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Is All Problematic Gambling a Form of Addiction?

Did you ever finish up a really bad day at the online casino tables where you lost emotional control, only to have someone say to you later that night, “You have a problem.  You’re an addict, and you need to quit?”


I carefully titled this article the way I did with the word “problematic” instead of “problem” for a reason.  The phrase “problem gambling” is synonymous with gambling addiction.  But I would assert that a lot of gamblers exhibit problematic gambling behaviours that do not necessarily point toward outright addiction. 


This distinction is important to make, because most people engage in problematic behaviours at some point in their gambling careers.  This is true even of pros.  If you are an actual addict, you need to quit.  But you may not be an addict at all.  In short, you may not have a compulsion to gamble.  If that is the case, and you are not an addict, quitting would be a mistake.  If you are talented and motivated, you could even make a career out of gambling professionally.  Interrupting that would be tragic. 


There are a lot of reasons other than compulsiveness why people engage in problematic behaviour while gambling.  Here are a few:

  • Newbie mistakes or anxieties.  Rookies are prone to making foolish errors, including overcommitting themselves to make a profit.  In fact, some novice players believe they are not trying hard enough if they do not “stick with it” long enough to make a profit.  These players are not necessarily compulsive; they simply do not have any perspective yet on what they are doing.
  • Loss of emotional control.  While a lack of emotional balance and grounding can lead to compulsive behaviour, compulsiveness is not necessarily at the root of every incident of tilting.  In fact, most players will tilt at some point.  Sometimes you just have a really bad day and you lack the self-awareness to recognise warning signs that you are about to lose control.  Over time as you build that awareness, you gain the judgment you need to prevent tilting going forward.
  • Poor technique.  Quite often, bad gambling decisions are simply the result of poor play.  Maybe you simply do not have the strategies you need in place yet.   Once you do, seemingly arbitrary and reckless gambling may be reined in through your new systems.
  • Pure and simple ignorance.  A lot of people gamble poorly simply because they are ignorant of one aspect of gambling or another.  Perhaps you never developed good money management skills.  Maybe you do not fully understand the rules of the game you are playing.  Some people only learn about consequences and how they work through hard-won experience.


All of the issues discussed above can ultimately be resolved once they are identified.  When you take the time to educate yourself and come up with strategies, money management rules, and limits you can place on yourself, you can discipline yourself into becoming a smarter and more profitable gambler who makes good choices.  Problem gambling as it is defined is always a form of addiction, but problematic gambling can encompass a huge range of behaviours and mistakes.  Most can be corrected without resorting to quitting.  Once you make those necessary changes, you can move forward with confidence!


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Gambling on the Internet

A few things to consider when gambling online:

  • Take advantage of first deposit bonuses
  • Have a budget and stick to it
  • Don't lose more than you can afford
  • When drunk, don't bet!
  • Don't chase losses
  • Bet on markets you know well
  • Don't abuse bonuses