People with gambling addictions often end up deep in debt. Gambling problems often make debt problems worse, and vice versa. Borrowing more money to pay for gambling can make your debts increase, while struggling to keep on top of your increasing debts can be a trigger for more gambling.
Gambling warning signs
Some of the warning signs that you may have to tackle or stop gambling include
- Using your overdraft or credit card to pay for gambling
- Missing payments to debts or priority bills because you’ve spent the money on gambling
- Gambling to try and win money to pay off your debts
If any of these sound familiar to you, it’s time to get help now. If you have problems with gambling and debt, you need help to deal with both of these issues.
Help to stop gambling or tackle addiction
Before you deal with gambling debt, you need to treat your gambling addiction. The first step is to realize that you have a gambling problem. Many gamblers think they can win enough money to pay back their debts, but quite the opposite happens. You only end up creating more gambling debt to repay. Even if you did win enough money to pay off your debt, chances are you would gamble that money away too, thinking if you won once you could win again.
There’s isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to gambling problems, and different approaches work for different people:
Cutting Off Your Source of Funding
If you’ve been gambling with credit cards, close them. Normally, closing a credit card doesn’t help with your credit score. However, if closing your credit cards keeps you from creating more debt, then that’s what you need to do. You can put a freeze on your credit report to make it more difficult to open a new credit card or loan account, as they require a credit check before issuance.
Speak to your GP
Your NHS GP is the best place to start, especially if your gambling problems is affecting your health and mood. Your GP can discuss what options are available in your area, for example cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a form of talking therapy that many people find effective.
If you prefer to speak to someone anonymously, contact GamCare. They offer support and counselling online, or over the phone on 0808 8020 133, every day from 8am to midnight. GamCare’s trained advisors can put you in touch with face-to-face counselling services in your area.
Many people find confidential peer support groups like Gamblers Anonymous or SMART Recovery help to keep their gambling problems under control. If you need advice on finding a group that helps you, ask GamCare or your GP.
Private medical insurance
Your private health insurance provider may pay for treatment for gambling addiction. Check with your insurance provider to see what options are available.
Paying Off Gambling Debt
Once you deal with the addiction, you can focus on repaying the debt:
Write a List
Start by writing a list of everyone to which you owe money. Some of your gambling debt may be on credit cards; you may have overdrawn bank accounts; or, you may even owe money to casinos/bookies or loan sharks. Include every debt that comes to mind on the list. If you learn of new gambling debts, add them to the list. The key is to know who and how much you owe so you can take action.
Borrow money from family or friends
If you owe bookies or loan sharks, you may have to borrow money from a friend or family member to repay the gambling debt quickly. Borrowing money from a loved one means you’ll have to be honest with them about your gambling problem, but, in return, you may gain a support system to help deal with the addiction.
Negotiate a settlement payment
Your creditors may be willing to accept a settlement payment on your gambling debts if you can come up with a percentage of what you owe within a few days.
IVA – Individual voluntary arrangement
The IVA was established by and is governed by Part VIII of the Insolvency Act 1986 and constitutes a formal repayment proposal presented to a debtor’s creditors via an insolvency practitioner. Usually (but not necessarily), the IVA comprises only the claims of unsecured creditors, leaving the rights of secured creditors largely unchanged. Insolvency practitioners charge initial and ongoing fees that are in addition to the debt.
An IVA is a contractual arrangement with creditors and can be as flexible as an individual’s own circumstances; they can therefore be based on capital, income, third party payments or a combination of these.
In this process, a debtor who has enough money left over after priority creditors and essential expenses, may be able to arrange an individual voluntary arrangement. (After taking independent advice, debtors with less serious problems may wish to consider a debt management plan.)
Bankruptcy and Gambling Debts
Gambling debt, including debt incurred from casinos or charged on credit cards and loans, can be discharged in bankruptcy. It’s important to know that any creditor can object to the bankruptcy filing by claiming you incurred the debt under false pretences or through fraud. For example, if you took out a credit card cash advance knowing you didn’t have the money to repay the advance when you borrowed it, the creditor can ask the court not to discharge the debt. However, the creditor has to prove that you committed fraud. Bankruptcy may be your only option for dealing with a gambling debt.
Friends and family of people with gambling problems
If someone close to you has a gambling problem, it can put a huge stress on you and your household finances. Try to encourage them to get help to deal with their debts and gambling.
If you’re struggling to deal with someone else’s gambling and debt problems, get specialist advice. This will ensure you’re doing the best you can for your loved one and looking after yourself at the same time.
GamCare offer confidential support and advice for family and friends of those with gambling problems. You can contact them online or by phone on 0808 8020 133 every day 8am to midnight
Gam-Anon run regular peer support groups for the friends and family of people with gambling problems. These meetings give you a chance to share experiences confidentially with other people in the same position.