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Most of us have gambled in our life. Whether it’s on sports, politics, or even just made a small bet with friends - if you’ve ever risked money on the outcome of an unpredictable event, you’ve gambled. Although gambling can be a legitimate and fun pastime, for some people it can turn into an addiction.
Gambling may be a cause for concern if you are feeling ‘a total loss of control’ over how much you spend on it. This is called ‘problem gambling’ and last year the Royal College of Psychiatrists found that nine in every one thousand people are suffering with it in the UK. If you are getting into large amounts of debt because of gambling, it’s a sign your pastime could no longer be healthy and you may wish to seek help.
If the below experiences sound familiar to you, you may be suffering from problem gambling:
Problem gambling can have a very negative effect on lots of different aspects of your life. It can influence your mental health as you may start to experience extreme emotions or mood swings related to your winnings and losses.
It can also make relationships with family and friends difficult if you are lying about how much debt you’re in because of gambling or where you’re spending all your time. Unsurprisingly, it is also terrible for your finances if you are uncontrollably spending and borrowing more money to fund your habit.
Before you start clearing gambling debt it is important to ensure you won’t gamble again. If you don’t get help with the root cause of the problem, any hard work you make in paying off some of the debts might go to waste if you start betting again. This is why it’s a crucial step which should not be ignored when you want to pay off gambling debt.
Once a gambling problem is treated, it will be far easier to start paying off what you owe. This can seem daunting, but gambling arrears are no different to many other kinds of debt and there are options available to you when it comes to a solution. Below are some ways you could get on top of the matter:
Bankruptcy from gambling debt could be considered if you are really struggling to make repayments and do not see your situation improving in the future.
However, it is important to remember that not all bankruptcy filings are accepted by creditors. For example, if your lenders believe that you borrowed money knowing you had no ability to make repayments, they may reject your claim and you will still have to pay back what you owe.
It is important to remember there are options other than bankruptcy when dealing with significant debts. Many people have not heard of IVAs but they can be a good solution if you cannot afford all your unsecured debts but want to pay off as much as you can reasonably afford.
IVAs will freeze interest and charges, ensure the amount of debt you owe will not increase, and can protect assets - such as your home or car - from being repossessed.
Gambling debts can be legally enforced as long as it relates to gambling which is lawful. Therefore, if your betting was lawful and followed regulations pertaining to Gambling Act 2005 or the National Lottery Act 1993 it can be imposed.
Similar to many other debts, if you enter into an IVA, part or all of your debts will be written off. However, this depends on whether your creditors agree to the insolvency.
It is a difficult process to get money which has already been wagered and lost back from betting companies. You will need to have a very good reason - for example if you believe there is fraud on your account. In this case you must contact your bank, report the fraud, and ask them to freeze your account. Then contact the gambling site, ask them to freeze your account, and give them your crime reference number. If the money has already been wagered but not lost, then you should email their customer support explaining your situation. All issues are likely to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis so you will have to await their response. However, more often than not they do not allow people to withdraw from bets once it has been placed. If you need support, contact the UK Gambling Commission and they may be able to take your case further.
If you have just accidentally put money on your online gambling account, and it has not been wagered, then it is a relatively easy process to get it back. Just email the betting company’s support team and explain it was a mistake. Most of them have a pay-out functionality and the money will be back in your account in a few days.
GamCare offers confidential support for families and friends with gambling problems. They are open 24 hours a day through online chat or mobile. Gam-Anon runs regular peer support groups for friends and family with gambling problems. The meetings are a chance to share your experiences confidentially with people in the same position.
Debt write off applies to unsecured debts and on completion of an IVA. A debt write off amount of between 20% and 80% is realistic, however the debt write off amount for each customer differs depending upon their individual financial circumstances and is subject to the approval of their creditors.
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Free money help and advice can be found at the MoneyAdviceService.org.uk