Gambling takes more than it ever gives. It can destroy lives, relationships, and can cause financial ruin. With Problem Gambling Awareness Month coming to a close, let’s take a look at some realistic ways to get out of gambling debt.
How Gambling Debt Occurs
Problem gamblers don’t anticipate going into debt, because they believe that the next big win is right around the corner. They believe any money they spend when they gamble they are just borrowing. They “borrow” from credit cards, savings accounts, investment portfolios, retirement funds, even from friends and family members, all in the hopes to fund the one big win that gets them that money back.
The rise of online gambling has made it all too easy to max out credit cards without even thinking about it. Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling says, “Now that you can gamble using a credit card, you can spend virtually any amount you want. That places an enormous amount of risk on the gambler and their family.”
5 Tips for Recovering From Gambling Debt
- Limit access to your money.
If you are in active gambling addiction or are at risk of relapsing, you need to make it more difficult for yourself to access your own money, and get rid of any cards or accounts that could feed your gambling problem.
Get rid of credit cards and ATM cards so that you can only access your funds when the bank is open, or put low limits on your cards so that you cannot continue using them once you have reached your limit.
Another option is to have a trusted person hang onto them for you. Have your bank require two signatures for a withdrawal, one from you and one from a trusted friend or family member.
- Determine who you owe and how much money you owe.
This includes casinos, bookies, credit companies, banks, family members and friends. The amount may be alarming, but in order to pay off your gambling debt you have no choice but to face it. If there is any amount that you are able to pay off, do it right away. Consider selling household items or valuables as a quick way of making money.
- Make a financial plan and stick to it.
Focusing on your immediate financial needs such as housing, food, and transportation, create a budget for how much this all costs you per month. It can be helpful to have a friend or financial counselor review this plan with you to make sure you are not spending more than you need to.
Ultimately, the best way to get out of financial debt is to make more money. Pick up extra shifts at your current job, or find a second job temporarily until you catch up on your debt.
- Stop gambling.
You need to cut off your debt at the root to prevent going into further debt. If you are still gambling, you need to treat the addiction and stop chasing your losses. You should never gamble in order to try to make more money, because you will only wind up losing even more.
How to Stop Gambling
Recovering from a gambling addiction takes a lot of internal work on the individual’s part. If you are serious about leaving gambling behind for good, then you will have to take serious measures. A few ways to help you stop gambling include:
- Implement gambling blocking apps and site blockers on all devices, such as Gamban, Gamblock, and BetBlocker.
- Attend 12-Step Meetings
- Take responsibility for past actions
- Uncover the root cause of the gambling
- Join social media support groups, such as this Facebook group.
- Get professional treatment
How to Help a Loved One With Gambling Debt
Watching a loved one struggle with gambling addiction can be heartbreaking and stressful. If your loved one is still active in their addiction, and are reluctant to receive help, then you need to make sure that you protect yourself financially. Some of these measures may seem drastic, but the reality of gambling addiction is that it causes the gambler to spend money they don’t have, and it doesn’t matter where they get it from.
- Do not lend them money or pay their debts for them. Paying their debts every time they get in financial trouble is only enabling them to continue in their pattern of gambling. By refusing to loan them money, you are actually doing what is best for them and showing that you care about them, even if they may not see it that way.
- Limit their access to money as much as possible. This may require having them cancel their credit cards or having you be in charge of their credit cards. Remove your name from any credit cards you own jointly and get a credit card in your name only. You don’t want your credit scores destroyed by their lack of financial responsibility.
- Encourage them to seek professional help. Do your own research regarding support groups, counselors, and treatment programs so that this information is readily available to them. You may also set up an appointment with a financial counselor who can help them address their debt.
Remember to take care of yourself throughout this process as well. Go easy on yourself and know that you are not responsible for your loved one’s addiction or their recovery. You do not have to go through this alone - confide in others, attend counseling, or join support groups for family members of addicts.
Getting Help for a Gambling Addiction
Although it may feel overwhelming now, it is possible to recover from gambling debt.
If you or a loved one are struggling with gambling addiction, you need to treat the addiction before it gets any worse.
At Algamus, we offer a 30+ day residential treatment program run by an incredible staff consisting of therapists, certified gambling counselors, psychiatrists, and more, who are all very experienced in treating gambling addiction and the underlying issues associated with it.
Algamus is one of the only gambling-specific treatment programs in the U.S., and has been treating gambling addiction for 30 years. Contact our gambling addiction counselors for more information about our program, or leave a comment below.