Gambling debt: How to stop gambling and clear debt

Gambling debt is the money owed as the result of gambling activity - that could be to a specific gambling provider, or to creditors used to fund your betting. The severity of your debt may require you to stop gambling and seek help. Learn what steps you can take to stop gambling and clear your debt.

Connor Campbell Published on 14 July 2021. Last updated on 15 July 2021.
Gambling debt: How to stop gambling and clear debt

The house always wins. However, there is a difference between gambling’s expected losses, and behaviours that make it hard to stop gambling and that lead to spiralling debts.

Stuck indoors and glued to our screens, the UK’s covid-19 lockdowns have left some even more exposed to the dangers of gambling debt and addiction.

Search interest in online casinos hit an all-time high in the UK during the initial months of the pandemic. Meanwhile, the Gambling Commission reported that nearly a fifth of gamblers said their gambling had increased since the pandemic began.

And that’s understandable. It can be incredibly hard to escape gambling advertising, especially when you’re online or watching live sport. Yet that could be changing; polling conducted by YouGov for the Royal Society for Public Health found that 63% of adult respondents supported a blanket ban on gambling ads.

If you are in debt because of gambling, it is important to know you are not alone. GambleAware’s 2019/20 annual report showed that 45% of gamblers had amassed debts of over £5,000 or were bankrupt or in an Individual Voluntary Arrangement.

But there are steps, tools and services you can use to clear your gambling debt and take back control of your life.

What is gambling debt?

Gambling debt is any debt that stems from gambling activity. In other words, the money owed to a party you have gambled with, be it a casino, a bookmaker, or another group or individual.

What can make gambling debt so detrimental to the financial and mental health of the debtor is when it interacts with other forms of debt.

This could be by using credit cards, personal loans and overdrafts to finance gambling, or by missing mortgage, loan, credit card and bill payments after diverting funds towards betting.

» MORE: How to get out of debt

How to stop gambling

It can be hard to know where to start when you have made the decision to stop gambling. However, there are tools out there to help you on this journey. These include, but are not limited to:

Timeouts

The timeout function on gambling sites allows you to prevent yourself from using your account for a set period of time, usually starting with 24 hours, going up to 6 weeks.

It is a way to pause and reassess your gambling habits for however long you think is necessary.

Self-exclusion

Self-exclusion is a longer-term version of a timeout. You can self-exclude from a gambling provider for an initial minimum period of 6 months, up to a total period of 5 years.

GAMSTOP also provides a free self-exclusion service in the UK. Once you have signed up, you will be excluded from gambling with all online gambling companies licensed in the UK.

To self-exclude from betting shops, contact the Multi Operator Self Exclusion Scheme on 0800 294 2060. Once activated, your contact information and a photo will be shared with your named shops, and you will be excluded from using them for a fixed period of 12-months. You can continue to add more betting shops throughout that period.

Gambling site blockers

Blocking software can help you stop gambling by outright preventing access to the sites you frequent.

» MORE: How to block gambling sites

How to clear gambling debts

Recovering from gambling debt may require a combination of changes to your spending habits, consolidating your debt portfolio, and/or assistance from debt charities.

There are some simple initial steps you can take to gain a better understanding of what needs to be done. Write down exactly how much you owe to each gambling provider, whether there are any repayment timelines attached to each amount, and how they interact with and affect your other debts.

Once you have an overview of your gambling debts, you will be in a better position to assess what approach to take. This could include the debt snowball or debt avalanche methods.

» MORE: How to use the debt snowball and debt avalanche methods

It is important to keep on top of those debts and bills, like mortgages, gas and electricity, and credit cards, that carry greater consequences if missed.

Depending on the size of the debt, you may be able to arrange a manageable repayment plan with the gambling provider in question.

You may also want to consider handing control of your finances over to someone you trust as an intermediary step towards tackling your gambling debts.

All this may sound overwhelming but you don’t need to tackle the problem alone. There are charities offering gambling debt help, from preventing debt collectors from contacting you for 30 days if you have sought assistance, to formulating a debt management plan.

» MORE: How can debt charities help you get out of debt

How to get help with gambling addiction

Battling gambling addiction can feel like standing at the base of an unscalable mountain. But it is important to repeat – you are not alone.

Talking to someone is a huge step towards getting help with your gambling addiction.

If your gambling problems have contributed negatively to your mental health, including depression and anxiety, contact your GP.

And if you feel unable to talk to someone in your life, then consider contacting sites like GamCare, Gamblers Anonymous or Gambling Therapy for advice and support.

Options range from phone calls, forums, one-to-one live chats, online group chats, and in-person meetings.

» MORE: What free debt help is available?

Talking to someone you think may have a problem

Sites like GamCare not only provide assistance for compulsive gamblers, but those close to them as well.

Try to approach the person you are talking to with empathy, and express your concerns without judgement. Let them know you are there for them, and that you are ready to listen.

The emotional and financial stress associated with gambing addiction is not limited solely to the person with the problem. Services like GamAnon provide support for those who have a compulsive gambler in their lives.

» MORE: How to find debt help

Image source: Getty Images

About the author:

Connor is a writer and spokesperson for NerdWallet. Previously at Spreadex, his market commentary has been quoted in the likes of the BBC, The Guardian, Evening Standard, Reuters and The Independent. Read more

If you have any feedback on this article please contact us at [email protected]