Online gambling is fun but all the elements that make it such a fun activity are also, often, making it a highly addictive one. With better games compared to the past, more options, lucrative bonuses, and 24/7 access to gambling from any device – there is hardly any question to why people are losing control over their gambling activities.
Before considering the habits of Aussie players, how to find help and support if you are not in control of your gambling practices, and the ways that casinos employ to protect players – I will use this space to share my personal story linked to online gambling.
How I completely lost control of my gambling
The reason that I decided to write this piece is due to some personal experiences. First off, it is important to mention that I started working within the iGaming niche four years ago, but I was playing various gambling games since I was 18. Starting off with online keno, I used to play regularly while staying on top of my gambling and ended up making some decent profit (of $10,000) thanks to a single ticket with 6/6 numbers with a $5 multiplier on it.
Nonetheless, when I was 20, I started visiting the nearest casino with friends once a month, or so, wagering around $50 on slots and roulette. After going quite a few times, I was offered a free room for the night where I stayed with my girlfriend. That night, I planned to spend up to $200 at most. Based on the plan, after losing this amount, I went up to my room to sleep to wake up to enjoy the fancy breakfast.
However, feeling that I could access any casino game by just walking down to the lobby of my hotel had stuck in mind, and as a result I dressed up and went back to the casino after fighting it for a couple hours. The combination of lack of sleep, alcohol, and urge to win resulted in me losing 2 grands, which was all that I had access to from the card that I carried with me.
Online Gambling Market in Australia
To many players, the above story might seem completely irrelevant, but for me it was a revelation. When I ended up working in the iGaming niche, I always remembered that incident, as online casinos are constantly accessible whenever, wherever with much more variety of games and instant access to all your banking accounts – which is so much more than what land based casinos can ever offer.
Research indicates that Australian players in general lose much more compared to gamblers from other countries. In 2017, a study into the Australian gambling industry revealed that on average, a loss of $958 was noted – with the second place granted to Hong Kong at $758 per capital. In total, a Queensland report indicated that in 2017 – 2018, players spent $242 billion in online casinos, sports betting, and horse racing in Australia alone; casinos and pokies accounted for over 75% of the total spend. The loss amounts to about 10% of total wagers.
The problem is that due to gambling being uncontrolled and unregulated today, as a result of online casinos being essential banned since 2001, players who suffer from compulsive gambling cannot find help.
Social Issues that Result from Gambling
Besides the issues linked to loss, there are social concerns linked to gambling too. About $7 billion are spend yearly as a result of those, based on a 2014 study from the Victorian Problem Gambling Foundation:
- Family issues
- Mental Issues
- Financial issues
- Support, search and gambling regulation costs
- Loss of productivity
- Gambling crimes
The above are the most significant areas that also result in financial loss as a result of gambling.
Dealing with any type of addiction is a very challenging task. Online, one can find various guides and signs into what constitutes a person that gambles recreationally and someone who is a problem gambler; such points are:
- Stealing money to gamble
- Anxious or distressed when not gambling
- Fails to quit
- Thinks about gambling regularly
- Continues to chase losses from gambling
- Positions gambling as priority
- Gambling as a result of anxiety
These might seem like logical signs, but they are indeed very impersonal and generic, pushing away anyone actually reading them.
As a player myself, I suggest that gambling becomes an addiction when it stops being fun. If for example you are wagering on games to make money or continually play more rounds without actually paying attention or feeling happy/positive about it – then it is probably a good time to stop. Chasing losses is indeed very tricky, while it is a good sign if you can stop playing while you still have money in your account.
I suggest to anyone who cannot perform the above successfully to take some time off from gambling. Personally, when I land a very decent job and I have quite a few bucks sitting, I will happily spend some on a game that I enjoy. Nonetheless, as I have a very addictive personality, I notice that if I engage with casino games often, then I lose control easily. Thus, I take long breaks and come back with a clear head to enjoy my favourite games.
Is there Help for Aussie Problem Gamblers?
The Government has managed to regulate physical casinos in a rather solid way.
- Players can self-exclude since 2019, and by doing so they are banned from using all licensed and regulated venues.
- Verification is another useful measure, where players will get banned unless if they provide the required documents.
- Online casinos are also banned and continually forbidden from operating in Australia, as the ACMA found that most of these platforms are not following the gambling regulations that they should.
Is there help for problem gamblers?
The last point is rather ridiculous, as if the Government actually wanted to protect players, then it would legalize gambling so that respected and responsible companies could offer their services to Australia.
In contrast, by banning all forms of online gambling, sketchy and unlicensed casinos risk to get fined by offering online casino games to the vast amount of players searching for it. Thus, most online casino players have to resort to the below organisations, charities and lobby groups for help:
- Gambling Help NSW is a Government organization, which supports problem gamblers and ensures that the casinos in NSW are following the set regulations.
- Gamblers Help Victoria is a support group, where players can reach out if they need help to control their gambling practices.
- Act Gambling Counselling and Support Services assists players to self-exclude and find help.
- Problem Gambling Help SA is a joint organization in support of problem gamblers in South Australia and other areas. This group is also responsible of invaluable research linked to the iGaming industry.
- Gambling Help Queensland offers access to support groups besides help to addicts.
- Gambling Help WA is an institution in support of players suffering from gambling addictions, which offers access to various staff members with in-depth expertise.
- Amity Community Services offers various support tools and phone support to players suffering from gambling addiction.
- Gamblers Help is a group that also assists the families of problem gamblers.
Need for New Support Groups Online
All the above services sound good and might offer some solid support to those that reach out, but based on my experience, addicts rarely stick to rehabilitation. Further, none of these groups assists users in getting self-excluded permanently from all online casinos.
To be fair, with online gambling being illegal, the latter is not even a viable route for Australia. If online gambling was legal, then a group like the ACT Gambling Counselling and Support could be established to deal with online casinos. Similarly to the GamStop platform in the UK, all legal online casinos would have to ban players that request it. In contrast, Aussie players can now only exclude themselves from the platform they are playing at, leaving out 1,000+ more casinos that they could sign up and play a few days after.
I have personally used Gamstop when I was living in the UK quite a few times. Whenever I felt that I was playing more than I should, I would exclude myself for 3 months. Then, I would back with a clear head and actually enjoy the game. By banning online gambling, the Australian Government has failed to provide to the huge number of players that choose to gamble on offshore casinos online.
How to Protect Yourself from Excessive Gambling Online
Since there are no easy ways to instantly self-exclude and protect yourself from excessive gambling, I have a few tips for you so that you can stop when the fun stops.
- When you are first joining an online casino, make sure that the site has a self-exclusion policy in place. This is the only way that you can actually protect yourself if you lose control.
- One thing that helps me stay on top of my addictive behavioral traits is by setting aside a budget for gambling alone. Usually, I want to play casino games once every ten days. Thus, I plan ahead so that I can stop when I lose the set amount. The fact that I am aware that I will test my luck in 10 days again also helps stay chilled even if I lose.
- Set goals before you start playing, so if you reach a solid amount you can stop. It does not really matter how much you win, unless you know when to stop. I have often seen myself winning $500 and just increasing my bet going after a $5k win, just to see my whole balance depleted.
- Don’t hide from your loved ones the fact that you are gambling. Explain to your partner or family that you really enjoy playing casino games and discuss your losses or wins with them, so that they can advise you if (and when) you are overdoing it.
I could provide even further tips on safe gambling, but I think that it is pointless to overload you with information. Sticking to the above should work for you, as it does for me. If not, then you could always reach out to the organisations that we mentioned for help, and maybe completely stay away from gambling for as long as you can.