How Do We Keep Online Gambling Safe?

A man works on a computer against a backdrop of streaming digital data.
Gambling safety is important for everyone. What should you do to protect yourself when playing online?

Online gambling is a fact of the 21st century, not some hypothetical proposal stalled in the legislatures or simmering in science fiction novels.  It’s a funny thing, however, that you see so little fiction about future gambling or that so much of what you do find is really poorly imagined.  Compared to what you might find in books about gambling, the online options available to billions of people today might seem like science fiction.

But the attitudes toward gambling vary so much that one should not wonder if people are confused.  When you look at various online casino Websites you see many claims about compliance with regulations, licensing from the Malta Gaming Authority and/or the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, and even references to various Responsible Gaming groups and initiatives.

So why do some government Websites still advise you that gamblers do not know “Who is operating the gambling site; If the games are honest; If winnings will be paid; etc.”?  Is this honest government or maybe just a case of outdated paranoia?

One could argue that market forces are helping to keep online casinos honest through the many Websites that publish online blacklists of rogue casinos.  And we can also point to many government Websites that try to clarify the laws for players and spell out the risks.

We even have guides for safe online gambling that we can refer to.  But the question remains: how safe is online gambling?

Well, you have a few options for protecting yourself against fraud and self-destructive behavior.  Of course, anyone with a true gambling addiction problem will do whatever they can to tear down those protective defenses.  We cannot expect prudence to defend against unreason; you are always responsible for your own behavior.   But here are a few suggestions.

Only Play Free Games

Free games don’t have quite that same “kick” to them that games where you risk real money do.  One of the reasons for that difference may be that we are really hard-wired to manage risk and reward in our brains.  Gambling associated with real risk therefore “feels” different from gambling associated with little to no risk.

But there are ways to make the free gaming experience more interesting.  For example, you can play noisy slot machines because the sounds enhance the feeling of reward.

You can also organize free slot game competitions with other players.  While this might be hard to do without advance planning, there is no reason why several people cannot get together once or twice a week and host a “free gaming party”.  You can each ante up a small prize that is awarded to whoever has the best performance with an online game.

Other kinds of games where you can compete with your friends include Blackjack and Poker.  You may be better able to compete on your skills without risking any money.

Free games are an enticement that casinos use to recruit new members, but they are still free and you can use that to take the edge off your desire to gamble for entertainment.

Use Buffer Accounts to Manage Your Spending

A buffer account is a bank account that is not directly tied to your income.  Today many people have direct deposit arrangements with their employers, and the temptation to gamble away more money than you can afford to lose may be very strong when you experience a lot of little wins (but in fact are losing money).

If you force yourself to go through several steps to transfer money to a casino that may not discourage you from gambling but it can slow down your rate of spend.  It also makes you appreciate the money you set aside for gambling more.  This is because you are applying the natural principle of scarcity to your gambling funds.  When resources are scarce (or seem to be) we treat them better.

Buffer accounts also make it harder for criminals to destroy your finances.  You still have to provide private information that could be used to steal your identity to the online money managers, so if your buffer account is hacked you will be in for some grief.  But at least they won’t have access to everything and that will give you time to take defensive measures.

The way a lot of online casinos are set up to handle payments these days, buffer accounts are probably very common now.

Don’t Gamble

This cannot be much fun, can it?  Gambling is a legitimate form of entertainment for us, but if you feel it’s not yet safe enough for you, then you have the option of not gambling.

In fact, this is the core principle of the Responsible Gaming movement, and the most reputable online casinos make a real effort to teach their members about Responsible Gaming, even offering tools to help them do it.  For example, on some Websites the casinos offer to let you “freeze” your accounts for days, weeks, months, even years.

A self-imposed “cooling off” period helps you restore balance to your life, manage your finances, and maintain a sense of control over the choices you make.  No one can force you to stop gaming.  It’s a choice you can make for yourself, and the Responsible Gaming movement helps you make safe choices.

Gambling is a part of our lifestyle.  We gamble all the time in ways we don’t realize are gambling.  But we need to to moderate this behavior because the greatest danger you face when you gamble is making poor decisions that affect other areas of your life.

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