Here at pokiesmoky.com, we spend a lot of time talking to readers about playing Internet slots. However, we want to remind you that it is important to play these games for fun and enjoyment, and to do so responsibly. Playing slots can be an entertaining and exciting hobby – but for some people, it can turn into something potentially dangerous and destructive.
If you are beginning to worry that the gaming being done by you or a loved one is starting to get out of control, we want you to know that there are resources available to help you better understand the problem and potentially receive help if necessary. This is part of our commitment to providing a safe, responsible environment for our readers: something that we think expands beyond the sites we recommend to you, and also to ourselves as a trusted resource for bettors around the world.
Recognizing a Problem
There is nothing wrong with gambling on occasion, and even being a high roller who enjoys betting large amounts of money on a regular basis does not necessarily make someone a “problem gambler.” However, it is also true that even occasional players who engage in low stakes games could potentially have a disorder, depending on the behavior they exhibit related to their play.
Various organizations have offered up criteria on recognizing and diagnosing gambling disorders. The following criteria are those used by the American Psychiatric Association, and are present in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (better known as DSM-5):
- The individual needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to feel the desired excitement from playing.
- Attempts to cut down or stop playing cause restlessness or irritability.
- They have repeatedly failed in efforts to control or stop their gaming.
- They are often preoccupied with gambling.
- Gambling is used as a way of dealing with feelings of distress.
- They chase their losses, betting more in order to try and recover money that has been lost.
- They lie to loved ones in order to conceal how much they gamble.
- Their betting activities have either jeopardized or caused the loss of a major relationship, job, or educational opportunity.
- They have relied on others to provide them money in order to cover their financial obligations after losing money through gaming.
- Simply exhibiting one or two of these behaviors on occasion may not be enough to suggest a serious issue, but if several of these apply to you, then you may have a problem. A disorder is considered mild if at least four of these criteria are met; six criteria make for a moderate disorder, while eight or more indicate a severe issue.
If you are unsure if such a diagnosis applies to you, there are resources you can use to help you determine this. Many organizations offer self-assessments, such as this one by the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling.
If you believe that either you or a loved one has a gambling problem, it is important to understand that this is a disease that can be treated like any other. Most jurisdictions that offer legal gaming have put systems into place that provide resources to help those in need, and even where this is not true, there are numerous trained professionals who know how to help individuals that are exhibiting gambling problems.
If you want to immediately talk to someone about your situation, many nations and states have set up hotlines that can provide you with resources, information, and directions on how to seek further help. Typically, these phone lines are absolutely free and available 24 hours a day for anyone who might need them.
Many people who find that they are compulsive gamblers seek out self-help groups where they can discuss and work through their issues with others who have gone through (or are in the middle of) the same process. Gamblers Anonymous and Bettors Anonymous are two popular and free organizations that offer meetings throughout the world. Similarly, Gam-Anon is a group specifically designed to provide support for family members of someone with a betting problem.
For more help, you may wish to seek out a clinician who specializes in dealing with problem gambling and other compulsive disorders. In many cases, there are outpatient treatments available, and governments often provide assistance to those who may not be able to afford such care.
Even if you are unsure as to whether you have a problem, you may have reached the point where you are uncertain of your ability to control your urge to bet even when you cannot afford it. If this is the case, you may wish to add yourself to self-exclusion lists that could prevent you from playing even if you wish to do so. Most local jurisdictions (and individual casinos) have lists that can legally bar you from so much as entering a casino either permanently or for a predefined period of time. Many online sites will also allow you to exclude yourself from their games, and in regulated jurisdictions, the government agency that oversees the Internet gaming industry may also have their own lists that will prevent you from playing on any licensed site.
If you believe that you or someone you know may be a compulsive gambler, we urge you to seek help. We hope that these resources and others will help you on the road to recovery. Please play responsibly at both online and land-based casinos.