Responsible Gambling In India
The thrills, excitement, and unpredictability coming with gambling make it the favourite recreational activity among many players worldwide. In India, more than half of the population gambles. Learning the principles of responsible gambling enables Indian punters to play safely and avoid impulsive behaviours leading to addiction.
Roland Landers, CEO of the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF), an organization that represents the interests of the gaming industry in India, said:
“The online gaming industry is here to stay, and we need to embrace it. However, we also need to ensure that it is regulated and run responsibly. This includes implementing measures to prevent underage gambling, protecting players’ data and privacy, and promoting responsible gambling practices. As an industry, we have a responsibility to promote a safe and enjoyable gambling experience for all players.”
What Is Responsible Gambling?
Responsible gambling is the act of enjoying casino games within safe limits. It involves remaining in control of your gambling activities to avoid developing an addiction or spiralling into debt.
Much like everything else, playing casino games has its pros and cons. While it offers a great avenue to let off steam and have fun, it also holds potential debilitating consequences if done excessively.
Therefore, players must learn how to safely engage in gambling activities without allowing them to negatively affect their financial, educational, occupational, and social functions.
What is Problem Gambling?
Problem gambling is the uncontrollable urge to continue gambling despite the terrible toll it takes on your life. It occurs when gambling shifts from an entertaining activity a player engages in at reasonable intervals to a bad habit they can’t stop, irrespective of how much time they spend or how much money they lose.
A 2016 cross-sectional survey with college students in South India found that although only 19.5% of its participants had ever gambled, a third suffered from problem gambling. It highlights the importance of assisting problem gamblers in finding the right route to curing their addiction and taking control of their lives.
How to Tell if You Have a Gambling Problem
Gambling involves the willingness to risk money to get more in return. And the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. One of the reasons gambling is so addicting is that it stimulates the brain to release dopamine (the feel-good neurotransmitter), eliciting feelings of pleasure and excitement when you place a bet. The dopamine release spurs players to gamble repetitively without thinking twice, resulting in an addiction. Here’s how to tell if you have a problem with compulsive gambling:
- Inability to stop
One of the tell-tale signs of gambling addiction is the inability to stop despite the willingness to do so. You understand you shouldn’t spend so much time or money on casino games, yet your attempts to quit never work because you are going back to gambling.
- Constantly thinking of gambling
If you find yourself obsessively thinking about gambling, then you may be suffering from an addiction. Surely, having a few thoughts about playing your favourite casino game is not harmful. However, letting your mind wander to gambling ever so often, planning your day around your betting sessions, or constantly fantasizing about landing that “big win” that always seems to elude you can signal an underlying problem.
- Chasing losses
Many players fall for the gambler’s fallacy, which is the erroneous belief that past events influence the chances of a certain random event occurring in the future. For example, you may think that just because you lost your last four bets, the fifth one will result in a win. This fallacy impels gamblers to chase losses by increasing the amount of money they wager after losing a bet. It often causes players to exceed their gambling budgets as they attempt to recoup the lost funds.
- Spending recklessly on gambling
Reckless spending is very common among Indian problem gamblers. They tend to place impulsive bets and neglect other important things they should use their money for, such as rent, school fees, feeding, healthcare etc.
- Borrowing money to gamble
Problem gambling causes mindless spending that often results in the player running out of money. Rather than count their losses and move on, these gamblers borrow money from their friends, family, or credit companies to finance their addiction and get their dopamine rush.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop
Many problem gamblers experience withdrawal symptoms whenever they attempt to stop the habit. These symptoms result from the sudden reduction in dopamine release in the brain. They include anger, anxiety, sadness, irritability, restlessness, panic attacks, fatigue, cold sweats, tremor, fever, etc.
- Keeping the habit a secret
Hiding the habit from your friends and family shows you already know that your gambling has gotten out of hand. You know that your loved ones wouldn’t want to see you waste your time and money gambling excessively, but rather than come clean to them, you choose to keep the habit a secret.
- Neglecting other areas of life
Problem gambling takes up its victims’ time and engross them with betting. Unsurprisingly, these addicted gamblers have no time for their relationships or work. Other obligations become irrelevant to them as they only focus on their gambling activities.
- Using gambling as a reward or a cure for bad moods
Many addicted punters seek solace in gambling whenever they’re in a bad mood or have had an unpleasant day. They also use gambling to celebrate unrelated events, such as work promotions or anniversaries.
Factors that may Provoke Problem Gambling
Here are some factors that may trigger problem gambling in individuals:
- Biological factors
Some individuals have a genetic predisposition to impulsivity and are, therefore, more likely to become engrossed in thrill-seeking behaviours like gambling. For example, punters with dopamine and serotonin dysfunction may have an underactive brain reward system, increasing their tendency to excessively engage in gaming activities.
- Psychological factors
Psychological factors like temperament, beliefs, and coping styles contribute to problem gambling. Studies have reported a higher level of problem gambling tendencies among individuals with delayed discounting, who attach more value to immediate outcomes than future ones. People who choose avoidance as their preferred coping style are also more likely to get addicted to gambling.
- Cultural and environmental factors
In many cultures, gambling is a common pastime and often serves as an activity to bring community members together. Gamblers in such environments may easily develop an addiction since the activity is not frowned upon by their immediate society. Since culture shapes a person’s perception of actions and what constitutes a problem, punters in this situation may not even recognize the signs of their addiction, let alone find help.
- Presence of gambling opportunities
The availability of abundant gambling opportunities makes it easy for punters to excessively engage in the activity. The advent of online casinos has worsened the situation since players do not need to travel to traditional casinos to feed their addiction. With just an internet connection and a PC or mobile device, players can spend all day trying to land a big win on online gaming sites.
- Mental health disorders
Compulsive gambling is closely associated with mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is likely due to the increased activity of dopamine in the brain.
- Specific medications
Medications used to treat restless leg syndrome or Parkinson’s disease (such as pramipexole) can make patients more susceptible to impulse-control disorders like problem gambling or compulsive sexual behaviours.
Recovery Steps for Problem Gamblers
The first step to recovery is acknowledging the presence of a problem and seeking ways to remedy the situation. The steps below can help cure your addiction and repair your relationship with gambling:
- Set and stick to your gambling limits.
Before commencing a gambling session, create a budget and endeavour to stick to it. Remember that gambling is a game of chance, so you should never wager any amount you can’t afford to lose. Consider your finances and other bills you need to foot to determine the amount of money you can reasonably allocate to gambling without going broke or running into debt. Setting a limit also prevents you from chasing losses and lets you know when to stop betting.
- Reach out to help groups.
Gambling help groups like Gamblers Anonymous assist players in overcoming their addiction by putting them among others who share their stories, experience, drawbacks, successes, fears, and temptations. The group holds free physical, virtual, and phone meetings for participants from various countries to create a healing space for problem gamblers and facilitate recovery.
Here’s how you can reach Gamblers Anonymous in India:
|Location||Day and Time|
|Sanjeevani: Saraswati Vidyalaya, opposite Kanhoji Jedhe (Bhaagshala) Maidan, Dombivli (West)||Monday, 7:30 – 9:00 PM|
|Delhi: St. Thomas Church, Sector-2, Rama Krishna Puram (R K Puram)||Friday, 7:00-8:00 PM|
|Chaitanya: Municipal School #6, near Bhanushali Hospital, Thane (West)||Saturday, 7:00 – 9:00 PM|
|New Leaf: Holy Cross Church, South Boag Road, T. Nagar, Madras||Sunday, 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM|
You can also join an open meeting via telephone at (+91) 8826904945 or email [email protected].
- Unsubscribe from the online casino’s mailing list.
Receiving emails from gambling sites can lead to an impulsive gambling session that’ll end in regret. Unsubscribe from such emails to avoid getting tempted to return to your old ways. If you have trouble unsubscribing, reach out to the casino operator to remove you from their mailing list.
- Join a therapy program or admit yourself to a rehabilitation centre.
You can join a therapy program in India and speak to a professional about your problem. Another great option is to admit yourself to a rehabilitation centre, where your access to gambling sites and physical betting locations will be cut off.
- Take advantage of responsible gaming tools in online casinos.
Many online casinos in India have responsible gambling tools to help you stay in control and not gamble excessively. Using these tools to your advantage can limit your exposure to the activity and make your recovery process easier. They include:
|Session limit||This tool allows you to set a time limit for your gambling sessions and automatically kicks you off the site when the timeframe elapses. You can also configure it to limit the number of times you can log in to your account in a day.|
|Deposit limit||If you’re more concerned about the money you spend gambling, the deposit limit tool allows you to control the amount you transfer into your gaming account. You can set up your account to only receive a specified amount per day, week, or month. Once you’ve reached your limit, the online casino will block all deposits until the blocked period expires.|
|Loss limit||The loss limit is a great room for players that are always tempted to chase losses and do not know when to stop. All you have to do is enter the amount you can afford to lose over a specific period before you start gambling. The casino site will block your access to its games once you’ve lost the amount you entered.|
|Reality check||It’s easy to lose track of time or the money you’ve spent when you’re gambling online. The reality tool notifies you of how long you’ve been playing and, sometimes, the amount you’ve lost. It appears as a pop-up notification on the screen and comes with a button you can click to take a break.|
|Self-exclusion||This tool blocks your access to your gambling account for as long as you specify. The minimum period is usually six months, but there is no maximum period, so you can block your account permanently.|
|Anti-gambling software||Using anti-gambling software like GamBan or BetFilter helps you block casino sites and keeps your device free from any gambling-related ads. It prevents accidental exposure, which may cause relapse.|
Protecting Underage Children from Gambling
In India, the legal gambling age is 21 years. The only exception is lotteries, which can be played by individuals who are 18 years or older. Despite the legal restrictions, the availability of online gaming sites makes it easy for underage persons to gamble. Some sites may ask for the player’s date of birth to confirm their age, but children can easily scale this hurdle by entering any eligible date to gain access to the gambling platform. Therefore, parents must take active measures to protect their kids from this insidious vice and prevent their children from becoming gambling addicts. Here are a few steps you can take:
- Lead by example
Children learn by imitation. If they see you gamble excessively, they’d be more likely to mirror your behaviour and become problem gamblers. Building responsible gaming habits like setting financial and time limits sets a precedence that your children will likely follow when they become old enough to gamble.
- Educate them on the risks of gambling activities
Teaching your children about the risks of gambling arms will help them make better decisions regarding the activity. Rather than shrouding the topic in secrecy, have honest conversations with them and gently explain the consequences of excessive gambling and how they can avoid going that route.
- Set up website restrictions
Apps like CyberSitter and NetNanny allow you to block content you don’t want your children exposed to on the internet. Such content includes gambling, drugs, violence, or adult content. You can also make a list of “out-of-bound” sites your kids must not visit.
- Monitor household finances
If your child has a gambling problem, they’re most likely financing it with your cash. So monitor your finances to quickly detect discrepancies that may point to compulsive behaviours and take adequate corrective measures.
- Set clear rules and mete out punishment appropriately
Set explicit rules regarding gambling in your home and mete out appropriate punishment whenever a rule is broken.
Where To Get Help With Gambling Addiction
- Gamblers Anonymous (GA): This organisation holds virtual and face-to-face meetings for recovering addicts. GA is known for its 12-step program, which it uses to assist punters in getting their lives in order and letting go of their addiction. It also provides free gambling recovery modules and courses for gamblers worldwide to use at their convenience.
- Hope Trust: Hope Trust is a state-of-the-art Indian treatment facility that uses effective, ethical, and evidence-based therapy to treat several psychiatric, psychological, and addiction-related illnesses. It is located in Hyderabad, Telangana, and its service offerings include counselling and psychotherapy, addiction treatments, psychometric assessments, support circles, and intervention services.
- Alpha Healing Centre: This treatment centre in Gujarat and uses evidence-based therapies and medication or delivers holistic care to addiction patients. It complements Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) with other effective strategies like dialectical behavioural therapy, group therapy, experiential therapies, etc.
- OK Rehab: OK Rehab focuses on assisting addicted gamblers in breaking free from the shackles of addiction and finding a treatment plan that best suits their needs. The team comprises professionals who are also “in recovery”, putting them in a unique position that enables them to understand your plight better than anyone else. Although its residential clinics are only located in the UK, the treatment centre accepts players worldwide.
|Treatment centre||Telephone||Addresses||Email address|
|Gamblers Anonymous||+91 8826904945||St. Thomas Church, Sector-2, Rama Krishna Puram, Delhi (Check the table above for more)||[email protected]|
|Hope Trust||+91 9000850001 +91 8121001392||Hope Trust,19 B, MLA Colony Road No 12, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad||[email protected] [email protected]|
|Alpha Healing Centre||+91 9004191108||Village Narukot, Pavagadh Jambughoda Road Nr Don Bosco School, Jambughoda, Gujarat.||Contact form|
|OK Rehab||0330 333 8188||48B Gun Street, London, E1 6AH||[email protected]|
Useful Sites for Indian Players
- Rehabs.in: This website helps punters find relief and the right rehabilitation centres in India for their gambling addictions. It contains tons of resources on problem gambling, recovery stories, and support groups that players can join
- Gambling Therapy: Gambling Therapy is a text-based online portal where gamblers can speak directly to a professional advisor. The website is free, and support is provided in any language using automated translation. The advisors help you curate a recovery strategy and provide emotional support when needed.
- Help Guide: Help Guide provides gamblers with evidence-based information to assist them in overcoming addiction and improving their mental health. They empower people to understand their challenges and make healthy changes to improve their overall life quality.
- GamCare: GamCare is a website that provides free information and advice for individuals looking to rectify a gambling addiction. Depending on your preferred choice, you can also find various treatment options, whether virtual or face-to-face. While it mainly caters to players in the UK, the site supports Punjabi, so Indians can also benefit from it.
Organizations That Will Help You With Debt
Borrowing to finance a gambling problem is common among addicted players. The more they borrow, the more they feel the need to gamble to regain their lost money and pay back their debts. If you’re in such a situation, below are some organizations that can assist you with debt so it doesn’t hamper your recovery journey:
- Debt Advice Foundation: This registered debt service provides free advice and support to individuals burdened with debt. They offer impartial, tailored advice to find the best debt management options.
- Step Change Debt Charity: Step Change offers free advice to assist you in getting your finances back on track. It is a comprehensive debt service with over 30 years of experience helping debtors achieve long-term financial control.
- Debt Support Trust: This organization provides free debt assistance to gamblers looking for effective ways to manage their debts.
Gambling should be an activity you engage in for pleasure, not something that takes over your whole life. Recognizing early signs of obsession and taking several steps back is crucial to not becoming an addicted gambler.
Imbibe responsible gaming strategies today to have the most fun when betting without developing an addiction or going broke.