Gambling and Debt: Understanding the Links

Debt Solutions

Apr 03, 2022    6 min

horse racing gambling debt

What is Gambling?

Gambling is the activity of placing bets on activities, typically with money, for the chance of a win in return. The gambling industry in the UK is one of the biggest in the world, turning over billions of pounds each year and some of the most popular activities to bet on include football, horse racing and the National Lottery. It has never been easier to gamble, with most companies developing websites and their own apps for customers to place their bets on. Whilst it’s a common activity for many in the UK, it’s also amongst common causes of debt too.

Gambling is on the rise

Gambling increased in popularity throughout the pandemic and the majority of companies going online. Due to the closure of gambling shops, there was a big spike in online gambling and many companies reported an increase in the activities of existing customers as well as new ones.

When done safely, gambling can be a fun and safe activity, and according to government statistics, around 40% of the adult UK population have gambled (when the national lottery is counted, this figure increases to 54%.)*

Gambling and Debt

Whilst the majority of people placing bets do so safely, many problem gamblers cite the activity as a source of their problems with debt. This issue occurs when people go beyond their affordability in order to place bets, spending more than their monthly wage or other income. It becomes tempting to chip into overdrafts or use credit cards in order to make further transactions. Debt can quickly build up by doing so and gamblers can quickly find themselves in financial trouble.

Once this debt has begun to accrue, many gamblers report chasing a fresh win in order to recover the money they owe and so the outstanding amounts spiral even more out of control. It’s also not uncommon for gamblers to miss priority payments such as mortgage and utility bills, meaning that more creditors are owed money and debts begin to build on all sides.

Stopping Gambling

With the prevalence of ‘problem debt’, there are a number of efforts that have been made to help those wishing to stop their gambling habits.

GamStop Visit website
This is a ‘self exclusion scheme’ that you can register to which prevents you from gambling. Your future activity is monitored and you will be blocked from making gambling transactions for 6 months, 1 year or 5 years. You will be prevented from using any existing accounts, as well as opening any new ones.

Take Time to Think
This is the initiative previously known as ‘When the Fun Stops, Stop’ – the campaign is prevalent across most major betting sites and encourages individual users to apply their own restrictions on their betting accounts. It aims at capping the amount of time and money spent gambling.

Impacts of Gambling

Gambling can have a huge effect on people’s mental health and as a result, has an impact on those around them. On one side, the thrill of winning a bet can cause a significant ‘high’, but this can be counteracted by the negative feeling of losing. Persistent loss can cause feelings of low self-esteem, and once gamblers begin to find themselves in financial trouble it’s very common to experience feelings of anxiety, depression and stress.

There are many support groups aimed at helping those suffering specifically with gambling addictions, such as:

GamCareVisit website
This charity offers support to many who suffer from a gambling habit. It is a community based initiative where you can get help and advice.

Gamblers AnonymousVisit website
This is another initiative for people with gambling addictions to meet each other, sharing their experience and support.

Finding a Debt Solution

If you are struggling with debt and are a frequent gambler, there’s support available to you. Whilst we have outlined some of the support available for gambling habits, we’re here for when you’re ready to talk about your debts.

By reaching out to debt experts such as ourselves, we can look into what debt solutions are available to you for the different creditors that you owe money to. There’ll be no judgement from us, just honest and friendly guidance. With the majority of solutions, your creditors won’t be directly informed of any gambling that you take part in, but if they do agree to entering an agreement with you then they may request that steps are put into action to prevent future gambling.

Debts can leave you feeling lost

* – Public Health England: Gambling-Related Harms Evidence Review: Summary – September 2021