Understanding that pain is the cause of addiction, alongside a belief that individuals use gambing as an escape route, is one of the key founding principles that guides QuitGamble.
With this in mind, says Anders Bergman, Founder of the QuitGamble, the company tries to help people understand what gambling is doing as a first step, which is acknowledged as tricky but helpful and rewarding.
Speaking to CasinoBeats, Bergman delves into QC’s guiding principles, key differences when contrasted to other forms of support, tests developed by the group, and the future of responsible gaming in the industry.
CasinoBeats: Could you begin by telling our readers a bit of QuitGamble and the principles that guide the company?
Anders Bergman: After working as a casino affiliate for six years, I decided to switch focus. I’ve always wanted to make a change in the world, to make the world a better place. Going into gambling wasn’t about money for myself; it was what that money could do.
The ideas about QuitGamble.com started to form in late 2018. It began by reading studies about addiction. I had always thought people got hooked on a substance. But the more I read, the more that perspective changed. Perhaps there was another way to deal with addiction than the traditional methods?
Our mission is: We’re challenging the status quo of addiction through an open mind and embracing technology to make the process of stopping gambling fun, engaging and about something more than just quitting.
I wanted to combine my gambling industry knowledge with my interest in personal development and psychology to challenge gambling addiction. Three years ago, we started building a tool that is easy to scale and accessible 24/7, no matter where the person lives.
“The key to stopping gambling is understanding what happens when they gamble”
CB: What would you pinpoint as the key differences between QG and other forms of support?
AB: Gamban, Betblocker, Gamstop and Spelpaus are blocking tools that can help limit access to gambling sites. They are helpful tools, but they only block access to gambling opportunities. They can’t do anything about the reason people want to gamble.
There are many services on the market today. Gambler Anonymous is most famous for its 12-step program. Then there are also psychologists or psychical treatment centres. The problem with these services is that they are hard to scale. Visits to the shrink or treatment centres are expensive, and support meetings are limited to the number of coaches.
QuitGamble.com is not a competitor to any of these services. If the 12 steps work for somebody, we’re super happy! We wanted to build an alternative. The main differences between QG and other types of support:
- QG is online-based, via desktop, mobile or mobile app.
- QG offers support via our community, video course, emails, and chat.
- Users can be completely anonymous.
- Users don’t need to admit to any gambling problems.
- Focus on the cause of the problem rather than treating the symptom.
The last point needs some further explanation. Gambler Anonymous focus on helping people stay away from gambling and counting gambling free days. The goal is to create a ‘sober addict’.
On QuitGamble.com, we want to help people understand why gambling is so attractive. We believe gambling is doing something for the person, and the key to stopping gambling is understanding what happens when they gamble.
“Dealing with the problem of people not seeking help is one of the most challenging tasks”
CB: QG says that it believes the cause of addiction is pain. Could you elaborate on this?
AB: I don’t remember where I made the connection between pain and addiction on my journey with QG. But Gabor Maté is one person with similar ideas. He said: ‘Not why the addiction, why the pain’.
When we talk about pain, we talk about feelings you don’t want to have, like stress, boredom, loneliness, anxiety, physical pain, etc. I believe addiction is a defence mechanism in our bodies.
For a gambling addict, gambling has become a way to escape the pain. We define gambling addiction as: If a person who experiences pain gets an urge to gamble, he/she is a gambling addict. If, instead, it’s an urge to drink, the person is an alcoholic.
This thinking is also part of the escapism theory of addiction. If we want to help people overcome addiction, we believe the best way is to help them understand why they gamble and what gambling is doing for them. One tool we’ve developed for that is the Happiness Test.
CB: You have devised what is termed the ‘Happiness Test,’ what is this, and how do you believe it helps both parties?
AB: Since we believe pain is the cause of addiction. We needed a tool to identify and understand pain. In the Happiness Test, we connect our needs and our feelings. If we get our needs met, we feel happy. If we don’t get our needs met, we experience some sort of pain.
For example: If a person gets her social needs met, she feels happy. If she doesn’t get them met, she will feel lonely and sad.
The Happiness Test is based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs from his paper A Theory of Human Motivation. If you want to know more about the model, we recommend the following video.
The Happiness Test will not tell if the person is addicted to gambling or any other addiction. Instead, it’ll help the person understand what causes them pain. The test results can then be used as a starting point to help the person become gambling free. If the test indicates that the person often feels lonely, we’ll focus on helping them to fill that need.
CB: What do you believe needs to be done to drive those that are perhaps reluctant to seek help to do just that?
AB: More than 80 per cent of compulsive gamblers don’t seek help. I believe the main reasons are guilt, shame, pride, and/or fear. Personally, my pride would never permit me to go to a meeting and declare: Hey, I’m Anders. I’m a gambling addict. I don’t think I’m alone.
Dealing with the problem of people not seeking help is one of the most challenging tasks we have in all work with addiction. Most people say that a gambler must reach rock bottom, a.k.a lose everything they got, before they are ready to stop gambling. I refuse to accept that.
On QuitGamble.com, we try to lower the minimum threshold for people to seek help. We have some solutions to these feelings of guilt, shame, pride, and fear. It’s good if the person admits to a gambling problem, but he doesn’t need to. The member can also be completely anonymous. Sure, it’s called Gamblers Anonymous, but you still need to be in a meeting and admit to a problem.
The Happiness Test doesn’t label anyone as an addict, and questions like:
What happens when you gamble? Does it create a moment of peace? A period when nothing else matters? Perhaps the answers can explain why it’s so hard to quit? Don’t put any blame, guilt, or value in the answers. They are meant to help the person start thinking of their situation. Hopefully, the questions can spark some interest and motivation to begin the process of becoming gambling free.
“The RG work can only do so much”
CB: What do you believe is the future of responsible gaming in the industry?
AB: I think we who work with problem gambling need to accept that no company in the world wants to lose their best customers, so why do we expect gambling companies to want to do that? If we accept that, we get a different perspective of what opportunities there are to get companies to want to work with these questions.
I believe responsible gambling has little to do with the money the person spends gambling. People often connect responsible gambling with statements like:
- Don’t play with money you can’t afford to lose.
- Have you borrowed money to gamble with?
If responsible gambling were about money, rich people would be immune to gambling addiction. We know that’s not the case. The first step for the future of responsible gambling is to focus on why the person gambles. Responsible gambling companies need to help their users understand why the user gambles. In my opinion, the only way to gamble responsibly is to gamble for fun.
As soon as the person gambles to win money, they risk developing a problem. There are many tools to analyze gambling behaviour that casinos are using today. These tools can spot the problems. Then the responsible casino can act to help the customer.
A second step for the industry to work with responsible gambling would be to work closely with various organisations which help those who gamble too much. One gambling addict I spoke with said: For a gambling addict, there is no such thing as responsible gambling. The RG work can only do so much. If a responsible casino identifies problematic gambling behaviour, it’s time to open a dialogue with that customer. Questions like these above are a good start.