4 ways to stay safe if you're gambling online
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been feeling a bit stressed as of late. Between the constant news updates on COVID-19, and doing my part by staying home as much as possible, I find myself constantly looking for activities to fill my time, cope with the stress, and distract me a little from everything that’s going on right now.
I bet many of you feel the same way, which makes this the perfect time to talk about gambling.
Now, I know you’re thinking, “Why? Aren’t casinos temporarily shut down?” You are correct my well-informed reader, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t gambling. It's happening in homes everywhere, on our laptops, tablets, and phones, and in media we don't typically associate with gambling, such as video games. And there's nothing wrong with that. Online gambling is a valid, fun form of entertainment. But, like pretty much any activity, it comes with risks.
Fortunately, these risks can be mitigated by following a few practices for safe gambling.
1. Set limits
Gambling can be fun, which makes it easy to lose track of how much money you’ve spent or how long you’ve been playing. Set limits on both, and stay within them! Set an alarm, or use a screen-time monitoring app to help you keep track of the time. And use a card that isn’t linked to your bank account, such as a gift card.
2. Know the online difference
There are differences between playing in-person and online. Online games are faster, accessible at all hours of the day (and night), and your opponents are sometimes computer-operated bots instead of real players. To stay safe, research any game before you play it, so you understand the rules, expected payout, and how it may be different than its offline version.
3. Protect your personal information
One part of your pre-play research should include ensuring the website you’re planning to use isn’t fraudulent and that your personal information will be kept confidential. Even then, you should protect yourself further by using a gift card or prepaid credit card instead of a debit or credit card. That way, your financial information will be protected if either your account or the website gets hacked.
4. Strike a balance with other activities you love
At a stressful time like this, we all indulge in the activities we love to help us cope. If you enjoy gambling, balance it out and keep doing the other things you love, too. That includes making time for your friends and family. We may be physical distancing, but you can still give your mom a call!
These are just some starting points to help make sure that, if you choose to gamble online, it stays safe and fun. If you want to learn more, join “Game-Bling”: a free webinar by our YMCA’s Youth Gambling Awareness Program where we’ll explain even more ways you can make informed choices. Email YGAP@ymcagta.org to get the details and sign up today!
Alex oversees digital initiatives run by the YMCA's Youth Gambling Awareness Program (YGAP), which help generate peer-based discussion among youth about safe gambling habits, and assists in the creation of educational workshops and webinars. Currently, he is running a Digital Media Contest that challenges youth ages 18-24 from across Ontario to create a poster or video discussing the blurred lines that exist between gambling and video games.