Gambling support

close up of laptops on laps.jpgTraditionally, gambling is an activity where someone risks money or belongings. There is an element of randomness or chance involved and the purpose is to win.

This usually takes the form of:

  • Gaming: including card games, fruit machines, video-draw poker machines, slot machines, two-up and casino games such as baccarat and roulette.
  • Betting: including horse and greyhound races, football accumulators, other sporting events and elections.
  • Lotteries: including lotteries, instant scratch cards, raffles and bingo.
  • Speculation: gambling on business, insurance or stock markets.

Please see below for additional information.

Traditionally, gambling is an activity where someone risks money or belongings. There is an element of randomness or chance involved and the purpose is to win.

The traditional methods that usually come to mind are:

  • Gaming: including card games, fruit machines, video-draw poker machines, slot machines, two-up and casino games such as baccarat and roulette.
  • Betting: including horse and greyhound races, football accumulators, other sporting events and elections.
  • Lotteries: including lotteries, instant scratch cards, raffles and bingo.
  • Speculation: gambling on business, insurance or stock markets.

Technology makes it easier to gamble.
Access to gambling sites has never been easier. There are now hundreds of gambling companies that provide casino-style games and betting apps that can be downloaded onto the gambler’s devices such as smartphones, tablets or laptops. They provide the convenience of making bets or gambling from wherever the person is, even if they are on the move, 24/7 days a week.

Gambling prevalence in the UK
Over half the population in the UK takes part in some form of gambling activity. For some people, this can be an enjoyable activity. For others, gambling can harm their physical and mental health, relationships, performance at work or study, get them into trouble with the law and leave them in serious debt and possible homelessness. Unfortunately, gambling disorder is also linked to increased risk of other mental health conditions, and suicidality.  Family, friends and work colleagues can be affected by problem gambling too.

Based on 2018 data and depending on which part of the country you live in, Public Health England estimates that about 1 in a 100 people in the UK can be considered as a problem gambler, and that a further 4 in a 100 people are classified as at-risk gamblers, meaning they may experience some level of negative consequences due to their gambling. Other research has shown that rates of gambling disorder and at-risk gambling are much higher than these figures, when considering particular parts of the population and vulnerable groups."

What makes gambling problematic?

Gambling is problematic when it has negative effects on a person's life, and becomes difficult to control. For example, gambling might lead to debt, relationship difficulties, problems at work or in education, problems with well-being, and/or other mental health issues.

Understanding how and why you gamble and the impact it has helps you to do something about it.

Being clear about the long-term effects your gambling has on you and the people around you, will help you decide whether you want to continue gambling, cut down or stop altogether.

Identifying internal and external triggers and drivers for your gambling will help you manage these positively.

How does gambling start?
It is easy. It can happen to anyone. The gambling industry has been very successful in exploiting basic learning principles to encourage people to place a bet and then keep them hooked.  In 2019, UK gamblers lost over £14 billion.

To start with, you may have seen gambling as just another form of entertainment. You may have watched family members bet for fun, or you may have placed a bet because you were out with friends and it seemed like an enjoyable shared activity, or you picked up on advertising at sporting events which promotes gambling as a ‘cool’ and ‘fun’ thing to do.

What keeps you gambling?
A gambling habit can develop from the combination of:

  • An early win, or variable, occasional wins. These may be small, token wins such as a ‘free’ bet. However, they can still be very powerful in encouraging you to gamble again and again.

  • The sensations that you feel when gambling or about to gamble, such as excitement, arousal and tension.

Membership programmes offer extra incentives to people who regularly lose money through gambling. These can include VIP treatment, free hospitality access, free bets, cash back on losing wagers and tickets to matches or sporting events. The catch is that these perks encourage you to lose even more money.

Thinking errors
Over time, you will start to develop biased and distorted thinking about your gambling. Common thinking errors are:

  • Believing that you are in control: Such as “I am on a winning streak”, “the odds are in my favour”, “I have my lucky dice with me” etc.

  • Thinking you can make accurate predictions: Such as “I know which horse will win”, “I know who will score the first goal”, “I know when the slot machine will pay out” etc.

  • 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”, “I always win more than I lose” etc.

Does the type of gambling matter?
The games that are most frequently associated with problem gambling offer:

  • Fast play

  • Frequent wins (even if small) and quick payouts

You get these sorts of games on mobile or online devices. Advertising for gambling often promotes the use of smartphones by emphasising the control that people think they have when placing bets. The reality is, of course, that fast-paced, repetitive and chance-based games require rapid and impulsive decisions, without time to reflect. Before you know it, you are chasing your losses.

This can happen with online ‘in-play’ sports betting. Here, people can go on betting once a game has started, and change their bets depending on how the game is progressing. Whilst this makes the sporting event more exciting or interesting, it can also contribute to unplanned and excessive gambling through loss chasing and thinking you can predict what will happen next. This, of course, is unlikely in reality.

Impact and harms of gambling
Harm from gambling is not just about losing money. Gambling can affect the way you think and feel about yourself, your relationships, how you manage your studies or perform at work, your social life and your physical and mental health.

It can harm not only the person who gambles but the people around them too. In the UK, around 7 people are affected for every person who has a gambling problem. These are mainly family members, but also friends, colleagues and communities.

Enlisting support
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 your partner/friend/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 shifting blame and walking out on each other halfway through.

  • Do 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.

  • Recognise that if your partner/friend/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.

Tips and tools to reduce or stop gambling
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.

Don’t go to venues or events where gambling takes place
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.

Use a self-exclusion service
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.

Self-exclusion services

  • MOSES (Multi-Operator Self-Exclusion Service)

    View the MOSES website

    MOSES is a self-exclusion service for betting shops in the UK and 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)

    Visit the SENSE website

    SENSE is a self-exclusion programme that is available for anyone who may be experiencing gambling problems to enrol in a scheme to exclude themselves nationally from all land-based casinos in Great Britain licensed by the Gambling Commission. You can also speak to the manager at your local casino.

  • The Bingo Industry Self-Exclusion Scheme

    Visit the Bingo Association website

    The Bingo Industry Self-Exclusion Scheme 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.

  • Amusement Arcades

    You can call 020 7730 644 to self-exclude from amusement arcades or, speak to the manager at your local arcade.

  • The National Lottery

    Visit The National Lottery website

    The National Lottery offers ways to control your gambling, including limiting your spending and play. Take a look at their website to access these tools and find out more.

  • Other Lotteries

    You can also self-exclude from other local lottery services, such as the Postcode Lottery, which you can find more about on their websites.


    Register with GAMSTOP

    GAMSTOP is a great tool for UK players who would like to self-exclude themselves 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

    Download the app

    Gamban is an app that is specifically designed to keep users safe and will ban casinos and bookies on more than 40,000 sites, including those that are not 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. Warning: some non-Gamban casino sites are still available to UK players.

  • BetBlocker

    Get the BetBlocker app

    Downloading BetBlocker on your mobile phone enables online casino players to block more than 6700 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’ll be happy to know that you can install the app on an unlimited number of gadgets.

  • Ban via Router

    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.

  • Restrict Access via Mobile Carriers

    Many mobile carriers in the UK offer their customers an opportunity to block all gambling sites on the phone. This means you don’t have to worry about additional software or complicated settings.

How can I limit gambling ads?
Gambling blocking apps give some protection from gambling ads. Social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter allow customers to change the types of ads they would like to see. Google also has a feature where customers can mute ads of a similar nature. So, if you see a gambling advert, you can ensure that similar ads are limited in future. And remember, you can switch TV channels if you see gambling ads coming up!

How can I avoid gambling settings?
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 going to the races.

  • Avoid the slot machines at pubs, arcades, bowling alleys etc.

  • 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 engagement is coming up that could be challenging. Think of potential exit strategies and identify someone you can ask for support if needed.

Managing your finances
Click on the tabs below to find out our top tips on what to do when you have money or don’t have money.

What to do when you have money

What to do when you don't have money

The effects of alcohol and drug use

The use of alcohol or drugs can greatly reduce your motivation to limit or stop gambling. Substance use can cloud your judgement and prevent you from thinking about the consequences of placing a bet or continuing to gamble. It is a good idea to limit your drug and alcohol intake whilst you are trying to change your gambling habit. 

Support sites
There are many services providing advice and support to help manage the impact of problem gambling and gambling addiction, such as debt, housing, legal or relationship advice, mental health and drug and alcohol services. Take a look at our recommended support sites below

Celebrate your achievements
Let’s take a look at what you’ve achieved so far!

If you have been reading the self-help sections in sequence and acting on the tools and information provided, you will have:

  • A better understanding of your gambling behaviour.

  • Identified your reasons for stopping or cutting down on gambling.

  • Proved to yourself that you can deal with high-risk situations and control your gambling.

  • Enlisted the support of someone who cares about you.

  • Started making connections with people in your life and have been trying out new activities and experiences that are important to you.

All in all, you have taken some really important steps and you have a lot to feel good about. Now is the time for you to develop your skills to manage your gambling long term.

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 ( a ‘lapse’).

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, 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.

1. Avoid labelling yourself as a failure
Instead, see the lapse as an opportunity to learn from your mistake.

2. Strengthen your commitment
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. You have already identified what has been helpful to you in managing high-risk situations to control your gambling. There are still lots of things to learn how to do in the next section, Tools for Change.

  • 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.

3. Analyse your lapse
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?

4. Ask for help
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:

  • Check out what happened with your 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 Southern Gambling Service: If you feel you need professional support, self-refer yourself to our clinic.

Remember, whatever route you take, you can do it!

Relapse prevention
Giving up on gambling can make a big difference to your life. However, it can be quite challenging. There may be times when it feels impossible. Remember that lots of people have quit gambling and the techniques suggested through our website really do work. You will need to practice the skills you have learnt and get as much support as possible for what you are doing – don’t hesitate to get in touch with your loved ones or friends to provide encouragement and recognition for each success.

If setbacks occur and you revert to gambling, don’t be hard on yourself. You can always get back on track and use the experience to learn how to stop next time.


Forward planning
To anticipate and avoid lapses, you can:

  • Remind yourself of what your ‘at risk’ situations are.

  • Be aware of the decisions that might lead you to gamble.

  • Be familiar with the steps you can take to avoid or manage those situations.

You can write this down as a plan on a small card which you can keep in your pocket or wallet. Alternatively, you can rehearse it through audio or video recordings on your phone.

Managing relapses
If you are experiencing lapses over and over again, you are going through a relapse with all its accompanying negative consequences. It may be time to revisit your reasons for change. Is your motivation flagging? Have you got stuck somewhere?

At this stage, you may want to talk to someone such as your partner, friend, or GP about what is going on for you, and consider seeking outside help.

Dealing with lapses
Lapses are normal and can happen at any time when you are trying to stop gambling.

When a lapse does occur, remember to see this as an opportunity for learning. There are risk situations and new ways of coping that you have not yet identified for yourself. You need to refresh your plan and practice and apply the skills you have learnt.

Building a new life
If you have managed to follow these steps you will be on your way to rediscovering what is really important for you and establishing a lifestyle that is meaningful to you.

In rebuilding your life free from gambling and gambling harms, you will be increasing your activities and resources across different areas:

  • Personal: including skills, good health, aspirations, hopes and coping abilities.

  • Physical: tangible assets such as a place to live and regular income.

  • Social: ties and connections to other people such as family, friends, work colleagues and neighbours.

  • Community/cultural: inclusion within communities that share similar values and beliefs.


Additional Support and Resources

Debt Management Support

Mental Health Support

  • Samaritans || 116 123 || Email:
    Call any time, day or night. If you need someone to talk to, we listen.
  • Mind || 0300 123 3393
    A national charity who has lots of advice, support and information to help you understand and manage your mental health.
  • NHS Every Mind Matters 
    Expert NHS advice and practical tips to help you look after your mental health and wellbeing.


Drug & Alcohol Support

  • Frank || 0300 123 6600
    Honest information about drugs, along with help and advice.
  • Drinkaware || 020 7766 9900
    Learn about the impact of alcohol on you, your family or your friends. Free and confidential support, advice and information.


Homelessness & Poverty Support

Domestic Abuse Support

  • Women's Aid || Email:
    A charity supporting people experiencing domestic abuse. Women’s Aid is not an emergency service, if you are in danger, call the police immediately on 999.
  • Respect  ||  0808 8010 327 
    Helpline for male victims of domestic abuse.

Health & Wellbeing Support

  • NHS 111 || 111
    Get the right advice or treatment for physical or mental health 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Call 111 free from any landline or mobile phone or visit the website.
  • Active My Way
    Empowering you to get active.
  • NHS Live Well
    NHS advice about healthy living, including eating a balanced diet, healthy weight, exercise, quitting smoking and drinking less alcohol.
  • NHS Better Health 
    Healthy changes start with little changes. Whether you want to lose weight, get active or quit smoking, Better Health is here with lots of free tools and support.

Career Support

"We would like to thank and acknowledge the Midlands Gambling Service for allowing us to re-use resources and text from their website on this current page. Note that some text from this page is directly from the Midlands Gambling Service and other parts have been modified or added to tailor it to local needs."

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