Most of us have gambled in our life. Whether it’s on sports, politics, or even just made a small bet with friends - if you’ve ever risked money on the outcome of an unpredictable event, you’ve gambled. Although gambling can be a legitimate and fun pastime, for some people it can turn into an addiction.
Gambling may be a cause for concern if you are feeling ‘a total loss of control’ over how much you spend on it. This is called ‘problem gambling’ and last year the Royal College of Psychiatrists found that nine in every one thousand people are suffering with it in the UK. If you are getting into large amounts of debt because of gambling, it’s a sign your pastime could no longer be healthy and you may wish to seek help.
If the below experiences sound familiar to you, you may be suffering from problem gambling:
Problem gambling can have a very negative effect on lots of different aspects of your life. It can influence your mental health as you may start to experience extreme emotions or mood swings related to your winnings and losses.
It can also make relationships with family and friends difficult if you are lying about how much debt you’re in because of gambling or where you’re spending all your time. Unsurprisingly, it is also terrible for your finances if you are uncontrollably spending and borrowing more money to fund your habit.
Before you start clearing gambling debt it is important to ensure you won’t gamble again. If you don’t get help with the root cause of the problem, any hard work you make in paying off some of the debts might go to waste if you start betting again. This is why it’s a crucial step which should not be ignored when you want to pay off gambling debt.
1. Make the decision to quit gambling.
The first step to quitting gambling is admitting that it’s a problem and deciding you want to change. Once you have done this the road to recovery can begin.
2. Cut off your gambling fund.
Do this when you’re feeling motivated in your decision to quit gambling. This could mean closing accounts or having your bank require two signatures for a withdrawal. This would mean telling a trusted friend or family member about the gambling debt which is also good for putting a support network in place.
3. Get professional help.
There are many places you can get free help for gambling addictions in the UK. GamCare or SmartRecovery are some of UK’s leading charities which provide confidential help, information, and advice for anyone affected by gambling problems in England, Scotland and Wales.
Gamblers Anonymous also offers a confidential group where you can share experiences with other people in the same situation and solve the problem together.
4. Tell people you trust.
Getting a support network in place to help you deal with gambling when things get difficult. If telling family and friends feels too hard then maybe try charities and professional help first. They could give you supported guidance on how to tell loved ones in the future.
5. Realise more gambling is not the answer.
Many people with a gambling problem believe the only way to get out their debt is to try and win money on gambling. This is extremely unlikely and will often end up leaving you in an even worse financial situation. Letting go of this idea is an important part of recovery.
Once a gambling problem is treated, it will be far easier to start paying off what you owe. This can seem daunting, but gambling arrears are no different to many other kinds of debt and there are options available to you when it comes to a solution. Below are some ways you could get on top of the matter:
Make a list of everyone you owe.
Making lists of who you owe and how much might start to make things feel more manageable. Include all debt you can think of but don’t worry if you are unsure about some of them. Often, if you get professional help with the debt, they can find out every creditor you owe through a credit check.
Sell valuable items you don’t need.
This could be a quick way to start paying off your debt. For example, selling a car or any asset which is less important than the amount of debt you have.
Get a second income.
Getting another job could be a great way to start earning more money and keeps you busy if you are still overcoming the urge to gamble. This will give you a steady and predictable income which is ideal when it comes to paying back debts. If you work full time already this may not be feasible but if you have free time and want to start paying back the debts quicker then it’s worth considering this option.
Make a budget plan.
By having a budget, you know what is coming in, what it is being spent, and how much money you will have at the end to pay back the debts. Sharing this with someone you trust could be a good way to ensure you stick to it and don’t relapse into betting. If you work out that you don’t have enough money at the end of the month to pay back your debts then you will need to earn some extra money or find a more formal solution.
Bankruptcy from gambling debt could be considered if you are really struggling to make repayments and do not see your situation improving in the future.
However, it is important to remember that not all bankruptcy filings are accepted by creditors. For example, if your lenders believe that you borrowed money knowing you had no ability to make repayments, they may reject your claim and you will still have to pay back what you owe.
It is important to remember there are options other than bankruptcy when dealing with significant debts. Many people have not heard of IVAs but they can be a good solution if you cannot afford all your unsecured debts but want to pay off as much as you can reasonably afford.
IVAs will freeze interest and charges, ensure the amount of debt you owe will not increase, and can protect assets - such as your home or car - from being repossessed.Help me with my debts
* As of 02/02/21 15,377 of our customers were in an active IVA. ** Average unsecured debt anticipated to be written off for IVAs approved between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2020 is £10,568, based upon successful completion. *** Based on 363 independent verified Feefo reviews as of 10th March 2021, for the full details of these please click here.
Gambling debts can be legally enforced as long as it relates to gambling which is lawful. Therefore, if your betting was lawful and followed regulations pertaining to Gambling Act 2005 or the National Lottery Act 1993 it can be imposed.
Similar to many other debts, if you enter into an IVA, part or all of your debts may be written off. However, this depends on whether your creditors agree to the insolvency and the successful completion of the IVA.
It is a difficult process to get money which has already been wagered and lost back from betting companies. You will need to have a very good reason - for example if you believe there is fraud on your account. In this case you must contact your bank, report the fraud, and ask them to freeze your account. Then contact the gambling site, ask them to freeze your account, and give them your crime reference number. If the money has already been wagered but not lost, then you should email their customer support explaining your situation. All issues are likely to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis so you will have to await their response. However, more often than not they do not allow people to withdraw from bets once it has been placed. If you need support, contact the UK Gambling Commission and they may be able to take your case further.
If you have just accidentally put money on your online gambling account, and it has not been wagered, then it is a relatively easy process to get it back. Just email the betting company’s support team and explain it was a mistake. Most of them have a pay-out functionality and the money will be back in your account in a few days.
GamCare offers confidential support for families and friends with gambling problems. They are open 24 hours a day through online chat or mobile. Gam-Anon runs regular peer support groups for friends and family with gambling problems. The meetings are a chance to share your experiences confidentially with people in the same position.