Gambling is an entertaining pastime like any other. It costs money but so long as it's money you can afford to lose then you won't ever get into difficulty. Great gamblers have great financial planning and bankroll management skills.
But can gambling affect your credit score - and if so how?
This article does not provide financial advice. Seek a professional accountant or a financial advisor to receive actionable advice tailored to your unique situation. Take this content as educational only.
Does Gambling Hurt Your Credit Score?
The short answer is no, gambling does not hurt your credit score - but the long answer is a bit more complicated.
If you are gambling with your own money that you can afford to lose then you will never have a problem. Set weekly or monthly limits based around your income and expenditures and stick to them. Treat gambling expenses like any other leisure activity - and never chase losses. Chasing losses is like going clothes shopping to take your mind off the amount you've spent on clothes that week!
However, If gambling causes you to miss payments or default on loans that will severely damage your credit score.
And if you borrow money to finance your gambling then you are running the risk of your credit score taking a hit. Borrowing money includes using a credit card or overdraft - either for the funds to gamble with or to cover your expenses that the money you lost gambling was supposed to cover.
In 2020, the UK banned the use of credit cards for gambling, citing the risk of people gambling with money they don't have. You can only use your credit cards in jurisdictions that allow casinos to accept them.
Now, if you take out a personal loan to gamble with but pay it off by making all the payments on time, then that shouldn't hurt your credit score. In fact it might help it.
But gambling with borrowed money is one of the riskiest things you can do.
There are no sure things in gambling, after all. If you lose the money you borrow and you can't pay it back, then your credit score is going to take a serious beating.
Taking casino credit can also hurt your credit score if you don't have the funds to pay it back - or if you apply for casino credit from a lot of casinos in a short period of time.
Factors That Hurt Your Credit Score?
Your credit score is not some fixed, objective number - it will differ between credit rating agencies. It's just the number they have come up with based on the information on your credit file.
Likewise, every lender usually has their own way of scoring your credit-worthiness. However, your credit score is a good indicator of how easy you will find it to get credit, so it's worth understanding what can affects your credit rating.
Missing and Late Payments
Late payments are one of the worst things for your credit score. Payment history is the most important factor that most credit agencies and lenders take into account.
Usually lenders will record a missed payment to your credit file after 30 days. Each one you have on your credit file will harm your score, with payments later than 90 days causing more damage.
Missed payments stay on your file for years, but the older the incident is, the less impact it will have on your credit score.
If there's one thing worse than missing a payment, it's letting a loan default. This is where the lender closes your account because you've failed to keep up with the payments. A default stays on your credit file for years and makes it much harder to get credit.
If you are having trouble meeting your loan obligations, it's much better to contact your lender and arrange a payment plan - or look into debt consolidation or debt management. Don't bury your head in the sand, be proactive (your credit score will thank you for it).
Not Being on the Electoral Roll
Lenders use electoral roll data to confirm the identity of people applying for credit. If there's no record of you on there, it's a big red flag. It'll also hurt your credit score if the information is out of date because you've moved house.
So even if you've never voted and never plan to, it's worth making sure you are registered to vote for the sake of you credit rating.
Applying for Too Much Credit Too Quickly
When you apply for credit, the lender will carry out a search on your credit file. This can be a soft search or a hard search. A soft search won't affect your credit score, but a hard search will.
If you apply for a lot of credit in a short period time, and the lenders all carry out hard searches on your credit file, then this can really hurt your credit score. Casinos will usually carry out a search before agreeing to give you credit - so it's not a good idea to get casino credit loans from five different casinos in one day.
Lenders don't like lending to people who try to borrow a lot of money. That's the paradox of borrowing: the more it looks like you actually need a loan, the less likely you are to get it!
Not Resolving Credit Overdrafts
There are two main kinds of credit: instalment and revolving. Instalment credit includes things like personal loans, auto loans and mortgages. They involved borrowing a fixed amount that you pay back over a fixed period of time.
Revolving credit on the other hand includes things like overdrafts and credit cards. There's a set limit to what you can borrow but you don't have to borrow it all at once. You borrow and pay back whatever you want within the overall limit, as and when you want.
It might be tempting to just use revolving credit as if it was a personal loan by borrowing the maximum all in one go and then pay it back gradually. But this is a bad idea.
Your credit score is impacted by something called "credit utilization" - basically the ratio between your available revolving credit and the amount you've used. A high credit utilization lowers your credit score - really you want to keep it under 30%.
So if you have an overdraft of $1000 plus a credit card with a $1000 limit, that gives you a total revolving credit of $2000. 30% of that is $600. You should try to make sure you don't borrow any more than that between the two for any extended period of time.
Short or Non-Existent Credit History
You might think that never having borrowed money would mean you have a great credit score - but in fact the opposite is true.
Your credit score takes into account the length of time you've held credit accounts, and the longer the better.
If you have little or no credit history, that's known as a "thin file", and it won't help your credit score.
It may seem strange that never having taken credit is seen as a risk factor, but it's more important to a lender that you can manage credit rather than whether you've ever needed credit in the first place. They want to know you'll pay them on time.
Because of this, it's beneficial for your credit score to have and use at least one credit card - even if you don't actually need it. Just make sure you pay off the balance every month.
Dangers of Going Into Debt With Gambling
Gambling should always be fun - not something that negatively impacts your life.
The vast majority of gamblers will never have a problem, just like most drinkers don't become alcoholics. Gambling is just an entertaining pastime like any other. But for some it can become a compulsion that takes over their life.
If you are borrowing money to gamble with - or to pay bills you can't afford because of gambling - then you should seriously consider whether you have a gambling problem.
This is especially true if you are chasing losses. Chasing losses is bad enough when you're doing it with your own money, but doing it with borrowed money is a recipe for disaster.
Often problem gamblers get into a downward spiral of borrowing to chase losses, losing again, then borrowing again - until they are deep in debt.
Gambling addiction is extremely serious - it ruins lives. Not just for the gambler but their loved ones too. Don't let it happen to you. Only ever gamble for fun - with money you can afford to lose.
If you do think you have a problem then don't hide it - face up to it and seek help.
Methods to Resolve Gambling Debt
If you do happen to run up gambling debt, then it's important to take control of it before it gets out of hand.
Set Financial Blockage
First, you need to stop yourself spending any more money on gambling.
Nowadays it's easier than ever to control your spending. Firstly, you can self-exclude from gambling sites - meaning you won't be able to use them even if you do have a moment of weakness.
You can also use an online banking card like Monzo or Revolut that allows you to block spending on certain activities, such as gambling.
These apps help with budgeting too, helping you pay down the debt faster.
Enjoy Free Games
If you still want to experience gambling games but without risking money then there are plenty of options out there - free online slots, play money poker, play-for-fun casino games.
Just be careful playing for free won't trigger the urge to play for real money. If you're worried about that, maybe consider taking up a different hobby instead.
If you have a lot of different debts, you might be paying more in interest than you would if you consolidated them all into one debt. This is especially true with credit card and payday loan debt.
Debt consolidation works by taking out one large loan to pay off all your other debts. The new loan has a lower interest rate and so you end up paying less interest over the lifetime of your debt. It's not for everyone though, and it's worth getting advice before you do this.
An alternative is Debt Management, where a third party works with your creditors to draw up payments plans. There are companies that charge a fee for this service but also charities that do it for free.
Does sports betting affect your credit score? Not if you're smart - but it definitely can if you're not careful. If you have to borrow money - either to gamble with or to replace the money you lost gambling - that's a recipe for trouble. Know your limits and stay in control - gambling is too much fun to have to quit!
This article was published on March 28, 2021, and last updated on October 26, 2022.