For many people gambling is not a harmful activity, but for some it can become a serious problem.
Gambling can be a fun way to pass the time, perhaps when you're at base or in a group. However, gambling also has the potential to cause a variety of negative impacts if it becomes a way to cope with boredom, loneliness, anger, stress or anxiety. Over time, the more you gamble, the more you're likely to lose – and this might not be just money.
The RAF Benevolent Fund is working with GamCare to raise awareness of when gambling can become a problem and to help serving personnel and their loved ones to get help if and when they need it.
How can I keep myself safe?
A problem with gambling can not only have an impact on your finances, but your relationships, mental wellbeing and work life can suffer too. If you need to concentrate, but you're thinking about gambling instead, this can have serious consequences for you and the people around you.
It can be easy for people to convince themselves that their gambling behaviour is not the most pressing issue they have to deal with, that if they keep gambling, they will win their money back and their financial worries will be over. Gambling is never the solution. If you think it may be a problem for you, the longer you leave it and continue to gamble, the worse it will become.
GamCare hears from many people who say that their gambling behaviour has led to them lying to the people they care about and created a sense of isolation that they don't feel they can overcome. Some people feel like ending their lives because of how their gambling behaviour has impacted them. It is important to know that you are not alone in this, a range of free and confidential support is here for you.
The RAF Benevolent Fund's research found that between 2-5% of our serving personnel think gambling could be a problem for them – Meeting the Needs of the Serving RAF Community 2018. With a variety of ways to gamble on bases, we want to help the serving RAF community to stay safe when they gamble and to know that support is available if and when needed.
Only spend what you can afford
Always keep in mind that you are more likely to lose the money you stake than you are to win any more. Don't gamble with money that you need for other important things.
Set your limits for time and money
Decide how long you would like to gamble for, and how much money you have to play with, before you begin. When this money is gone, or your time limit is reached, it's time to step away.
Make clear decisions
Emotions like anger, sadness or a feeling of general stress can make it more difficult to make clear decisions. This can lead to you losing money you can't really afford and potentially damaging important relationships. If you're feeling low before you start, gambling won't make you feel any better.
Don't let it interfere with your life
If you spend too much time or money gambling, you may miss out on other important events and activities, including spending time with the people you care about. Keep gambling balanced with other things you enjoy and other social activities too.
Don't try to get away from your problems
Gambling is most definitely not a way to make money or to fix something else in your life that you are not happy with. Some people win big, but this is not as often as it may appear. Over time, the house always wins. Any other problems you have will probably only be made worse if you gamble as a way to get away from them.
In the last 12 months, have you
- Bet more than you could really afford to lose?
- Been criticised for your betting or told that you have a gambling problem?
- Felt guilty about the way you gamble, or what happens when you gamble?
Gambling problems can affect anyone. If you are worried, or you feel that your gambling is starting to get out of control, help and support is available.
Support is also available if you are impacted by someone else's gambling. You may be facing negative consequences because of their actions, including financial struggles, impacts on your mental or physical wellbeing and a loss of trust. We understand that being part of an armed forces family presents special challenges too, including loneliness if your partner is away, and that the boundaries between work and personal lives may become blurred. GamCare can help loved ones understand why people gamble despite the negative consequences, as well as helping you work through your thoughts and feelings about your own situation so that you can move forward.
GamCare Support Services
It can be helpful to remember you're not alone. Gambling problems can be complicated, but finding the right support doesn’t have to be. If at any time you feel like gambling may be becoming an issue, talk to GamCare – they are here to help.
They offer free information, advice and support for anyone negatively impacted by gambling. They operate the National Gambling Helpline, either over the phone or via web chat, plus a moderated online Forum and daily chatrooms where you can talk online to others in similar situations. These services are available every day.
GamCare and their partners also provide a range of free treatment services. These are a safe, confidential space for you to talk and to better understand the causes of harmful gambling behaviour, the effects it has on your life and how you can find strategies to make positive changes.
You can access these services face to face if you're near a treatment centre or you can receive help online or over the phone. Online support is also available if you are deployed overseas. Whatever you share will remain confidential and your colleagues won't know unless you decide to talk to them about it. Our partnership with GamCare ensures you get the best range of support to help you achieve your goals.
Take a look at our web page on the the GamCare website.
How do I make a start?
Speak to an Adviser on the National Gambling Helpline, on 0808 8020 133 or via web chat. They will listen to you and talk you through the support options available. If you prefer, they can also refer you straight into treatment services.
When you first contact GamCare, they will ask you for some basic information like your contact details. All the information you give is stored securely and remains confidential.
This resource will assist anyone who has recognised that gambling may be an issue for them. The workbook is designed to help you and allow you to work at your own pace. If at any time you would like additional support, you can speak to the GamCare team.
The workbook is available as interactive PDFs which means you can download the files and then type straight into them, keeping changes in your own device as you go along. You can also print the pages if you prefer.
Support from the RAF Benevolent Fund
The Fund provides a range of other support that you might find helpful, including Relationship Support, emotional support through our Listening and Counselling Service as well as free access to Headspace and Wellbeing Breaks for individuals,couples and families.
Worried about debt?
If you have concerns about your finances, there are other organisations who can provide free money and debt advice.
- The Royal British Legion Benefits, Debt and Money Advice Service 0808 802 8080
- National Debt Line 0808 808 4000
- Money Advice Service – set up by the government to provide free and impartial money advice – 0800 138 7777
Help us understand the wellbeing of RAF personnel and improve our services. Please fill in our short and anonymous survey on your experiences: rafbf.org/survey.