02 October, 2020

Worried someone you care about might have a gambling problem?

A gambling problem or gambling addiction can have serious impacts on the gambler and the people around them. These impacts aren’t just financial, either. Problem gambling can lead to relationship breakdowns and can negatively impact mental health, causing depression and anxiety.

Recovering from a gambling problem isn’t easy, and the right encouragement from friends and family can make a significant difference. But where do you even start?

It can be hard to know how to help a loved one with unhealthy gambling habits. We hope this advice helps you better understand what they may be going through, provide support, and encourage them on the road to recovery.


Know the signs

A gambling problem can be easy to hide. Some signs of a gambling problem can be so subtle that even the gambler may not think they have an issue.

Not all gambling is a problem. But if someone you care about is displaying these signs, it may mean gambling has become a problem for them.

  • Hiding the extent of their gambling
  • Trying to win back their gambling losses
  • Feeling guilty or remorseful about gambling
  • Arguing with family and friends after gambling
  • Withdrawing and disconnecting from their loved ones
  • Spending more time or money gambling than planned
  • Borrowing money, getting a loan, or selling their things to gamble
  • Finding it hard not to gamble at every opportunity, or to stop gambling once they’ve started
  • Neglecting other activities to gamble (e.g. work, time with friends and family, their regular leisure activities).

These are just some behaviours that might indicate a gambling problem or compulsion.


Understand problem gambling

It’s important to remember that gambling is the problem – the person is not. As well as knowing what warning signs to look for, it may help to deepen your understanding of why your loved one might be gambling in the first place.

Knowing more about their situation can help you develop understanding and compassion – even if you’re angry or upset with them for their gambling behaviours.

Some common reasons people gamble include:

  • Out of boredom or loneliness
  • To escape worries, problems, and negative emotions.

Many problem gamblers feel shame and guilt around their behaviour and how it impacts those around them. Unfortunately, these overwhelming emotions can lead to ongoing gambling.


Start the conversation

Raise the topic in a private setting when you’re one-on-one. You might like to gently bring it up after you’ve already been talking about other things to ensure they’re comfortable and relaxed.

Try to voice your concern in a respectful and calm way, and avoid coming across as accusatory or judgemental. This can make them become defensive or shut down entirely. Instead of pointing the finger, use “I” statements to tell them what’s been worrying you.

For example:

  • “I feel like gambling is affecting our relationship.”
  • “I’ve noticed you’re spending a lot of time on gambling apps.”
  • “I’m worried betting is causing stress for you.”


Suggest helpful resources

You can’t force your friend or family member to stop gambling. Instead, offer some relevant resources to encourage them to start their journey to recovery.

  • Check Your Gambling – This short online quiz allows users to check whether their gambling is becoming a problem based on the Problem Gambling Severity Index.
  • Spend Calculator – This gambling spend calculator requires users to think about how much they really spend on gambling, and what that money could be buying them instead.
  • Self-Exclusion – A self-exclusion or self-ban allows users to ban themselves from specific gambling providers, products, or services.
  • 1800 858 858 – This gambling helpline is available 24/7. Anyone impacted by gambling can call to talk to a gambling counsellor over the phone or book a face-to-face counselling session.


Get support for yourself

Those close to someone with problem gambling behaviour can often experience feelings of sadness, stress, anger, and hopelessness. It's important to prioritise your own emotional wellbeing and seek help if needed.

It's easy to focus all your energy and attention on trying to change the behaviour of the gambler - but this can mean your own self-care and needs are forgotten.

Friends and family of problem gamblers are also eligible for counselling support. This support may help you to develop strategies to care for yourself while supporting your loved one, take care of your own mental health and wellbeing, and learn ways to reduce the harm caused by your loved one's gambling behaviour. You can learn more about our Gambling Help Program here, or call us on 1300 364 277 to make an appointment.


Is gambling a common argument topic in your relationship? Learn how to have a healthy argument and what to avoid in the heat of the moment with our article How to Fight Fair in a Relationship.