Responsible gambling is fundamental to a safe casino experience. Without it, those at risk of developing a gambling addiction will be much more susceptible to problems. That’s why we take responsible gambling very seriously.
In this responsible gambling guide, we’ll discuss initiatives to help prevent gambling problems. We’ll also define gambling addiction according to scientific research, reveal the warning signs and consider what factors increase the risks.
While many players can casually gamble online, others aren’t so lucky. Therefore, we’ll also cover responsible gambling tools, how to set limits or self-exclude and where to turn for help with any gambling-related problems.
In a nutshell, responsible gambling (or RG) is a worldwide initiative to help reduce problem gambling. This can include laws and voluntary actions to curb underage gambling, provide players with the means to limit their gambling and clean up the ways in which gambling can be advertised. Usually, the main driver of these initiatives is the licensing authority in the country.
While some of this is certainly covered in the New Zealand Gambling Act 2003, there is no NZ-specific gambling authority responsible for managing online casinos in the country. Instead, you are more likely to be playing at an online casino with a license from the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) or the Government of Curaçao. Let’s look at the former…
The MGA tackles responsible gambling from two sides. One side governs MGA-licensed online casinos and is covered by the MGA’s Player Protection Guidelines. The other side is advice for players, as discussed in the MGA’s Safer Gambling Guidelines. This two-pronged approach ensures that responsible gambling is standard practice in the industry.
The main aims of the MGA to reduce problem gambling are to:
We will go through the following advice in more detail below. But for now, we wanted to highlight the main ways in which you can gamble responsibly. After all, setting yourself some guides and redlines can make your gambling experience that much more enjoyable. Here, we’ve gathered some of the best advice for ensuring that playing at an online casino is fun instead of, well, unfun:
We will go into more detail about each of these things further down the page. We’ll also show you some of the responsible gambling tools that can help you manage your budget and your playing time. Finally, we’ll cover where you can turn to for help if required.
Gambling addiction, otherwise known as Ludomania, is an impulse control disorder. Essentially, it’s where a person keeps on gambling even though it harms both them and the people surrounding them. However, the symptoms of gambling addiction can vary greatly from one person to another, depending on the form of gambling, personality traits involved and triggering situations.
For instance, gambling for compulsive gamblers begins as an innocent hobby but can quickly become a big problem. If gambling disrupts a person’s normal daily activities, it is considered a gambling addiction. Let’s look at some more examples…
When a compulsive gambler still has control of their gambling, they are called a binge gambler. Binge gamblers can go for several weeks or months without displaying any signs of gambling addiction. However, the compulsive gambling habits of binge gamblers can appear when they finally decide to start betting. It is then often tough for them to stop themselves from betting more and more.
A compulsive gambler cannot control the urge or desire to gamble. Their addiction pushes the limits because they cannot resist. In most cases, compulsive gamblers are aware of the negative effects the habit has on them and the people around them, their daily lives, and their finances, yet they still gamble. They usually make huge wagers despite knowing that they can lose it all.
Then there is what we term problem gambling. Most of the time, these gamblers find themselves chasing losses or thinking about betting while doing other things. Although they might try to stop the gambling urge, they usually end up forgoing their other responsibilities to gamble more often. As a result, their everyday lives become disrupted, affecting them and their loved ones.
The Department for Internal Affairs has produced a report on problem gambling in New Zealand. In it, we can get a fairly good overview of problem gambling in New Zealand. Here are some of the key facts from the report:
While it’s impossible to say exactly why one person ends up developing an addiction to gambling while another does not, there are certain factors that make it more or less likely to happen to any given individual. In fact, Dr Fong of Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA says that the causes of gambling addiction are “a combination of biological risk factors, psychological risk factors and social risk factors”. We will go over those factors in this next section…
How the brain responds to betting is said to be one of the significant causes of gambling addiction. Scientists have revealed that the problem often results from how the brain reacts to a gambling win. At that point, the brain produces a neurological response similar to when a cocaine addict consumes the drug.
On the other hand, compulsive gambling has also been linked to deficiencies in norepinephrine (a stress hormone and neurotransmitter) and serotonin (the feel-good chemical). Therefore, certain groups of people may be more likely to develop an addiction disorder based on their genetic traits.
The way an individual perceives gambling may play an active role in determining whether they will have a gambling problem or not. For instance, loss-chasing is a primary factor in gambling addiction. The gambler keeps going deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole while holding on to the next bet and denying that their gambling habits are harming them.
People with gambling addiction usually have a distorted view of gambling. They are typically optimistic even when they keep on losing. An individual can also become prone to problem gambling simply because of the possibility and excitement of winning many times. This is most common with fast-paced gamblers who prefer fast-paced games like online pokies.
Some individuals get hooked on gambling after their first massive win. This is especially the case when it covers the losses they incurred in their previous wagers. These individuals are more predisposed to addiction if they continue placing bets with the hope of getting another massive win.
Depression, job loss, the end of a relationship, desperation for money and stress are some factors that trigger compulsive gambling. Although gambling addictions are not genetic, they can be passed from older to younger family members by direct teaching or influence. This is why responsible gambling has such a keen focus on preventing underage gambling when the mind is more malleable. Social factors like the availability of gambling options and having friends that bet frequently can also trigger gambling addiction.
Although some medications might not likely cause gambling addiction, they could trigger or exacerbate the problem. For instance, antipsychotics, antidepressants and dopamine agonists have been associated with increased chances of gambling addiction in some individuals.
Unlike alcohol or drug addiction, the signs of gambling addiction are not always so obvious. This is why many gamblers continue gambling until they face huge financial problems or lose key relationships in their lives. Only at that point do they seek help.
However, there are some warning signs of which to be aware. According to DSM-5 (the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), a person must show at least four of the signs below within one year before being considered a gambling addict:
It’s worth noting that many people with an addiction to gambling can exhibit signs of other disorders. These include bipolar, ADHD and depressive disorders. Substance abuse may also be linked with gambling or take place as a way to deal with gambling losses.
For more information about the warning signs, please refer to the excellent GamCare guide to gambling addiction.
Like every other addiction, gambling addiction comes with several long-term and short-term negative effects, some of which are glaringly obvious. The negative effects of gambling addiction include:
People suffering from gambling addiction or gambling problems often find themselves in a deep financial crisis, like accumulating huge debts. In contrast, others even gamble away their most prized assets like cars, homes, etc. Compulsive gamblers face worse repercussions; not only do they lose their finances, but they also put the finances of their colleagues, friends and families at stake. In severe cases, compulsive gamblers even put investors’ funds and their jobs at stake, and this could lead to legal tussles and even jail terms.
It is not only a compulsive gambler that suffers the effect of gambling addiction; the families are also affected. Research has revealed that children of problem gamblers may suffer various forms of domestic violence and child abuse. They are also more likely to suffer from mental health conditions and addictions later in life.
Constant betting often results in psychological and mental health issues. This is because the disorders affect the individual’s way of life and their thinking. This can and often does lead to the person having strained relationships. There may also be other social and mental health problems present, including suicidal thoughts, anxiety and depression.
There are several NZ organisations dedicated to treating gambling addiction and/or providing debt management assistance. So, if you or someone you know is suffering from gambling-related problems, get in touch with one of the following not-for-profit organisations:
The Gambling Helpline Aotearoa is the most well-known gambling addiction treatment service in NZ. The helpline is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. What’s more, all of the contact methods are free of charge – this includes the phone line and SMS text messaging service. The Gambling Helpline Aotearoa website features several useful articles on gambling addiction, too. Plus, there is an anonymous forum to which you can turn if you want to speak to others who have been through similar situations in the past.
Another treatment service worth checking out in times of gambling-related stress is the NZ-based Problem Gambling Foundation (PGF). First of all, there are self-assessment surveys on the site if you suspect you or someone you know has gambling problems. From there, there are several ways in which you can speak to a trained addiction professional to receive free and impartial advice on your particular situation. The PGF contact options include a 24/7, free-to-use phone number and an SMS text messaging service.
The Salvation Army is known all around the world for providing help to the most vulnerable in society. That’s why the organisation set up the New Zealand-focused Salvation Army Oasis services in the country. You can get in touch with the trained professionals on staff via the Salvation Army Oasis website or by calling the freephone number from within New Zealand. One of the key parts of the organisation’s work is to arrange meetings with the friends and families of gambling addicts (with or without them being present).
One of the main problems related to a spiralling gambling problem is debt. That’s why we’ve included the contact details of the Debt Relief Foundation (DRF). This New Zealand charitable organisation is listed as a not-for-profit organisation, so you can be sure that the scheme’s Debtfix services are legit. Plus, the organisation specialises in helping Kiwis get out from under large debts, no matter how they’ve been built up. Your contact options for the DRF are via the website, email address or free-to-use phone number.
Below, we will go into more detail about various responsible gambling tools and resources at online casinos. And we’ll highlight why we think these initiatives are vital for protecting vulnerable players at NZ casinos…
If you suspect you might have gambling problems, you should consider taking online surveys that can be used to assess the scale of the issue. The same tests can be taken if someone close to you is in a similarly precarious situation. A few of the best casino sites in NZ have such self-assessment surveys built in. However, we always recommend going with the surveys provided by professional addiction treatment organisations.
Check out the BeGambleAware self-assessment test or GamCare self-assessment test for more information on the subject. You can use those links to take a short online survey about your gambling habits and find out whether there’s any cause for concern. From there, there are several other things you can do to limit your exposure to the negative aspects of online gambling. Let’s cover those now.
Modern casino games are designed to be engaging and fun. But alongside those elements is losing your sense of time – like almost accidentally playing a video game into the small hours. But there is a tool to regain a sense of how long you’ve been playing. These tools come under the umbrella of reality checks.
Reality checks exist at many NZ online casinos. When enabled via your casino account settings, a pop-up will appear at times of your choosing. For example, you can set a reality check to appear every hour. And they usually stress the need to take a break or have a cooling-off period to collect your thoughts.
There are many advantages to using reality checks. They let you know how much time has gone by since you started playing. Alternatively, some of the best online casinos will enable users to see their entire win/loss history. This again serves as a good reminder of how much time and money you’ve spent.
Going one stage further than reality checks are gambling limits. Again, you can usually find these tools within your casino account settings. And there are many different ways in which you can put some limits on your online gambling activities. These include limits on losses, deposits, time and so on.
A loss limit will cut you off if your losses total a pre-defined figure. So, for example, if you end up losing NZ$100 during a single session, you won’t be able to play for another 24 hours. It’s similar with limits on how much you can deposit per day, week or month or how long you allow yourself for each daily session.
The main advantage of gambling limits is that you get to decide how much is too much before you’re in the heat of a moment. Because we all know just how easy it is to keep spinning when we think the big prize is just around the corner. Limits enable you to stay in control and to play within your means.
When the above solutions don’t work out as expected, you can take more drastic steps. The option to self-exclude from online casinos seems like the nuclear option of banning yourself from a given site. But self-exclusion doesn’t have to be permanent. You can often choose to block yourself for a week, month, year or much longer. This gives you the option to take an extended break from gambling.
All MGA- and UKGC-licensed casinos are required to have self-exclusion options. And customer support staff are trained to spot signs of problem gambling and to suggest the use of available options like self-exclusion. However, that may not be the case at Curaçao online casinos, where such things are more optional. So, if you find that you cannot self-exclude at a particular online casino, there’s another option.
If you cannot self-exclude from an online casino directly or you feel that doing so will only lead to you signing up elsewhere, you can try third-party blocking tools. These tools rely on databases of online casinos and prevent your IP from accessing the sites. What’s more, they can be enabled on all of your devices, so that you’re not tempted to circumnavigate the tool by switching from computer to mobile.
Some of the most popular blocking tools for Kiwis include BetBlocker, Gamban and GamBlock, though there are many others out there. The majority of these tools will prevent you from accessing the majority of online casinos and sports betting sites. However, they are not foolproof and sometimes dodgy gambling sites slip through the net. So, an element of willpower is also required from players.
The signs of a gambling problem or addiction are not always obvious. Plus, problem gamblers are often adept at keeping their habits secret. Even family members living with gamblers may not quickly notice that they have a gambling addiction until it is too late.
Here are certain signs to look out for in a gambler:
Once you notice any of the above signs in your loved ones, you can try to help them but only in the right way. Do not try to ridicule them, threaten them to stop gambling or judge them. Those tactics will likely lead to them becoming withdrawn and reluctant to share their problems with you. Instead, you can show your concern by remaining calm and educating yourself on how to help them overcome their gambling addiction. You must show them that you are ready to support them and are there to discuss things in their own time.
Avoid offering them financial assistance or volunteering to pay their debts – this might only encourage them to gamble more. The best way to help problem gamblers is to participate in their treatment. You can also connect them to a financial service provider who will draw out a plan to settle their debts.
Most people can take it or leave it when it comes to online casinos. However, a small percentage of people aren’t so lucky. That’s why responsible gambling is so critical in tackling the issues around gambling addiction. If you feel that your online gambling is getting out of control, the time to act is now. The same is true if you suspect someone close to you of exhibiting signs of gambling issues.
You can get in touch with one of the several professional organisations above to get help. You can also read our in-depth article on the Psychology of Gambling Addiction for more information.
Finally, remember to always play responsibly and to walk away if you experience any problems.
If you've read the above page and feel you might have a gambling problem, we recommend taking a self-assessment test. These free online surveys will help you assess the scale of the problem and let you know your options for the next steps. We recommend trying this test at the Problem Gambling Foundation website.
We've discussed several options above for the treatment of gambling addiction and its associated problems. So, if you're based in New Zealand, we recommend getting in touch for free with the trained professionals at either the Gambling Helpline Aotearoa, Problem Gambling Foundation, Salvation Army Oasis or Debtfix.
Yes. You can put self-imposed limits on various elements related to online gambling. These include setting limits on the amount you can deposit or lose within a specific timeframe. Furthermore, there are tools at plenty of online casinos for limiting your game time and the number of log-ins per week/month/year. You can even self-exclude permanently. Head to your account settings to choose these options.
Yes, you have the option to self-exclude from the majority of online casinos and sports betting sites. Generally speaking, you can request a cooling-off period of one week, month or year (with some sites allowing periods of 3 months, too). Failing that, if you're too tempted to sign up at other sites, you can use tools like BetBlocker, Gamban or GamBlock to restrict your access to hundreds of sites.
Noah is the senior content editor at CasinoCrawlers and a writer with many iGaming articles under his portfolio. Therefore, he is skilled at writing bonus guidelines, gambling strategies, and casino reviews. During his spare time, he enjoys playing Call of Duty and is a huge rugby fan.Read more about the author