signs of Problem Gambling

Problem gambling refers to all gambling behaviour that:

  • Adversely affects a person’s physical or psychological health.
  • Impacts significant areas of their life such as employment, family relationships, or financial stability.
  • Contributes to a person’s involvement in illegal activities to finance gambling.

Knowing if you or someone you care about has a gambling problem is sometimes hard to determine. The line from recreational gambling to problem gambling is different for everyone. Here are some signs gambling may be a problem:

  • Always thinking about gambling or how to get more money to gamble.
  • Jeopardizing family, relationships and job to pursue gambling activity.
  • Thinking that gambling is an easy way to make money or that past losses can be won back.
  • Lying about where you are going, how often you gamble and how much money you spend gambling.
  • Gambling to get your mind off something that is bothering you.
  • Asking friends and family for money, or stealing things to get money for gambling.
  • Having to refinance loans or juggle repayment plans.
  • Promising to quit gambling but are unable to. Frustrated and angry over failed attempts to control or quit gambling.
  • Money appears and disappears.
  • Frequent mood swings, depression or thoughts of suicide.

A significant number of people with problem gambling behaviours also have problems with substance abuse. Losses from gambling may lead to substance abuse as a coping strategy. Loss of inhibition through alcohol or drug use may also reduce self-control while gambling.

Moderate Risk Gambling

Problems with gambling follow a continuum, ranging from no gambling-related problems, to those who are experiencing some problems, to those experiencing the most severe problems.

Moderate risk gambling refers to a level of gambling involvement that is starting to have a negative impact on the gambler and/or their family. At this point the gambler or family may have some thoughts or feelings that begin to question the level of gambling involvement. The answer may not be obvious, as the consequences are not as dire as what is typically portrayed: loss of a home, job or family breakdown.

Early warning signs that may indicate an individual is at-risk for problem gambling include:

  • Thoughts that you may have a gambling problem.
  • Feelings of guilt.
  • Trying to win back money already lost.
  • Criticism by others about your level of gambling involvement.
  • Keeping your gambling activity a secret.
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2. Gambling Myths

Myth: So close... I almost won!

In Reality: Pay out symbols appearing just above or below a pay line only means one thing - you lost. All those "near wins" give players the feeling of getting close to the jackpot. Don't be fooled. You're no closer.

Myth: I can win. I have a system. Players remember a time when they won and try to reproduce those exact conditions again.

In Reality: The truth is - there is nothing a player can do that will influence the outcome. The results on VLTs and slots are determined by a computer chip called a Random Number Generator (RNG). The RNG ensures that results are random and impossible to predict. The next spin has absolutely nothing to do with the previous spin. Every spin gives a player the exact same chance of winning or more often losing.

Myth: The machine is due.

In Reality: No machine is ever hot or due to win. To ensure that no player has an advantage, all machines are programmed to be random with winning results impossible to predict. Machines that have not paid out are no more likely to pay out than a machine that has just had a winning spin. Every spin gives you the exact same chance of winning, or more often losing.

Myth: When I win my money back, then I'll quit

In Reality: Trying to win back money you've lost is a sign of a problem. Set limits on how much you want to spend. Consider your losses as the cost of a night out. Remember, the more you spend, the more you'll lose.

Myth: Poker is a game of skill, and I’m good at it.

In Reality: Oh sure, there are some elements of skill, but don't be fooled into thinking your skill can outweigh chance. With millions of possible hands, the luck of the draw is most often the deciding factor.

Myth: Payout can be changed with the flick of a switch

In Reality: In Saskatchewan there is no truth that gaming operators regularly change payouts or that they determine when a jackpot will be won. Winning and losing results are random – 100 per cent of the time. All machines make money over time, some more than others. The difference in how much a machine earns depends mostly on the type of game and how popular it is and not on the payout percentage.

Myth: I am helpless against these machines

In Reality: There are problem gambling counsellors in every health region - free of charge.

Call to connect to someone who can help. 1-800-306-6789

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3. Tips for Keeping Gambling Fun

Unfortunately, there are no guarantees in life. Anyone who gambles can develop gambling-related problems.

There are many factors that affect an individual’s risk of developing a gambling problem. The risk varies from one person to the next. You can reduce your risk if you:

  • Gamble for entertainment, not as a way to make money. The house always has the advantage.
  • Don’t use gambling as a way to cope with problems.
  • Limit how often and how long you gamble.
  • Take frequent breaks to determine how much money and time you have spent gambling.
  • Set acceptable limits for losses and stick to them.
  • Only gamble with money you can afford to lose.
  • Do not try to win back money you have lost. Do not borrow money to gamble.
  • Keep a log of money and time spent gambling. This will help you decide if it’s something you wish to continue.
  • Educate yourself on how the games that you play work.
  • Maintain a balance in your life. Do not make gambling your only form of entertainment.

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