how to stop gambling
Are You A Compulsive Gambler?
July 12, 2019
How To Stop Gambling
Okay, so I’ve talked about Gambling Addiction and how to spot if you’re a compulsive gambler. I’ve also talked about how my gambling brain was working and the importance of understanding why you gamble in the first place. Understanding why I was gambling was a key part in me stopping for good and I believe it will be for you too. However, this is something that may not be immediately apparent for you and learning how to stop gambling may take time to work out. It’s therefore crucial once you’ve decided that you want the nightmare to stop, that you give yourself space. If you’ve tried and failed to stop gambling before, then the following won’t really come as a surprise to you. You already know there’s no magic bullet with this but what you will also know is that your practical path to gambling recovery begins with blockers.
So here’s a few methods broken down with my thoughts on effectiveness. I’ve explained the for the benefit of those who don’t already know about them but even if you’re a veteran gambler who is well versed in numerous ways to quit, then it’s worth reading through as it may give you an insight as to why previous methods have failed you. Learning how to stop gambling isn’t a one size fits all quest and what works for others may not work for you.
Stopping Gambling Online Using Self-Exclusion
Self-exclusion is one of the most common and obvious methods people use when considering how to stop gambling online and there are different variations of the same thing. You may well have tried this route before and it may or may not have worked. Before I stopped gambling for good, there must have been at least 50 online casinos that I was banned from playing at. Yet you know as well as I do that this is probably doomed to fail if you’re a determined gambling addict. Why? Because there’ll always be others that you hunt out to find that you’re not excluded from, meaning all the self-exclusion achieves is irritating you into gambling at other sites when you would really prefer to be using on that you banned yourself from.
It is also likely to steer you in the direction of casino sites that you wouldn’t ordinarily have signed up to because they probably looked a bit dodgy when you were looking for places to play. You therefore end up at these sites and not only do you have the stress of knowing that your self-exclusion efforts have failed but you now have that nagging worry that if you did actually manage to win any some of money, would they pay out? It’s a stress you can do without. So how do these self-exclusion methods actually work?
Self-Exclusion & Time-Outs- General Points
Most casino sites should have a responsible gambling section for those wondering how to stop gambling. You’ll usually find it in grey text that blends into the black background at the bottom of the page. For some casinos, you’ll also find it as a menu option on your account. When you click on the relevant section, you will normally be given options of a time out that can vary from 24 hours to six months. During that time you will not be able to log into the site and play but you may be able to play at any of the casino’s sister sites if they have any.
Remember that large casinos often have different brands that they trade under. Whether or not you can still play at another brand when timed-out from one of them would usually depend on the individual casino’s terms and condtions. These vary massively between different companies and can vary from site to site making this method of stopping gambling a bit unreliable.
how to stop gambling using time-outs
If it’s a time-out you’re looking for then check this out before you click. Once you make the selection, you should be automatically logged out and you will not be able to log in again until the selected time has elapsed. The plus point about this is that it will give you the instant break you need to think. In terms of being a method of how to stop gambling though, it should not be considered a permanent solution for the following reasons:
Once the time-out is complete, you will automatically be able to log back in without any further process or barrier.
You may still be able to play at the casino’s sister sites which is an obvious route to temptation.
It will certainly be possible to play elsewhere at another casino group.
You’re not really stopping if you’re leaving yourself options to return. You WILL I know it, you know it and the casinos certainly know it.
As a side note, I should also mention time-outs in the context of pending periods. For those who don’t already know; pending periods are the time in which any withdrawal requests remain in a pending status ie they haven’t yet been processed and paid out to you. The vast majority of casinos will have some pending period ranging from a few hours to several days before they pay you any winnings. During this time the withdrawal can be reversed with just one mouse click allowing you to play with the funds again.
Casinos will usually say that the pending period is to carry out any necessary security checks before the payment is made. Believe that if you like but in my opinion it is simply there to put temptation in your way and it’s a fantastic tool for them to ensure you never actually cash out.
Now I can’t actually say the following with 100% authority as it’s been quite a while since I’ve gambled, but I have certainly used the time-out function in the past to prevent me from going back and reversing the withdrawal. There have been times though that after my 24 or 48 hour time out period has expired, the withdrawal is STILL pending and hasn’t been processed.
I very much suspect that some sites only start the clock on their pending period when you are not timed-out. Again, I cannot be 100% sure that is still the case but it’s certainly happened to me in the past. Bottom line with this one folks is not to trust a time-out in these circumstances. The safer option will always be self-exclusion.
HOW TO STOP GAMBLING USING SELF-EXCLUSION
Self-exclusions are different in that they are more than just time-outs. They are there to give you a longer break from gambling, and if you’re looking for a more robust method of how to stop gambling then this is the next level up. Self-exclusions generally start at a minimum of 6 months and depending on the site can run for up to 5 years, and on some sites a permanent option can be selected. Most reputable sites now include self-exclusion as a self-service option on the site without any need for interaction with a person.
In days gone by, many would require you to email or call them with a self-exclusion request. I’m not sure if that method still exists but if you are required to email the request then it would usually be to an address such as email@example.com.
You will be asked to confirm your reason for the request eg ‘I have a gambling problem’ and you will be asked to specify the duration of the self-exclusion. You will then have to wait until someone physically actions your request and this can vary between casinos from minutes to days before your account will be closed.
If you do need to interact with an actual person for this, I understand that it can be difficult. Perhaps you don’t want to openly admit that you have a problem but if this is the route you’ve decided on then it will be worth it and you should get your account closed pretty quickly.
Before you go down this route, be sure to withdraw any funds left in your account. However, I chuckle as I type that because I think back to the several occasions I did it and the most I ever had in an account was 3p. I’m guessing that if you’re considering this option then you will probably be in the same boat. No compulsive gambler ever really quits whilst they’re ahead, right?
If for whatever reason you self-exclude before withdrawing any funds, then you will not be able to access your account to carry out that transaction. Instead, the casino should refund any monies in your casino account. However, you will be at their mercy for the time this will take.
I should also offer a couple of words of warning with self-exclusion. If you find yourself in a position where for whatever reason you have submitted the request to self-exclude but your account is still open, for the love of God DO NOT play there in that time period! I cannot stress that enough. You may wonder who on earth may do that but for some, the self-exclude request can be an instant regret if the gambling mind then kicks in and convinces you that you’ve made a mistake. Your request CANNOT be undone and your account will then effectively become a ticking self-destruct bomb.
Any balance you manage to win in that time will be forfeited and the best case scenario is that you’ll have any deposit refunded to you. However, even then you may struggle. I’ve seen many long running complaints against casinos that have allowed gamblers to continue after they have made the self-exclusion request. Some are found in favour of the customer and many are not.
Secondly, you may be tempted to re-register using slightly different details to get around the software. Don’t bother. Seriously folks DONT! You will be in breach of the casino operator’s terms and conditions and not only will you lose any winnings but you will most certainly lose any deposits you made there as well. You will get busted and you really can do without the stress. So if you decide to self-exclude then be sure that’s what you really want, forget about it and move on.
So What’s Good About Self-Exclusion?
As a method of how to stop gambling, self-exclusion is a good option to give you a proper break from a particular chain of online operators. It will close your account and it will have the same effect across the board regardless of whether you had an account at a sister site. For example, you self-exclude from Casino X and try to open an account at Casino Y. Casino Y is owned by the same company as Casino X therefore you will not be able to open an account there. Even if you do succeed, it will be closed down almost immediately but see warning above. So with this option, you could effectively wipe out a large chunk of operators from your problem.
The other good part about self-exclusion is down to how reputable and switched on to responsible gambling the particular casino operator will be. If it’s a good one then unlike a time-out where your account will re-open automatically after the set period, a self-exclusion will require positive action from you. That is to say that once the set exclusion period is over, you will have to make a point of requesting that your account is re-opened. You would usually have to do it via support chat and depending on how switched on they are to responsible gambling, you may have to wait for a further 24 hours after you make the request to re-open your account.
What’s Not So Good About Self-Exclusion
Well it’s a bit like ‘whack a mole’ in that when you exclude from one casino operator, there will always be another one that pops up. There is a way to handle this though but it takes a little effort and I paused for around 5 minutes when writing this to consider whether or not it was good advice as the last thing I want to do is inadvertently equip you with tools to make access to more gambling sites easier. However, in this case I’ll take the chance…
Visit a website called Ask Gamblers. I’m not posting the link as I refuse to directly link my site to one that profits directly from gambling. This site has a comprehensive list of most online casinos along with their reviews.
Type in the name of a casino and you will then be able to see a link to the operator that owns it. From there you will be able to see what other brands they own. If you self-exclude form one of the brands, then you should wipe out all the others with one request.
Make a note of the operator you’ve excluded from and move on to another and repeat the process. Prioritise the big names first and they will typically be the ones with the best reviews.
In most cases you will be unable to self-exclude from a casino that you’re not yet a member at. Therefore, the only way around this is to set up an account and immediately self-exclude. You can then note down the operator and be confident that you’ve also wiped out it’s sister sites as above.
Repeat that process as often as you can handle and what you should now have is a decent sized list of operators you’re excluded from.
Now destroy that list.
If you’ve had to register and exclude from a number of sites then you’ll have quite a few emails. Mark them as spam and delete them.
Hopefully what you will then be left with is a stack of casinos you’ve self-excluded from but after a few days (or minutes in my case) no comprehensive memory of which ones you’ve done. If you’ve done a good job then this is an ideal situation to be in since if you’re ever tempted again to open an account you really won’t be sure if you’ve registered at one whose sister site you’re already excluded from. Now I don’t know about you but that would never be a risk that I was prepared to take. Would you risk playing if you knew there’s a good chance any winnings would be forfeited? I’m damned sure I wouldn’t!
HOW TO STOP GAMBLING USING blocking software
To add an extra layer of security to the exclusion methods discussed above, I have used gambling blocking software in the past and it has stopped me from gambling on several occasions.
There are a few brands out there such as GamBan or Betfilter and they work in much the same way. I used Betfilter at the time and found them to have good customer service and the program was easy to install. Betfilter would block anything gambling related but was never so intrusive that it would block something where simply the word ‘gambling’ may have been written, for example. If you did try to access a gambling product suas a casino site, the browser would simply display a blank page.
It is true to say that gambling blocking software has helped me in the past but like anything else, they aren’t infallable. However, if you are wondering how to stop gambling then the likes of Betfilter or Gamban are certainly inexpensive options.
This then leaves me with the Daddy of all methods which is even more powerful if you’ve been through the self-exclusion process I described above.
When considering how to stop gambling and if you are lucky enough (for that reason) to live in the UK, then Gamstop is an invaluable resource. It was introduced a couple of years ago now and although you may have seen reports about it being flawed in terms of effectiveness, it really is second to none in my opinion as far as blocking tools go.
To operate legally in the UK, any casino or betting site must register with the UK Gambling Commission and be licensed through them. To obtain such a license it is now a requirement for any casino/ betting operator to be a member of Gamstop. So what does this mean?
Well put simply Gamstop provides a database of all registered users to all registered casino/ betting sites. As time goes on, more and more operators will join the scheme but the beauty of Gamstop is that you only need to register once. You will be automatically excluded from any new operator that enters the market. So basically, its the equivalent of you manually self-excluding as I described above but without going through all the hassle of contacting every operator yourself. Also, with Gamstop you do not have to bother about first being registered with a casino before you cancel. Just like regular self-exclusion, Gamstop will not expire as such at the end of the selected period meaning that you have to make a positive effort to get the exclusion removed once the time is up and even then there is a 24 hour cooling off period meaning that you really will have to be determined if you want the exclusion lifting.
Like other methods I have discussed, Gamstop requires a certain degree of honesty and it also requires you to keep your details up to date. You will be required to provide your name, date of birth, address and all emails that you use to register on gambling sites. Criticism in the past directed at the effectiveness of Gamstop generally concerns being able to circumvent the protection by maybe registering at a site with a different address or variation of your name. Like I said, its not 100% foolproof. However, you’ve got to ask yourself just how desperate are you to gamble if you do this to risk losing everything if you are detected. In my opinion it simply isn’t worth it and was way too much hassle. In my gambling days I would often win serious sums of money (before losing it again of course) I don’t think I could take the joy of winning several thousand pounds only to have my winnings forfeited when they realised I was on the self-exclusion or Gamstop list with a different address. Remember that on most large cash-outs, casinos will usually ask for additional ID verification if only to stall paying you out. Once you register for Gamstop, I seriously advise taking that as nailing any door shut to a return to gambling.
Another reason that Gamstop drew criticism was for an entirely different reason. I have read a few complaints from people who have come to the end of their exclusion period only to have run into problems when attempting to reopen their account with a casino. Those people have basically argued that their exclusion period is over but the casino has still refused them service as they are still on the casino’s list as someone who has previously been on the Gamstop database. As such they have been barred from re-opening their account. For me, I say perfect! I’m never going back. Not now. Not ever!
This is however, something you need to keep in mind when registering with Gamstop as they do say in their T’s & C’s that the casinos will keep their Gamstop data for 7 years after your exclusion period expires. They of course will not be under any obligation to serve you after that point and that will have nothing to do with Gamstop’s liability.
By my count, there are currently 155 operators that participate in the scheme but you should remember that these can cover a number of different brands. In my opinion, if you’ve already registered for Gamstop then I would say that it’s pretty much job done. If you do happen across a site that’s not covered then you would have to manually self-exclude from there as previously discussed. I did notice that the list includes all the big names so you have to ask yourself if the risk is really worth it by actively seeking out a site that isn’t covered by the scheme. I would suggest it isn’t.
I registered with Gamstop on 2nd July 2018 and selected an initial period of 12 months. The ban was effective within 24 hours and stopped me gambling online instantly. A few days later when I was beginning to come to terms with the fact that online gambling was now out of my life, I extended the ban for the maximum of 5 years and it was at that point that I knew I was well and truly on my way to beating this addiction for good.
I should point out that I am in no way affiliated with Gamstop and make no money whatsoever by linking to them or writing this content. However I couldn’t not mention them as without a doubt they have changed the course of a 30 odd year destructive cycle and provided me with a very robust method of how to stop gambling for good.
HOW TO STOP GAMBLING USING SENSE
In much the same way that Gamstop offers online self-exclusion for compulsive gamblers, SENSE does the same for land based casinos. Set up by the National Casino Forum in 2015, SENSE (Self-Enrolment National Self-Exclusion) will exclude you from all participating casinos with just one request. If you wanted to, you could just self-exclude from one casino chain but in doing so you would be asked if you wanted to extend that ban to all casinos in the scheme. It’s up to you.
To do this you would need to visit a casino participating in the scheme and have a chat with the manager. You would need to take photo ID with you and he or she will guide you through the process. It only takes a few minutes and once you’ve done, it’s done.
Like Gamstop, SENSE will not automatically cancel when your self-exclusion period is up. Instead you will have to visit a casino in person and speak with the manager to get it lifted. He will require you to fill in a form stating that you no longer feel that you have a gambling problem. You will not be allowed entry until that request has been authorised which could take several days.
Like other methods, the scheme isn’t 100% foolproof and you have to commit to staying away once on the scheme. Most casinos will require you to present your membership card upon entry which should be enough to keep you out and if you attempt to register somewhere that you haven’t played at before then it will be picked up that you are on the scheme and you will be denied entry. If you are seriously looking at how to stop gambling then combining this with Gamstop will pretty much do the job.
What About Casinos That Don’t Require Membership?
When you sign up to the scheme you basically agree that you won’t attempt to enter a casino and/or attempt to play. If you do, then any money you lose will be forfeited and any money you win will also be forfeited. I can testify that this system works and have personal experience of it!
A few years ago I got very drunk on a night out and found myself alone at the end of the night (a usual occurrence for me but that’s a different story) My SENSE exclusion had expired a couple of years beforehand and I thought I was well and truly over my addiction. I happened to be right outside a casino that I stumbled into whilst doing my best to look sober. I spent the following 3 hours playing a slot machine and was chuffed to bits that firstly I could, and secondly that I’d won £2000 on a deposit of £500. Common sense kicked in and I sobered up enough to realise that I’d won a decent amount of money and that as it was late I should go back to my hotel. I therefore decided to cash-out.
The cashier asked for my ID before paying out as all reputable casinos do and I was a little disappointed to say the least when she called the manager over to explain that they would not pay out. Although the self-exclusion had technically expired, I had not had it lifted and as such I lost the money. I can hand on heart say that I would never have gone there had I not been drunk in the first place because I would have known that I was basically throwing money away without any chance whatsoever of winning. A hard lesson was learned that night!
How To Stop Gambling Using Betting Shop Self-Exclusion
I must admit that my addiction has never extended to any sort of gambling at betting shops and I therefore have no experience of self-exclusion in that respect. However, whilst researching this post, I came across a Multi Operator Self-exclusion Scheme for those with that problem. The service allows you to self-exclude from betting shops in your area.
I have no idea how effective this is but if anyone wants to get in touch and let me know then I’ll be sure to do a more thorough post about it.
Quit The Casino aims to build a databse of everything you need to stop gambling, but if you’re still unsure whether all of that is worth it, have a read of my blog where you can read all about the lies gambling operators sell you, and how gambling destroyed my life.
What methods have you used? Let me know in the Quit The Casino community!
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