Responsible Gambling: Bet Safely

Written by: Alex Windsor
Fact checked by Brian Webb  
Updated: June 13, 2024

While gambling is unquestionably an exciting and fun pastime, and yes, it can certainly lead to real money winnings if you’re lucky, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. It doesn’t take much for an unaware and unassuming player to slip from having fun to suffering from the ills of problem gambling. Fortunately, this can be avoided if you know what you’re doing and are aware of the risks, early warning signs and the tools available to help you bet safely.

You should never be afraid of reaching out for help and assistance. However, if you stick to the advice displayed here, you’ll have all the tools required to play responsibly at your favourite sites.

What Is Responsible Gambling?

Responsible gambling is a methodology in which you take advantage of a series of tools and practices to ensure that you don’t gamble too much. More specifically, to ensure that you don’t overspend and end up in trouble. Responsible gambling is a multi-pronged concept consisting of three parts:

  • Betting sites must adhere to the UK Gambling Commission’s rules and regulations to ensure that they provide as safe an environment as possible for their players. This includes provided caps, limits, and tools to ensure safety for their members.
  • Problem gambling programs and groups are made available so if you do encounter trouble, you can get the help you need.
  • Players must take responsibility to manage their gambling activities. This primarily involves making use of the tools provided, and engaging in smart gambling habits, such as limiting deposit and stakes, and knowing when you quit.

In the UK, all three options are available to you. If all three are deployed successfully, your chances of encountering problem gambling issues should be significantly reduced.

The UKGC’s Rules

The UK Gambling Commission is the licensing and regulatory body for the UK gambling sector, encompassing both the land-based (brick-and-mortar) and online markets. Known for being one of the heaviest regulators and safest licensing authorities around, having a UKGC licence is seen as a hallmark of a trusted gambling site. The body implements several rules to ensure that their licensees are adhering to encourage safe and responsible gambling.

Any site found guilty of breaching these rules can be fined or even have their UKGC licence revoked. This naturally guarantees that sites comply with responsible gambling rules. Some of the things that the UKGC demands of UK betting sites include:

  • Mandatory Responsible Gambling Tools: Each betting site must provide tools to limit what you spend, wager and lose. Furthermore, they must provide you with the means to opt out of bonuses, seek cool-down periods, and provide a transparent history of your betting activities.
  • KYC Process: UKGC sites must ensure that you are above the legal gambling age and that identity fraud isn’t taking place. This means a robust KYC check is required, often before you can withdraw.
  • Gambling Ad Rules: The UKGC wants to protect those aged 18-25 from unnecessary and overly appealing gambling advertisements. It has ample measures in place to ensure that you aren’t duped into claiming unnecessary bonuses.
  • AML Policies: Each betting site will have a robust AML policy. There are safeguards in place for sites to check deposits and withdrawals to ensure that criminal organisations aren’t laundering money.
  • Transparent T&Cs: Any bonus offered by a casino or bookmaker must have transparent T&Cs, and they should be readily available, not hidden from view or stuffed in a corner where you can’t find them. There should be flexible wagering requirements, bonuses cannot be worth obscene sums of cash, and any maximum win, withdrawal, or wager caps should be clearly stated.
  • Affiliation with Problem Gambling Programs: UKGC-licensed sites must be affiliated with problem gambling programs, such as GamStop. This ensures that if the pull of gambling becomes too strong, you can block yourself not just from one casino but all UKGC-licensed, GamStop-affiliated establishments.

There are a few other features that UK sites consistently deploy on the advice of the UKGC. These include not accepting credit card deposits. VISA and Mastercard debit deposits are still permitted. Similarly, there may be limits on maximum bets, and bonuses may be limited. For instance, expect to see UK gambling sites differentiate between free spins and bonus spins.

Responsible Gambling Tools Explained

As you can see thus far, the UK Gambling Commission provides a great deal of regulation to ensure that you can gamble responsibly at sites. While playing on sites that are UKGC licensed is unquestionably an excellent safety net, their responsible gambling tools are the most effective way to ensure your own personal safety when betting online. Let’s touch on some of the tools at your disposal and explain how each of them works below.

Deposit, Wager and Loss Caps

All UKGC-licensed betting sites will support caps and limits. You should set these before you decide to bet. Deposit limits will put caps on what you put into your account, either daily, weekly or monthly. Wager and loss limits hamper what you can bet and lose when playing. Once any limit is reached, you will find it tough to get customer support to allow you to change those limits. Once that period has elapsed, those limits reset.

Reality Checks and Session Limits

Reality checks are a wonderful tool to have a hand. It is easy to get lost in the gameplay online. By setting up reality checks, you’ll be reminded at intervals decided by you. These range from around ten minutes to a maximum of three hours. On the other hand, if you set session limits, it won’t be possible to wager anymore until that predetermined period has expired. These are often set in hours rather than minutes.

Cool-Off Periods

If you’re gambling responsibly but think that you’ve gone a touch overboard (but still within your limits), then a cool-off or cool-down period could be ideal. Once activated, you’ll be prevented from betting by the site for a brief period. This can range from hours to days or weeks. Once that period has elapsed, you’ll get to bet again. You shouldn’t feel any stigma from cool-off periods. You aren’t red-flagged at the casino – they are simply there to help you take breaks while playing responsibly.

Self-Exclusion Options

Self-exclusion tools are a way of addressing that there “may” be an issue with how you’re playing. If you find yourself falling foul of responsible gambling habits, then self-exclusion tools can be your best friend. Most UK gambling sites have their own self-exclusion tools that you can activate by speaking to customer support. These involve total account blocks, often for periods of days up to months. Unlike cool-off periods, you can’t get back into your account until the timeframe has elapsed. If you decide not to return, you can use account closure tools.

Lastly, it is worth touching that there are self-exclusion programs outside of what your casino or bookmaker will offer. These options, such as GamStop, don’t just block you from your preferred site but all sites affiliated with the program. More on that in a second.

Problem Gambling Programs and Groups

If things become too much, there is no shame in stepping away. Obviously, at this point, the lure of gambling may be too strong to resist for some. Merely blocking yourself from one site may not get the job done if you can just sign up at another. For this reason, there are problem gambling programs and groups for you to take advantage of. Let’s touch on those next.

  • GamCare: This charity provides exceptional advice, including online chat, counselling, and resources for those who need urgent help quitting gambling. This is a 24/7 service and has advisors who’ll listen, and provide advice via WhatsApp, telephone, live chat, telephone, and a forum 24/7.
  • Gamblers Anonymous UK: The UK chapter of this charity covers England, Wales, and Ulster. It is a support group where men and women can meet up, share their experience, and rely on one another to quit gambling. There are separate groups for Scottish and Irish players.
  • GambleAware: An independent charity, GambleAware offers advice and treatment services for anyone with problem gambling symptoms, seeking assistance. They can be contacted at 0808 8020 133.
  • National Gambling Helpline: This nationally supported helpline is available for all UK players. You can reach out to them via 0808 8020 133, and they can help put you in touch with GambleAware, GamCare and other groups.

While all the above options provide support and advice, there is another option to consider. GamStop. As mentioned earlier. This is effectively a blocking program. Once signed up, you won’t just be blocked from your chosen casino or bookmaker. You’ll be effectively blocked at any sites signed up to GamStop. This option is suitable for those who don’t want to self-exclude and are worried about being tempted to join other sites and who want to block all gambling activity. If activated, heavy-duty self-exclusion tools such as GamStop will prevent you from gambling for anything from three to six months to five years with little to no way to terminate the program early.

How to Gauge if You’re Gambling Responsibly

How can you tell if you’re gambling responsibly in the UK? Each site will likely have a questionnaire you can take. However, we can also provide you with a few pointers to red flags right here. Here are the questions you’ll need to consider:

  • Do you find yourself frustrated when you lose and continually deposit to recoup your losses?
  • Are you lying to people about your gambling habits? Do you try to conceal them?
  • Are you using much of your free time to gamble and shunning family and friends?
  • How often do you play? Can you take a few days off and not think about gambling?
  • Are you borrowing money to gamble? Can you afford to pay your bills?

You don’t need me to tell you what the correct answers are. The answers to these questions will easily point you in the right direction. You should clearly be able to tell whether gambling online is sustainable for you or if things are taking a turn for the worse. My advice is to take this test regularly, either fortnightly or monthly. As long as things remain positive, you should be in the clear.

Five Top Tips for Practising Responsible Gambling

Lastly, let me provide you with top tips for practicing responsible gambling. In my years of experience, I’ve found that five things seem to be more important than others to stay on the straight and narrow at bookmakers and casinos. If you want to gamble responsibly, take the following to heart:

  1. Learn Before You Wager
    Don’t dive into any game without first understanding it, and don’t wager on sports you don’t understand. Learn about what you’re betting on ahead of time. For casinos, this means playing free games, and at bookmakers, it means doing your research and betting sensibly. Crazy bets on long shots, for instance, seldom come good. Understanding how likely you are to win is an integral part of gambling responsibly.
  2. Never Chase Your Losses
    This one should be self-explanatory, and yet many “forget” it. Decide what you’re prepared to risk before you deposit. Make a deposit that you’re comfortable losing. If you burn through it, don’t deposit again until a few days have passed and you’ve reassessed your finances.
  3. Use Responsible Gambling Tools
    Always (and I do mean always) take advantage of all responsible gambling tools found at your preferred site. If you stick with these, you are far more likely to gamble responsibly at online casinos and UK bookmakers.
  4. Set Your Budget and Stick with It
    Only gamble with so-called disposable income. When you decide to play, set yourself a limit that you’re comfortable losing and what you hope to win. As mentioned, you should never chase those losses. However, it’s also important to quit if you’re ahead. If you win a sum above what you initially said you’d be happy with – cash it out.
  5. Look for Telltale Signs
    Reassess yourself every now and again. Decide that you’re going to reevaluate everything, from the telltale signs of problem gambling to your expenses every so often. Taking a moment to reflect after every gambling session is sensible and a sure way to ensure that you’re betting responsibly. Be honest with yourself about what you’re winning and losing and how it truly makes you feel.

Alex, a ten-year iGaming industry veteran and Managing Editor at BettingTools specializes in sports betting and betting tools. He also provides insightful reviews, ensures the accuracy of all offers, and maintains content quality helping you make informed choices. Combining professional expertise with a passion for football and soccer, Alex ensures we offer you a reliable resource, focusing on betting tools to assist with odds, accas, and other betting strategies.