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Practical Guide To Gambling Responsibly

Written by: Pat Eichner
Fact-checked by: Daniel Umfleet
12 min read

Practical guide to gambling responsibly

Gambling can be a fun and exciting hobby, but only if you’re playing responsibly. Whether you're brand new to gambling or you’re a long time fan, it's essential to understand how to play safely and recognize the signs of a problem, to ensure that you're not putting yourself or your loved ones at risk.

On this page, we'll explore what healthy gambling looks like, identifying the signs of problem gambling, tips to keep gambling fun, when you shouldn't gamble, and so much more.

What does healthy gambling look like?What Does Healthy Gambling Look Like?

Healthy gambling means you feel happy and in control with your gambling. To a certain extent, healthy gambling can look different for everyone and depends on various factors, from your income to your health to your personal responsibilities. Whatever your situation, practicing responsible gambling ensures that you still can have fun and enjoy the diverse range of gambling without harming your life.

A healthy gambler does not indulge in compulsive gambling and does not become addicted. A healthy gambler is someone who is having fun and feels in control, not pressurized or stressed. 

There are a range of signs that you need to look out for to ensure that you’re keeping on the right track and continuing to play healthily.

Gambling For Fun, Not For Money

It is essential to appreciate that gambling is a form of entertainment, not a way to make money. It can be easy to lose sight of this, because both people and casinos love to hype up their big wins. Plus, winning money is obviously an exciting part of the gambling experience. 

But healthy, responsible gamblers understand that this is the exception, not the rule. In fact, casino games and the action at sportsbooks are set up in such a way that you are practically guaranteed to lose in the long run, thanks to the house edge. If this edge didn’t exist, neither would the casino because they wouldn’t make any money.

This is a mindset switch that is absolutely essential if you want to gamble responsibly. If you think you’re going to be the one to get one over on the house and consistently make a profit - notwithstanding the natural variance and occasional wins - you are deluded. 

So enjoy the wins when they come, but understand that they are just part of the ride. The moment you turn to gambling when you need money - even if you just need an extra couple of bucks - it becomes problematic.


Expert Opinion - Financial Literacy

Financial literacy is essential for promoting responsible gambling. Alongside setting spending limits, educating individuals about budgeting, saving, and the consequences of financial mismanagement empowers them to make informed decisions.

Budgeting skills help individuals allocate resources effectively, ensuring that gambling stays within financial limits. Encouraging saving habits prioritizes long-term financial security over short-term gratification from gambling.

Understanding the ramifications of financial mismanagement, such as debt and strained relationships, motivates responsible financial decision-making.

Financial literacy programs, integrated into responsible gambling initiatives, provide practical skills through workshops, online courses, and informational materials. This comprehensive approach equips individuals with the knowledge and skills to manage finances responsibly, minimizing the negative impacts of gambling on financial stability and overall well-being.

- Pat Eichner
Associate Partner at GMA Consulting

Gambling With Money You Can Afford to Lose

Think of the money you use to gamble as money you’ve already lost, like buying a ticket to the movies. If you end up getting it back or winning more - great! If not, no big deal. If you’re not comfortable with that, it probably means you’re spending too much money on gambling.

The money you use to gamble should be part of the money you set aside for entertainment. It should never bleed into your everyday finances, like buying groceries or paying bills. Avoid using credit cards to gamble, or looking for any kind of loan. These are telltale signs you’re starting to overextend yourself, financially. 

Lots of gamblers find it useful to set spending limits, to keep track of their expenses and stay on track with their spending habits. More on that later.

Gambling as Part of a Balanced Lifestyle

Gambling should be one small part of a healthy and balanced life. If you ever feel like your gambling, or even your desire to gamble, is affecting other areas of your life, you need to re-assess.

Family, friends, work, hobbies - these are all building blocks of a blanched life. If gambling can comfortably fit into your picture, great. If it’s negatively impacting those other parts of your life, it’s a problem.

Gamble When You Feel Healthy and Happy, If You Feel Like It

The time to gamble is when you are relaxed and comfortable, in a clear state of mind. If you notice that you get the urge to gamble when you are anxious or in a state of heightened emotions, it can create problematic connections and habits in your life. 

When should you not gamble?When Should You Not Gamble?

Just as there are certain green flags to know when it’s a good time to gamble, there are telltale red flags that can indicate when your gambling is becoming problematic. Here are some signs that you shouldn’t gamble.

When You Notice Overspending and Debt

Whether online or offline, there is always the risk of debt with gambling. If you notice that you’re spending more money than your limits, or if your spending is negatively affecting other parts of your life, this could turn into unwanted debt. 

Unpaid bills, having to rearrange your budgets, not being able to afford things you normally would - these can all be caused by problem gambling. 

Healthy Relationships

Your gambling habits should never negatively affect your personal relationships.

People can enjoy healthy friendships built around gambling together, like playing poker socially or going on a night out to the casino. When you notice these relationships becoming volatile or you feel like your friendship encourages uncontrollable gambling, that’s a problem. 

Equally, your gambling hobbies should never impact your relationships with people outside of gambling, including family and friends. Problem gambling can lead to social isolation and negative feelings towards loved ones. You should be able to easily make space in your head and life for gambling and your personal relationships and responsibilities.

Your Career & Ambitions

For many people, it’s no problem to have your career, dreams, and enjoyment of gambling all coexist all together. However, if gambling begins to take over, those other parts of your life can suffer

Missed deadlines, decreased productivity, and potential job loss - these can be some harsh side effects of gambling, in a professional sense. Your career progression and financial security can suffer, worsening your future.

You might find yourself losing sight of personal ambitions and goals, and things outside of gambling that you previously found fulfilling. Problem gambling can engulf everything. 

How to Stay in Control and Not Chase Wins or Losses

When you lose while gambling, it's natural to feel disappointment. But it’s important to recognize that this is just part of the experience. Gambling is a game of chance by its nature, and it’s one that is already tilted in favor of the house, thanks to the house edge.

Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. You can’t try to “win back” your losses, by increasing your bets or any other tactic. Thinking like that is not a helpful mindset. 

It might surprise some people, but it can be just as dangerous to try to “chase wins” as “chasing losses”. People can get caught up in the excitement or get carried away with a perceived winning streak, by trying to win more and more. 

This is why pre-set spending limits are so useful: they act against impulsive decision making depending on what happens once you start gambling. It’s also very important to guard against “gambler’s fallacy”, which is the belief that past results on something like a roulette wheel can be an indication of future results. A responsible gambler knows that every spin of the wheel is a unique event, and looking for patterns in games of pure chance is a fallacy.

Spending Limits

Before you step inside a casino or log onto your favorite gambling website, you should determine a realistic budget for gambling. This should be the amount of money you’re comfortable losing. Your budget must never impact your everyday expenses or savings.

If you’re playing and gambling online, there are different safety tools that you can utilize to ensure that you are sticking to your limits, which we go into further down this page.

Time Limits

Gambling can be highly engaging, but sometimes you lose track of time. Before you make your first bet, you should set yourself a timeframe.

Whether this is an alarm or a timer, you need to ensure that you keep yourself accountable. This is a crucial part of staying in control. The more time you spend gambling, the greater the risk of exceeding your budget or chasing your losses.

How to use safer gambling toolsHow to Use Safer Gambling Tools

With the rise of online gambling, it has become easier than ever to access a wide range of gambling activities at the touch of a button. However, this convenience also comes with the risk of developing a gambling problem.

To combat this, safer online gambling tools have been developed to help players control their gambling behavior and reduce the risk of developing an addiction. Brick-and-mortar casinos provide in person tools too.

Online Tools

When gambling online, casinos and sportsbooks provide a range of tools that can help you gamble responsibly. These features will help you track your spending limits over time, as well as the amount of time you spend on the platform, encouraging a safe experience. Here are some of tools you can use online:

  • Deposit limits: Set a maximum limit on how much you can deposit into your account across a timeframe. It could be daily, weekly, or monthly.

  • Loss limits: This lets you define a maximum you can lose before the account temporarily locks itself. This is important to guard against chasing losses. 

  • Time out & self exclusion: Enables you to take a break, locking your account for a set period of time. You can also choose to ban yourself from the site permanently, if that is what is required. 

Brick-and-mortar Casino Tools

The experience of gambling in an in-person casino is very different from gambling online. It’s much more of a communal experience for one, which means that social isolation is less likely. The flipside is that you can easily get carried away in a real casino, especially when alcohol is involved. 

There are some tools and practical steps you can implement to manage your time and money when you go to a casino.

  • Plan your alcohol intake: Being under the influence negatively affects your ability to gamble responsibly.

  • Budget tracking strategies: You can ask the casino for chips in certain amounts, such as $5 or $10 to help you keep on-budget and see the amount you’re spending.

  • Time management reminders: You can set alarms on your phone to take breaks at certain intervals. It’s important to get fresh air and recharge your brain.

  • Self-exclusion programs: Similar to online gambling sites, you can register with a casino’s self-exclusion program to bar yourself from entry for a specific time.

Hotlines and Problem Gambling Resources 

When you need it, it is important that you don’t hesitate to reach out for help. There is lots of support available out there beyond the tools and resources provided by the casino, as well as advice if you think a friend or family member is struggling.

Head to this page for more information and a full list of numbers you can call.


Expert Opinion - Government Regulation and Responsible Gambling

Government regulations play a key role in promoting and enforcing responsible gambling practices. These regulations focus on age restrictions, tools to help bettors manage their time and money, implementing self-exclusion programs, and ensuring ethical marketing practices are used by the gambling industry.

Strict enforcement of age restrictions prevents underage gambling, safeguarding vulnerable youth. Mandating comprehensive self-exclusion programs empowers individuals to control their gambling behavior and seek support when needed. Regulations also prohibit deceptive marketing practices, protecting consumers from harmful advertising tactics.

Regulatory bodies monitor the implementation of responsible gambling tools, such as spending limits and time-outs, to ensure accessibility and effectiveness. Prompt intervention by regulatory authorities is crucial to address non-compliance and protect consumers from exploitation.

Overall, government regulations play a vital role in fostering a safe and transparent gambling environment, prioritizing consumer welfare, and mitigating the social and economic impacts of problem gambling.

- Pat Eichner
Associate Partner at GMA Consulting

Understanding how casino games workUnderstanding How Casino Games Work

Actually understanding how the games you are playing work - and especially the in-built advantages that exist in all casino games - makes practicing responsible gambling much easier. Let’s run through some basics. 

What Are Odds, RTP, and House Edge?

Casinos only offer games that make them money, and the same goes for the bets at sportsbooks. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t stay in business very long. Every single game you play is slightly tilted in favor of the casino, hence the phrase “the house always wins”.

Does this mean you can never walk out of the casino with a profit or experience short term wins? Absolutely not. It just means that, over the long term, the casino has the advantage. Some concepts that are crucial to understanding this are the odds, the RTP and the house edge. 


In gambling, the odds are an expression of the probability of something happening. They tell us the percentage likelihood of winning a game or achieving a certain outcome within a game. With flipping a coin, the odds are 50:50, or you have a 50% chance of getting your chosen side. 

It’s important to distinguish between true odds and payout odds. With American Roulette the true odds of hitting a specific number are 37:1.

In this context, the odds are not the same as the payout which is the rate that the casino will pay out your bet if you win. 

With American Roulette the payout if you win a bet on a specific number is 35:1. The difference between the true odds and the payout odds is how the casino makes a profit.

If the payout odds were the same as the true odds, the casino would have no advantage over the player - which is why they don’t offer games like that. 

When gambling, games with higher odds translate to a lower chance of winning but with a bigger potential payout. Conversely, the lower odds increase your chances of winning, but the rewards may be smaller.

House Edge

The house edge tells us the casino's advantage in each game. In the roulette example above, the house edge is 5.26% which represents the difference between the true odds (37:1) and the payout odds (35:1). This means that for every $100 bet on roulette, the casino expects to make $5.26 profit, over the long run. 

Understanding the house edge in different games enables you to make informed decisions about which games to play. The lower the house edge, the better for the player. 

The inverse of the house edge is known as the Return to Player. 

Return to Player (RTP)

RTP, which stands for Return to Player, is the average percentage of money a game will pay back to the players over time. Using our above example, the RTP of American Roulette is 94.74%, meaning that for every $100 bet almost $95 is paid out in wins.

However, it is important to remember that RTP is a long-term average, not a guarantee for individual wins and losses. 

Which Games Have the Best and Worst Odds?

Put simply, you are better off choosing games with lower house edges and higher RTPs - which gives you a better chance of winning. As we’ve already said, every single game at the casino has a house edge. 

Some games (like roulette or slots) have a fixed house edge, meaning nothing you can do can change it. Despite what you might have heard, there is no strategy or betting pattern that can give you a better chance of winning - it’s down to luck.

Other games (like blackjack) have an element of skill involved, which lower the house edge but never tips it in your favor entirely. For instance, if you hit on every hand regardless of your cards, you are clearly not giving yourself the best chance of winning on the blackjack table. However, if you make every decision perfectly from a mathematical perspective, you can reduce the house edge to just 0.5%. 

Once you understand how the house edge works, and the fact that you can’t overturn it, it becomes easier to gamble responsibly and avoid trying to “beat” casino games. 

Check out the table below showing the house edge of different games:

GameReturn to Player (RTP) PercentageHouse Edge
Blackjack99.57% - 98%Ranges between 0.43% - 2%
Baccarat98.94%Typically, around 1.06%
Caribbean Stud Poker94.78%5.22%
Craps98.76% - 98.64% (high value bets)As low as 1%, but ranges between 1.36% - 1.24% (high value bets)
KenoVaries but around 75%Around 25%
Sic-BoAs high as 97.22% 2.78%
Slots 98%  - 85% (or lower)Ranges between 2% - 15%, but it can be higher
Roulette (American)94.74%5.26%
Roulette (European)97.3%2.7%
Ultimate Texas Hold’em97.81%2.19%
Wheel of Fortune89% - 76%11% - 24%

Understanding Volatility 

Volatility refers to the frequency and the size of payouts on a given game. It’s most commonly associated with slots. 

When a game has high volatility, it has less frequent wins but the payouts tend to be larger. There is also a higher risk of long losing streaks. This makes it very important to manage your bankroll carefully if you’re playing volatile games.

On the other hand, when a game has low volatility, it has smaller but more frequent payouts. This means there is a lower risk of significant losses, but a lower chance of big wins. If you’re a casual player or playing with a smaller bankroll, you should choose the low-volatility games.

Understanding gambling bonusesUnderstanding Bonuses and Promotions

Bonuses and promos are a big part of the online gambling ecosystem. Used responsibly, they can be a great way to save some money and try out some new games or bets. However, if you get carried away, don’t understand them, or abuse bonuses, they can contribute to problem gambling. 

Online casinos and sportsbooks never offer any kind of bonus or promotion they think will cause them to lose money in the long term. 

Casino Bonuses and Promos 

Remember that every casino bonus comes with strings attached. There are tons of terms and conditions to be aware of, which are routinely hidden in the small print - wagering requirements, limited game eligibility, and time limits to name just a few.

It’s in the casino’s interest to emphasize the fun sounding part of the bonus, but remember that it’s never as simple as it sounds and you need to understand the terms and conditions. Check out our full section on casino bonuses for more info.  

Sportsbook Promos 

Sportsbook bonuses are a similar story. If you understand them and use them sensibly, they can be great. But once you start chasing bonuses, or signing up to too many sportsbooks just to claim a promo, you are in danger of crossing into problem gambling. Check out our sportsbook promotions page for more details.

Debunking casino mythsDebunking Casino Myths

As you can probably tell by now, being a responsible gambler requires self-control and understanding of a lot of different concepts. The last thing you need is mis-information or paranoia, so here are some casino myths that need debunking:

  • You can never win: Although a house edge exists in the long term to give the casino an advantage, short-term wins are absolutely possible.

  • You can guarantee to beat the house using tactics or betting patterns: Notwithstanding counting cards or actual cheating, this is not possible

  • Casinos and sportsbooks pump oxygen to keep you awake: Casinos prioritize comfort and air quality based on legal parameters — not on keeping you awake.

  • Hot and cold streaks for slots: Online and offline, slot machines are based on Random Number Generators. There are no hot or cold machines: every spin offers the same probability of winning.

  • You’re more likely to win in a busy casino: This isn’t true; the number of players on the floor doesn’t impact the individual chance of winning.

Reference List:

  1. https://www.unlv.edu/news/article/what-responsible-gambling-interview-jennifer-shatley 

  2. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/addictions/gambling-addiction-and-problem-gambling.htm 

  3. https://www.begambleaware.org/advice-if-you-are-gambling

  4. https://www.begambleaware.org/advice-tools-support

  5. https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/OPG/CDPH%20Document%20Library/Freedom-Workbook-ADA.pdf

  6. https://www.debt.org/advice/gambling/ 

  7. https://kindbridge.com/gambling/how-gambling-affects-the-workplace/ 

  8. https://www.sportsgamblingpodcast.com/2021/07/09/expert-tips-on-how-to-manage-your-gambling-budget/

  9. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/addictions/gambling-addiction-and-problem-gambling.htm 

  10. https://readwrite.com/gambling/responsible-gambling 

  11. https://www.casino.org/features/what-are-the-odds/ 

  12. https://www.casino.org/features/house-edge/ 

  13. https://www.pennlive.com/casinos/games/rtp/ 

  14. https://www.olbg.com/slots/articles/slot-volatility#:~:text=If%20the%20volatility%20is%20lower,wins%20are%20usually%20more%20substantial

  15. https://www.bonus.com/news/what-are-wagering-requirements/ 

Latest Responsible Gambling Articles

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Pat Eichner

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Pat Eichner, a strategic communications expert and responsible gambling advocate, joined GMA Consulting in 2023 to launch the firm's Strategic Communications unit, leveraging his extensive iGaming experience from companies like PointsBet to notable PR roles with the NFL and renowned PR agencies like Dan Klores Communications. Pat's dedication to excellence and impactful strategies continues to shape the dynamic landscape of public relations and strategic communications across the iGaming industry.

Pat is one of the resident responsible gambling specialists at WSN. He co-authored our Responsible Gambling Center and provides expert insights into the harms of problem gambling and how to combat them.

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