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What Is Responsible Gambling?

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

What is responsible gambling?

Responsible gambling is about understanding and enjoying all the different types of gambling, including sports betting, casino games, and online poker safely. However you gamble, your safety and enjoyment should be your priority, not winning money. 

Gambling is a popular pastime enjoyed by millions of people worldwide. Safe gambling can be fun, but understanding the risks, including the risk of developing a problem with gambling, is an essential part of the deal.  

On this page, we’re going deep on responsible gambling, why it's so important, and the tools and tips to help you gamble more responsibly. We'll also cover problem gambling and the state-specific helplines and organizations available for those struggling with gambling addiction.


Expert Opinion - Understanding Responsible Gambling

Responsible gambling encompasses more than just engaging in various forms of gambling safely; it involves a comprehensive understanding of the individual risks associated with each activity.

For instance, while enjoying sports betting via mobile phones from home, different strategies for responsible play are necessary compared to in-person casino gaming.

The dynamic nature of sports betting, coupled with the emotional involvement it often evokes, demands unique approaches to mitigate potential harm. Similarly, the immediacy and accessibility of online casino games present distinct challenges for maintaining responsible gambling habits.

Recognizing these nuances allows players to tailor their strategies accordingly, ensuring they can enjoy their favorite activities while minimizing the risk of developing problematic gambling behaviors. By understanding the scope of responsible gambling, individuals can make informed decisions and foster a safer gaming environment for themselves and others.

- Pat Eichner
Associate Partner at GMA Consulting

Responsible gambling vs problem gamblingWhat’s the Difference Between Responsible Gambling and Problem Gambling?

Responsible gambling is a set of practices that helps you maintain a healthy and enjoyable relationship with gambling, while problem gambling describes the range of problems that can occur when you aren’t practicing responsible gambling

Problem gambling can come in many forms and your gambling habits can easily impact other parts of your life, like your mental health or your financial situation. Gambling responsibly means these areas don’t suffer while you have fun, whereas problem gambling flips the script.

A cornerstone of responsible gambling is understanding and enjoying all types of gambling as a form of entertainment. This goes for casino games and poker, as well as sports betting, both on and offline. All of these activities should be fun, not a source of emotional or financial worries.

Responsible gambling is about ensuring that you gamble in a way that keeps you safe and in control while having fun. Problem gambling flourishes when you lose control and discipline, and the moment you realize you are not having fun should be a red flag. 

Telltale signs of problem gambling include if you use gambling as a source of income or try to spend more money than you have. If your gambling becomes a problem, it can make your relationships suffer and seep into other parts of your life. It can enable you to neglect your responsibilities and lead to denial of the issues it creates.

Why Is Responsible Gambling Important?

Practicing responsible gambling is essential to ensure your gambling stays enjoyable and minimizes problem gambling risks. It’s important to practice responsible gambling every time you log in or visit your casino, to make it a mindful part of your relationship with gambling.

From a player’s perspective, practicing responsible gambling creates a safe, sustainable, and fun gambling experience. From the industry’s perspective, promoting responsible gambling is also crucial. It helps the industry maintain a positive reputation and prevent regulatory intervention. The healthier and happier everyone who gambles recreationally is, the better for everyone. 

Harms of problem gamblingThe Harms of Problem Gambling

Recreational gambling is a form of entertainments, but if it becomes problem gambling it can turn into a spiral of harm. It can affect many different parts of your life in different negative ways: mentally, physically, financially and socially. 

First and foremost, understanding your individual needs and health is essential. If you are suffering from financial stress, emotional turmoil, or social isolation, it’s a sign you shouldn’t be gambling. This path can lead to anxiety and depression, and massively impact your mental health.

Problem gambling can impact your physical health. It may lead to sleep disturbances and poor eating habits due to stress. Gambling can also cause financial struggles such as debt, and, in extreme cases, job loss or bankruptcy. When you combine debt with problem gambling, the compulsion to chase losses can lead to spending more money to catch up. This is a dangerous spiral. 

It affects your personal relationships, causing isolation from friends or family and a lack of desire to socialize or engage in other hobbies. 

Recognizing the potential for these harms and integrating responsible practices is vital. 

Tips and tools for gamblersQuick Tips and Tools for Gamblers:

For all players, whether you’re a seasoned gambler or just getting started, there are tools you can use to help you gamble more responsibly, both online and offline. Incorporating these tools  can significantly impact your overall experience for the better and help you gamble more responsibly. 

Taking Breaks

When gambling responsibly, taking regular breaks is essential. Sometimes, online casinos provide digital tools that can help you with this, but if not, it’s up to you to manage your time in a healthy way. For instance, you can turn on the mandatory play breaks setting. This interrupts long gambling sessions, forcing players to take a break. Reality checks are another useful service, where the casino notifies you to let you know how long you’ve been playing after a set period of time. It doesn’t lock your account, but keeps you informed and accountable for the time you’ve spent online. 

You can also download responsible gambling apps such as Bettor Time to use while you play, which include prompts to take a break.

Betting Limits and Budgeting

Betting limits are another way to have additional control and ensure you don't move into problem gambling. Setting yourself a limit or barrier prevents you from blowing your entire budget in one go and gambling more than you can afford to.

There are different ways to use betting limits. It could be a maximum bet per game, a daily deposit limit, or a loss limit. Limits help you gamble within your means and save you from impulsive decisions.

Lots of online casinos and sportsbooks provide tools or settings to control your limits, but it also may be necessary to manage your limits manually, using discipline and willpower.

For those who are seeing even mild issues with gambling, setting and sticking with limits is a  vital first step toward recovery. Limiting your bets will break the cycle of chasing losses and compulsive play, providing structure and familiarity.

Responsible Alcohol and Substance Use

Alcohol and substance abuse and responsible gambling rarely go together. When drinking alcohol or taking other substances, the intoxicating effects can cloud your judgment and blur boundaries, which can lead to potentially harmful decisions.

It’s true that having a drink during a night out in a casino can be a fun part of the whole experience, but moderation is key.

If you are planning to go to the casino or gamble online, ensure that you have pre-planned your limits for drinking and gambling. Being aware of your intoxication levels helps maintain your control and stay focused on the game.


Self-exclusion means you voluntarily ban yourself from a casino or sportsbook, online or offline. It’s a somewhat more drastic step, and totally removes the ability to gamble and extracts yourself from the environment. Even if you want to gamble again, you won’t be able to. For land-based gambling in your area, you can also use state-wide schemes to request that you exclude yourself.

If you think that you are spending too much time or money on gambling, whether online or in in-person, self-exclusion might be the tool you need to use.

State-specific Help Lines and Organizations

State-specific help lines and organizations are essential resources to provide localized advice and care for anyone struggling with gambling. The organizations are available 24/7 and staffed with trained professionals. They provide guidance, counseling, support groups, and referral services. 

Not only are these a lifesaver for problem gamblers, but they provide an essential service for friends and family, too. If you know someone you think might have an issue but aren’t sure of the next steps, this is the perfect place to start. 

State / CountryOrganizationPhone Number
United StatesNCP Gambling1-800-522-4700
AlabamaAlabama Council on Compulsive Gambling1-800-522-4700
AlaskaAlaska Department of Health and Social Services1-800-662-4357
ArizonaArizona Council on the Compulsive Gambling1-800-777-7207
ArkansasArkansas Department of Health1-800-522-4700
CaliforniaCalifornia Council on Problem Gambling1-800-426-2537
ColoradoProblem Gambling Coalition of Colorado1-800-522-4700
ConnecticutConnecticut Council on Problem Gambling1-888-789-7777
DelawareDelaware Council on Gambling Problems1-888-850-8888
FloridaThe Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling1-888-ADMIT-IT (234-4848)
GeorgiaOfficial Georgia Council on Problem Gambling404-985-6785
HawaiiHawaii State Department of Health1-808-586-4400
IdahoIdaho Council on Problem Gaming801-839-5167
IllinoisIllinois Council on Problem Gambling833-937-4274.
IndianaIndiana Council on Problem1-800-994-8448
IowaIowa Gambling Treatment Program1-800-BETS-OFF (238-7633)
KansasKansas Responsible Gambling Alliance785-266-8666
KentuckyKentucky Council on Problem Gambling502-223-1823
LouisianaLouisiana Department of Health1-877-770-STOP (7867)
MaineMaine Council on Problem Gambling207-520-0293
MarylandMaryland Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling1-800-GAMBLER (426-2357)
MassachusettsMassachusetts Council on Gaming and Health1-800-426-1234
MichiganMichigan Association on Problem Gambling1-800-270-7117
MinnesotaMinnesota Alliance on Problem Gambling1-800-333-4673
MississippiMississippi Council on Problem and Compulsive Gambling1-888-777-9696
MissouriMissouri Gaming Association1-888-BETSOFF (238-7633)
MontanaMontana Council on Problem Gambling1-888-900-9979
NebraskaNebraska Commission on Problem Gambling402-806-7344
NevadaNevada Council on Problem Gambling702-369-9740
New HampshireThe New Hampshire Council on Problem Gambling603-724-1605
New JerseyThe Council on Compulsive Gambling1-800-GAMBLER (426-2537)
New MexicoNew Mexico Gaming Control Board1-800-572-1142
New YorkNew York Council on Problem Gambling1-877-846-7368
North CarolinaNorth Carolina Problem Gambling1-877-718-5543
North DakotaNorth Dakota Council on Problem Gambling1-877-702-7848
OhioProblem Gambling Network of Ohio800-589-9966
OklahomaOklahoma Association on Problem Gambling & Gaming405-801-3329
OregonOregon Problem Gambling1-877-695-4648
PennsylvaniaCouncil on Compulsive Gambling in Pennsylvania1-800-848-1880
Rhode IslandRhode Island Council on Problem Gambling401-499-2472
South CarolinaSouth Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services1-877-452-5155
South DakotaCouncil of Problem Gambling1-888-781-4357
TennesseeTennessee REDLINE1-800-889-9789
TexasTexas Council on Problem and Compulsive Gambling972-490-1007
UtahUtah Department of Human Services1-800-537-6066
VermontProblem Gambling Resource Center1-800-522-4700
VirginiaVirginia Council on Problem Gambling1-888-532-3500
WashingtonWashington State Gambling Program1-800-547-613
West VirginiaWest Virginia Gaming and Racing Association1-800-426-2537
WisconsinWisconsin Department of Health Services1-800-GAMBLE-5 (426-2335)
WyomingWyoming Council on Problem Gambling718-352-1671

How casinos and sportsbook protect playersHow Do Casinos and Sportsbooks Protect Gamblers?

Whether you gamble online or offline, responsible gambling messaging and resources must be available to all players. The licensed operators must provide the option of self-exclusion and other advice and tools for players to try to stop problem gambling.

As one of the main precautions for underage gambling, there are rigorous identity checks for anyone trying to gamble. Protecting vulnerable underage people is a priority, along with preventing online gambling sites from becoming a gateway for young people to more issues down the line. Here are some other ways casinos and sportsbooks protect gamblers:

  • Access to responsible gambling support: Gambling operators provide information and practical steps to help support the players. This includes helplines and referrals to external support and counseling services.

  • Self-assessment tests: Some casinos and sportsbooks will provide self-assessment tests to help players understand and evaluate their gambling habits. If players have gambling problems, they’ll be able to understand their situation better through the test.

  • Monitoring Player Behavior: Operators monitor player behavior for signs of problem gambling and when necessary, intervene. This includes erratic deposit and betting patterns. When triggered, the operators offer guidance or restrict access to certain games and features.

  • Customizable Deposit Limits, Reality Check notifications, and the other digital tools described above.


Expert Opinion - Global Perspectives

The US can learn a lot from overseas markets. Acknowledging different global perspectives enriches the discussion around responsible gambling. Diverse regulatory frameworks, cultural attitudes, and years of experience from mature gaming markets worldwide all affect the discussion. Varied regulatory models, from state monopolies to more liberalized open markets, offer different insights into tackling problem gambling.

Cultural norms influence gambling perceptions and behavior, necessitating culturally sensitive interventions. Mature gaming markets like the UK and Australia provide valuable lessons in harm minimization through public awareness campaigns and self-exclusion programs, and we have now seen jurisdictions like Ontario leverage these valuable lessons in recently banning the use of athletes in ads for online gambling, with the provincial regulator saying the move will “help safeguard children and youth.”

Understanding different approaches towards responsible gambling, whether government-led or industry-driven, allows countries – and in the case of the US, the jurisdictions within – to tailor strategies to their regulatory environments and societal needs. By leveraging global insights, stakeholders can choose their own best path toward safe and responsible gambling.

- Pat Eichner
Associate Partner at GMA Consulting

Responsible Gambling and Consumer Protection

The reason that legal and licensed gambling operators provide the tools and protection described above is that they are required to do so by regulators and governing bodies. The specific regulations vary by state in the US (or by country around the world), but there are always responsible gambling measures written into the very law. 

It starts from your very first interaction with the site, when the casino has to verify the age and identity of its users when they sign up - preventing underage people playing or anyone who is on a self-exclusion list. This is not just a morally correct action from the operator - it’s a legal requirement. 

If you want to keep your gambling license, you have to reach certain standards designed to protect customers and encourage safe and responsible gambling.  

Responsible gambling in regulated vs unregulated marketsResponsible Gambling in Regulated vs. Unregulated Markets

It is much easier to practice responsible gambling in a regulated market - where your data and money are protected - compared with unregulated markets. Unregulated markets refer to sites that operate outside legal jurisdictions without gambling licenses or regulatory oversight. In regulated markets, online gambling operators must implement strict KYC (know your customer) procedures.

This includes verifying their customers' identity through various means, including ID checks and address verification. This helps prevent minors from accessing gambling sites. It also ensures that online gambling sites can identify problem gamblers and offer them help.

In regulated markets, operators must provide information on problem gambling helplines and organizations as part of their legal responsibilities. This includes prominently displaying links and messaging on their websites.

For the unregulated casinos, depending on the site, they may not have any requirements for providing information on problem gambling, such as helplines and support services. In some cases, this means that players may not have access to crucial tools to help manage their problem gambling.

Basically, in an unregulated market, gambling sites are not compelled to promote responsible gambling, while this very much is the case with legal and regulated gambling sites. 

How Has Responsible Gambling Changed and Improved in the US with Regulation?

Gambling in the US has become much safer since more states have rolled out legal and regulated online gambling. While in the past unregulated gambling operators could behave as they pleased, now each individual state gambling commission is responsible for the wellbeing of the players in their respective states. 

There have been several milestones in the journey to safer gambling in the US. The 20th century was a turbulent time for gambling in the US, with laws changing rapidly state by state. In 1992, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was passed, meaning sports betting and most types of online gambling was made illegal in almost every state in the US. With the rise of the internet, this created flourishing black and gray gambling markets, with US bettors accessing unregulated offshore websites. 

Meanwhile, legal in-person casinos continued to create new regulations to protect players. In 1995, Nevada (which was excluded from PASPA) introduced the concept of self-exclusion programs. In 1999, Caesars became the first company to provide a strict nationwide self-exclusion option.

A huge moment came when the Supreme Court overturned PASPA in 2018, meaning more states could legalize and regulate sports betting. This has led to a massive increase in the number of legal online gambling options for players. As each state legislates for online gambling, they include consumer protection measures as part of their respective industries, from self-exclusion to data protection laws. 

As illegal and unregulated gambling becomes less popular in the US, players enjoy more protection.

Differences between gambling online vs. brick and mortar casinosDifferences Between Gambling Online vs. Brick and Mortar Casinos

Gambling responsibly can look a little different, depending on whether you are playing online or at a real casino.

Brick-and-mortar casinos are a more social and interactive experience, altogether more high energy and excitement. It can mean you get carried away easily, lose your inhibitions and lose track of things like your bankroll. The ready availability of alcohol (including for free in some cases) is another big hindrance to responsible gambling and needs to be managed carefully. 

Playing online is a more solitary experience, which has its own challenges. It can foster feelings of isolation or helplessness, out of the public eye. The easy access of online casinos, available 24/7 in the palm of your hand, can also be challenging for anyone struggling with compulsive gambling. 

Despite the different environments between online and live gambling, all the responsible gambling best practices described on this page are important for both. 

Reference List

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

  2. https://problemgambling.az.gov/treatment-counseling/signs-and-symptoms 

  3. https://www.algamus.org/blog/8-signs-your-loved-one-has-a-gambling-problem 

  4. https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-illness-and-addiction-index/problem-gambling 

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

  6. https://casino.betmgm.com/en/blog/online-casino-games-how-often-should-you-take-breaks/ 

  7. https://www.algamus.org/blog/be-aware-know-the-signs-of-a-gambling-addiction 

  8. https://www.alcoholhelp.com/2022/11/15/the-connection-between-alcohol-and-gambling-addiction/ 

  9. https://www.begambleaware.org/self-exclusion 

  10. https://kindbridge.com/gambling/what-more-can-casinos-do-to-prevent-the-gambling-addiction-of-players/ 

  11. https://www.idnow.io/gaming/prevent-underage-gambling 

  12. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2021/10/21/bet-on-compliance-and-security-kyc-in-the-online-gambling-industry/?sh=2f7c81c03022 

  13. https://investor.caesars.com/news-releases/news-release-details/caesars-entertainment-celebrates-30-years-responsible-gaming-1

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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