The gambling industry in the U.S. generated a revenue of $54.9 billion in 2022, and almost 85% of Americans have gambled at some point in their life.

The reason to outline these two numbers is to show that no matter how inconspicuous it may seem, gambling is a big issue in civil society. 

A significant part of people who gamble get addicted and utilize every possible source of money to finance their wagers. One such source is gambling debt. A result of utilizing loans to gamble is called gambling debt.

Understand what it is and how to get help if you already have gambling debt. 

What is gambling debt?

Gambling debt refers to any debt that was incurred due to gambling. Most gamblers are casual gamblers and do not spend more than they can afford.

In contrast, a small share of these people are called problem gamblers, who do not even refrain from taking debts to play at the table.

The problem has become even bigger with the rise of online gambling websites, where gamblers rely upon credit cards for payment.

Problem gamblers are addicted to gambling and use their credit card balances to pay for their bets. Most of the time, their luck does not work in their favor, and the money lost wreaks havoc on their credit reports in the form of gambling debt. 

A particular type of gambling debt is incurred in the form of casino markers. These are short-term, interest-free lines of credit extended by casinos to a person for gambling activity at their establishment. 

Casino markers usually come with a 30-day grace period during which the borrower can repay their debt and avail of the zero-percent interest. Some casinos ask for a post-dated check as collateral for their markers. 

So, if the borrower does not pay back the debt in the stipulated time, the casino will cash the check to redeem the amount. If the borrower’s bank account does not have the required funds, they can be charged with fraud. 

Failure to repay a casino marker can attract severe legal action, and a borrower can even end up in jail. 

Three tips for paying a gambling debt

If you have already incurred gambling debt, the most critical and immediate action is to pay it off and avoid debt problems. Use these tips for help:

1. Write it Down!

Knowing is half the battle. Relax, sit in a quiet spot, maybe grab a coffee, and think about your gambling debt. Take a pen and a piece of paper and write down how much money you owe. 

This includes casinos, bookies, loan sharks, credit card debts, secured or unsecured debts, and even pawned items. This will give an exact picture of how much you owe and help to create a repayment plan. 

2. Budget and Pay

Consider your monthly income, savings, and investments, and start budgeting. The goal here is to pay off as much as possible and become debt free.

Put aside some of your income for essential monthly expenses like utility bills, other debt payments, groceries, medical bills, etc. 

Allocate the rest of it towards paying off your debt. If needed, cut off your monthly expenses and sell unused items or valuables. 

Start with debts that have the highest interest rates (also called the avalanche method) and work your way down. 

Additionally, stop gambling and adding to your debt to avoid further financial problems.

3. Financial Counseling and Alternative Debt Help Options

If you are not in a position to manage your debts, seek the help of a certified financial counselor or nonprofit credit counseling organization.

They offer expert financial advice at a reasonable monthly fee and can also negotiate with your lenders for debt management programs.

If you want to manage your debts independently, look for alternative options such as consolidation loans, flexible payment plans, debt settlement programs, and other debt relief programs.

If you cannot repay your debt, consider filing bankruptcy only as a last resort. 

How to avoid gambling debt

Gambling is a vicious cycle. You wager your money in hopes of winning.

If you win, you put in more money to win again. If you lose, you might place a higher bet to cover your previous gambling losses. Here’s how you can avoid gambling debt:

Acknowledge your problem

If you are a compulsive gambler, the first step to avoiding gambling debt is to realize your situation. It would help if you accepted that you get captivated in the gambling cycle and developed strong willpower and self-exclusion to prevent it.

Cut off the funds

Close any sources of money that could support your gambling problem. It includes any credit cards, ATM cards, or digital payment sources.

If you’re visiting a casino, only take a limited amount of money you can afford to lose and never opt for casino markers.

If you are a compulsive gambler, operate your accounts jointly with your spouse or a trusted friend/relative. 

Seek Help

Consider consulting with your general practitioner or a therapist to treat your gambling addiction. 

How to know if you have a gambling addiction

There are three types of gamblers: professional, social, and problem gamblers. The former two are composed and restrained, whereas the problem gambler is an addict. 

These are a few warning signs of gambling addiction:

  • Frequent discussions about gambling
  • Uncontrollable urge to gamble (compulsive gambling)
  • Selling possessions or making impulsive financial decisions (like taking debt) to obtain money for gambling
  • Willingness to take high risks in gambling
  • Lying to family/friends about money lost in gambling
  • Using cash for other essential expenses on wagering
  • Stealing money from family to gamble
  • Mental health issues when prevented from gambling

How to help a loved one with gambling addiction

A person with a gambling addiction can seek the help of a psychotherapist to get rid of their addiction.

The National Council on Problem Gambling runs the National Problem Gambling Helpline Network. You can call their helpline number and get immediate assistance and advice on addiction problems.

Alternatively, you can guide them to join local support groups in your city for community help and counseling.

Whether it is a gambling debt or a combination of other types of debt, proper management is the key to handling them. If your debts have gotten out of your control, it is time to seek the help of debt relief options with a debt relief company or certified counselor.