I have heard from many online gamblers that they would like to have a way to guarantee that they can’t gamble online. In other words, they are so miserable about their gambling problem, they are willing to do just about anything to stop.
There are a few software companies that are providing a solution for online gamblers. I’ve received some reports from gamblers who have used some of these gambling blockers and they raise some serious questions about how companies can take advantage of someone at a moment of weakness and desperation. So I thought I’d offer some advice.
There are a few products available that exclusively cater to compulsive gamblers seeking help. They all state that once installed, the filter can not be uninstalled during the license period. From a scan of comments and forums from users online, these companies refuse, under any circumstances, to allow the user to uninstall the filter software. I can understand why they do this and even moreso, why this might sound like a great idea to a problem gambler seeking help or a friend of a problem gambler trying to provide help. But as a software professional, I know that this is not a good approach. In fact, it is quite risky, especially for the customer.
Computers and software are never bug free. Just ask anyone who uses a Microsoft product. There has never been a software application that can work seamlessly with absolutely any other given software application on any given operating system. There are too many variables forbidding even the largest companies from testing every possible scenario before releasing a software version. And even if they could – by tomorrow, there are already additional variables out there that can cause a problem. Of course, most well established software vendors provide good solutions that work well on most installations. But even the giants have bugs. So imagine that a user has a gambling filter installed on his computer and one day, something goes wrong. But the filter company will not allow him to uninstall. If they did, after all, every gambler using the product would be tempted to uninstall by calling up the company and claiming that their computer crashes because of the filter.
So how should a gambler stop himself from gambling online? Don’t get me wrong. A web filter that blocks gambling sites is a great idea! Here is my advice, regarding choosing a gambling filter:
1. Know what you are committing to. Preferably get a web filter that offers a free trial so you can test it first.
2. During the testing period, test their support. Ask a question. If it is by email, make sure you get a timely reply that satisfies you. If it is by phone or chat, make sure they solve your problem.
3. Try some workarounds. Contact them to say you have no Internet access since installing. Check how they handle such a scenario. Do they provide uninstallation instructions as soon as you ask? Then it is to easy to uninstall. Do they refuse? Then what would you do if you really had such a situation – reformat your computer? It’s great that they are tough but if the filter could render a computer useless, you’d have to find an alternative Internet access anyway.
4. Those types of web filters, that can not be uninstalled during the license period, may be appealing to a problem gambler who wants to be discreet, but I believe there is nothing wrong with urging the problem gambler to reveal his struggle to at least one person who can be enlisted to provide some support. This way, by involving a sponsor, they can take responsibility for managing the filter and in case of emergency, they can uninstall and reinstall.
5. Consider why you may want to stop using any software product and it is the same for the gambling blocker: not satisfied with the filter, need to move the license to a new computer, need to sell the computer, decision to use another product, software conflict with other applications requires removal . . . If you have a sponsor with the password, that person is capable of deciding if the reason is valid and can reinstall when the time is right.
On one of the sites I reviewed for a Gambling blocker, I could not find a way to contact the company – not by phone and not by email. That really concerned me. I also searched for how to uninstall these programs and found many frustrated users posting on forums. Granted, some are frustrated because they want to gamble and can not, but most seemed to have run into genuine problems with no technical support to assist them.
Bottom line — in theory, it may seem like a good idea to help a compulsive gambler by placing a gambling lock on their computer that can absolutely not be removed. But in reality, software has bugs, no one can predict possible problems in a given installation and no matter what the condition of a customer, if they don’t want to use a product, they need to have the right to uninstall. Preventing workarounds can be easily rectified by bringing a sponsor on to help the problem gambler and be responsible for the web filter.