Debt and dealing with a gambling addiction
People with gambling addictions often end up deep in debt. Gambling and debt are entwined together. Gambling problems make debt problems worse, and vice versa. Borrowing more money to pay for gambling only increases your debt and struggling to keep on top of your increasing debts can be a trigger for more gambling.
Gambling warning signs
How can you tell if your gambling is affecting your financial security? Some of the warning signs that you may have to tackle or stop gambling include:
If any of these sounds familiar to you, it’s time to get help now. If you have problems with gambling and debt, you need help to deal with both of these issues.
Help to stop gambling or tackle addiction
Before you deal with gambling debt, you need to treat your gambling addiction. The first step is to realize that you have a gambling problem. Many gamblers think they can win enough money to pay back their debts, but quite the opposite happens. You only end up creating more gambling debt to repay. Even if you did win enough money to pay off your debt, chances are you would gamble that money away too, thinking if you won once you could win again.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to gambling problems, and different approaches work for different people. But these are good first steps:
Speak to your GP
Your NHS GP is the best place to start, especially if your gambling problems is affecting your health and mood. Your GP can discuss what options are available in your area, for example cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a form of talking therapy that many people find effective.
Cutting Off Your Source of Funding
If you’ve been gambling with credit cards, close them, although this will require clearing the debt in full. An alternative would be to cut up your cards and dispose of them securely. The account will stay open, but you will not be able to access any credit. Normally, closing a credit card affects your credit score. However, if closing your credit cards keeps you from creating more debt, then that’s what you need to do. You can put a freeze on your credit report to make it more difficult to open a new credit card or loan account, as they require a credit check before they are issued.
Make sure you close all online gambling accounts. With the credit cards gone, you will not be able to gamble online.
Contact Beat the Odds
Contact Beat the Odds, for a confidential chat and professional assessment if you feel you may have a problem with gambling on 029 2049 3895 or via their website https://www.cais.co.uk/services/beat-the-odds/ . The service is free. Visit their website for more information on face to face, online or peer support.
You can also:
talk to an adviser from GamCare, a gambling charity
go to Gamblers Anonymous meetings for group support
find out more about support you can get on the GamCare website
find more strategies to stop yourself gambling on the Gambling Commission website
download the free Gambling Therapy app - it’s a collection of strategies to help with gambling addiction
Private medical insurance
Your private health insurance provider may pay for treatment for gambling addiction. Check with your insurance provider to see what options are available.
Paying Off Gambling Debt
Once you deal with the addiction, you can focus on repaying the debt:
Write a List
Start by writing a list of everyone to which you owe money. Some of your gambling debt may be on credit cards; you may have overdrawn bank accounts; or you may even owe money to casinos/bookies or loan sharks. Include every debt that comes to mind on the list. If you learn of new gambling debts, add them to the list. The key is to know who and how much you owe so you can take action.
Get help with your debts
The best thing you can do to fix debt worries is to talk to someone experienced in helping people in your situation. Don’t pay for this. There are many free and independent debt advisors who will treat everything you say in confidence, then help you find the best ways to deal with your debts, even if you have a debt with a loan shark (illegal money lender). You can get help at:
Friends and family of people with gambling problems
If someone close to you has a gambling problem, it can put a huge stress on you and your household finances. Try to encourage them to get help to deal with their debts and gambling.
If you’re struggling to deal with someone else’s gambling and debt problems, get specialist advice. This will ensure you’re doing the best you can for your loved one and looking after yourself at the same time.
Beat the Odds offer support for the family of those with problem gambling too. Call them on 029 2030 2101 for friendly advice, support and help to know what to do next.
Whatever your problem, there are always solutions available, it just requires you to take that first brave step and someone will help you find that solution.