This page looks at how you can help yourself and stay in control of your gambling. It covers:
- Enlisting support - from a partner, family member or friend
- Tips and tools to reduce or stop your gambling
- Staying motivated
- Tools for change.
Make sure you also read our other pages:
Many people who want to change their gambling patterns feel they have to do this on their own. However, we know that it can make a real difference if you have people supporting you in limiting or stopping your gambling patterns. It may be helpful early on to talk to someone you can trust, such as a partner, friend or family member, so that they can understand what you are going through and the reasons why you want to give up or limit your gambling. This will help them to offer you the support and encouragement you need to do this and recharge your life.
If you decide to talk to a partner, friend or family member about your gambling worries, set aside some time when you can talk freely without interruption. Remember that both of you may find the subject difficult and emotionally charged, so here are a few tips:
- Try and avoid talking about blame or shifting the blame
- Recognise that if your partner, friend or family member receives open communication from you and understands what’s going on, they are more likely to be concerned about you and your wellbeing and how they can help
- Be prepared for a loss of trust in yourself and doubts over what you say or do, whether you gamble or not. This is understandable and, if you are both able to work through this, it will not last in the long term.
You need three resources to gamble: access to gambling outlets, money and time. If you want to limit or stop your gambling now, this is where you need to focus your energies. There are a number of practical measures you can take to help reduce or stop your gambling, with immediate effect.
Being in a situation where gambling takes place, such as the bookies, casinos, amusement arcades, races and the local bingo hall, clearly represents risk. If you keep going to these places, you are likely to feel tempted to gamble in ways that are hard to resist.
There are lots of ways in which you can avoid gambling settings such as betting shops, casinos, or slot machines. Here are some suggestions:
- Change your route home after work so that you don’t pass any gambling venues
- Plan alternatives to days out where gambling will happen, like going to the races
- Avoid pubs, arcades and bowling alleys that have slot machines
- If your local pub has fruit machines, don’t go on your own when you could be tempted to use them
- If a friend wants you to go with them to the casino, suggest something different to do together
- Plan ahead when you know an event or night out is coming up that could be challenging. Think of potential exit strategies and identify someone you can ask for support if needed.
Self-excluding yourself from casinos, betting shops, bingo halls, online betting and other gambling routes is a great way to limit or stop your gambling. Here is a list of some of the self-exclusion services available:
- MOSES (Multi-Operator Self-Exclusion Service) - a self-exclusion service for betting shops in the UK that allows you to ask any betting shops to exclude you from gambling with them. The service is free and you will be excluded for a fixed term period of 12 months.
- SENSE (Self-Enrolment National Self-Exclusion) - a self-exclusion programme that allows you to exclude yourself from all land-based casinos in Great Britain licensed by the Gambling Commission. You can also speak to the manager at your local casino.
- BISES, the Bingo Industry Self-Exclusion Scheme - this is part of the Bingo Association and allows people to self-exclude from licensed bingo premises in the UK. You can also speak to the manager at your local bingo hall.
- Bacta, the organisation representing amusement arcades and high-street gaming centres, asks that you speak to a member of staff at the venue where you want to be self-excluded. This will also mean that you are excluded from all adult gaming centres within one kilometre of the venue. To be self-excluded across a wider area, you can call Bacta Self-Exclusion Services on 020 3930 9769; learn more on the Bacta website.
- SmartEXCLUSION allows you to self-exclude from high-street bingo, adult gaming centres or both at once. You can do so in person at a premises or by calling 0844 884 3433.
- The National Lottery offers ways to control your gambling, including limiting your spending and play. You can also self-exclude from other local lottery services, such as the Postcode Lottery, which you can find more about on their websites.
- GAMSTOP allows you to self-exclude from all gambling websites and apps run by companies licensed in the UK, for a period of your choosing. The service is free and quick to sign-up to.
- Gamban is an app that will ban casinos and bookmakers on more than 40,000 sites, including those that are not registered under the UK Gambling Commission. The app will also block Facebook gambling games and deposits from individual banks, along with other related content. A free version of the tool is compatible with Android, Windows, and iOS mobile devices. Please note: some non-Gamban casino sites are still available to UK players.
- Downloading BetBlocker on your mobile phone enables you to block hundreds of gambling websites. This app is compatible with Linux, Windows, iOS, and Android devices. Unlike Gamstop, the BetBlocker app also covers overseas gambling sites that don’t fall under UKGC jurisdiction. If you usually play on several devices, you can install the app on an unlimited number of gadgets.
Many mobile phone companies in the UK also offer their customers an opportunity to block all gambling sites on the phone.
If you are tech-savvy, you can ban gambling sites from your WiFi router. You can enter the IP addresses of the websites or use the parental controls on your router. An added benefit of banning gambling sites via your router is that any children in the house will also be protected from underage gambling issues.
When you have money...
- Set a limit from the start on how much you are willing to spend in a gambling session or in a week, and stick to it
- Cancel or leave credit cards and cash cards at home when you go out
- Set withdrawal limits on your bank account
- On payday, aim to pay all your bills first or transfer money out of your account to a savings account
- Sign up to a bank that offers a block on any gambling-related transactions from their cards (most major banks do). Contact customer support to access this feature. You can also use banking apps that keep track of your spending so that you can make more informed decisions regarding your online gambling
- Give clear instructions to friends and family that they are not to lend you money.
If you can’t manage the above, consider allowing someone else to handle your money for an agreed period.
When you don't have money...
If you have already run up debts as a result of your gambling, now is a good time to take action to manage your money and address the financial costs of gambling.
A great way to start is by setting a budget. This can give you a clear view of your finances and how much of your income goes towards gambling.
Repayment of debt is the next step. The best way to repay debt is to work out a manageable amount to pay off each week or month. As you pay off your debt, you will see the amount owing getting smaller as time passes.
Remember to talk about this with your partner, family member or friend. They can help you resist the temptation to place a bet to recoup your losses and pay off your debts. Don’t expect them to solve all your problems or clear your debts; that would not help you in the long term.
Debt management support
The following organisations can help you if you have debts:
Money Helper website - free guidance and debt advice, such as on how to speak to the people you owe money to
If you have begun to take steps to address your gambling behaviour, it's important to celebrate your achievements and forgive yourself for lapses that may occur. Undoing a gambling habit that has developed over a length of time is not necessarily straightforward. It takes time and effort. People who are trying to give up or cut back on their gambling often find themselves in situations where they have placed a bet or exceeded their limits by playing too long or spending too much.
It is easy to feel guilty, feel you lack willpower or feel like a failure and that you might as well go back to your old gambling patterns. This is normal and not a problem - unless you allow these thoughts and feelings to take over and crowd out everything you have worked hard to achieve so far. So, keep going and don’t give up!
You can manage any setbacks by developing:
- A different mindset about the experience, so that it becomes part of your learning process
- A different way of responding so that you are less likely to do this in the future.
See some helpful examples below.
Instead, see the lapse as an opportunity to learn from your mistake.
It’s normal for your motivation to go up and down. When you feel less inclined to pursue your goal, try the following:
- Remember your reasons why: Go over your reasons for giving up or cutting down on gambling and the benefits you will gain in the short and long term. Ask yourself, is it worth giving up on these over a temporary setback?
- Give yourself a ‘pep talk’: You know one part of you wants to succeed in cutting down or stopping gambling; the other part wants to give up. Which side is going to win? Remember that you are changing your gambling pattern first and foremost for yourself. This is a way of taking good care of yourself, now and in the future.
- Look at what you have achieved so far: Recognise the progress you have already made. If you've followed some of the advice in this help and support section, you will have already understood more about your gambling, enlisted the support of someone who cares about you and started to prove to yourself that you can control your gambling. That's impressive, and you should feel proud.
- Reframe the event: People who succeed recognise that setbacks and lapses are part of any difficult change process. You can learn from your lapses and use your learning to get your life back on track.
The more you understand your gambling pattern and the specific influences that keep it going, the easier it becomes to adopt new ways to manage these. To learn from the setback, you can:
- Review the situation: Think about your understanding of your triggers for gambling and what you get out of it. Were there any ‘warning signs’ before your lapse? If so, what were they? Have you learnt anything new?
- Review your efforts to control your gambling: What has worked? What hasn’t worked? What else do you need to try or learn?
- Next steps: If faced with the same situation, what would you do differently now? What will you build into your action plan for change?
If you feel you have done all you can, you are not sure what caused the setback and you are concerned that it will happen again, you can:
- Continue reading this page and this help and support section: the pages will give you more ideas and coping strategies to try out in managing your gambling habit
- Talk about what happened with an ally or supporter: sometimes an outside perspective from a supportive friend or family member can be really helpful in thinking things through and identifying the next steps.
- Refer yourself to the East Midlands Gambling Harms Service: If you feel you need professional support, self-refer yourself to our clinic.
Remember, whatever route you take, you can do it!
Here are some strategies to help maintain long-term change. They focus on ‘internal triggers’, which are the ways we think and feel physically and emotionally that affect our desire to gamble.
'Thinking straight' can help tackle your gambling. By identifying your ‘pro-gambling’ thoughts (the ones that encourage you to gamble), you are better equipped to challenge them and train yourself to think more realistically.
People who are affected by gambling often show similar thinking errors. For example...
- Believing that they are in control: saying, for instance, “I am on a winning streak”, “the odds are in my favour” or “I have my lucky dice with me”
- Thinking they can make accurate predictions: “I know which horse will win”, “I know who will score the first goal”, or “I know when the slot machine will pay out”
- Making faulty interpretations of gambling outcomes: such as, “I have just had a run of losses, a win is just around the corner”, “if I continue now, I will get back the money I have lost”, or “I always win more than I lose”.
It's helpful to spot when your thoughts are heading in these directions and to challenge them.
Most people will experience ‘urges’ after they try to cut down or stop gambling, particularly early on. They are natural reactions. You may experience urges as a response to particular situations, such as having a row with your partner, meeting up with a friend that you used to go to the casino with, or feeling low or on edge. Sometimes urges will occur without any obvious triggers.
It is helpful to think of urges like waves at a beach. Like a wave, an urge will eventually break and flow away. So, delaying the decision to gamble, even for a short period, can be very effective. You can imagine yourself surfing or riding the wave until it passes.
The more you can practice coping with urges, the better you will be at it and the urges will lessen over time. However, if you give into them by gambling, the urges to gamble will come back more often.
Tips on how to deal with urges
- Relax and focus on staying calm: take some deep breaths to slow yourself down and refocus on the reasons why you decided to stop gambling and what you can do now.
- Plan ahead: if an opportunity to gamble on a particular event or at a specific time is coming up, make plans to do something else instead.
Distract yourself: this allows time for the urge to pass and for you to feel more in control of the decision. Distraction techniques can include things like calling up a friend, turning on the radio, going for a walk or jog, watering your plants, doing housework or reading a book.
Lots of people gamble to escape from difficult emotions, such as feeling low, bored or stressed. They may also feel shame, guilt or anger after gambling, particularly if they have lost a lot of money, and may continue to gamble to help themselves feel better. So, it is important to find different ways of coping with how you feel.
You may find it helpful to look at the NHS website page of 10 stress busters.
You can also find expert advice to help improve your wellbeing, as well as practical tips for dealing with stress and anxiety, improving your sleep, boosting your mood and feeling more in control on the Every Mind Matters website.
Some of the information and advice in this section is based on information and advice developed by West Midlands Gambling Harms Clinic.