How to Recognise When Gambling Has Become a Problem


Gambling involves risking something of value (money or assets) on an event whose outcome is uncertain, in order to win something of greater value. The events that can be gambled on include sports, horse racing, lottery games, scratchcards, casino games and online gaming. In the latter case, the games are usually based on a random number generator and therefore the outcomes of each game are determined by chance.

It’s important to recognise when gambling has become a problem. Problem gambling can be addictive, impacting a person’s mental health, personal relationships, work or study performance and even their home life. It can also lead to financial difficulties, debt and bankruptcy. It can be difficult to identify and admit to a problem with gambling. People who have a gambling problem may try to hide their behaviour and lie about the amount of time or money they spend on gambling.

A small number of youth gambling assessment instruments have been developed to help clinicians screen for symptoms associated with pathological gambling. These include preoccupation with gambling, losing control of the frequency and intensity of gambling involvement, chasing losses by increasing the involvement in gambling and avoiding activities that would prevent or limit the involvement in gambling.

Counselling for gambling problems can be helpful, especially cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT looks at how a person thinks about gambling and what beliefs they have about it, such as that they are more likely to win than others, that certain rituals will bring them luck or that they can recover their losses by gambling more. It can also help to reduce risk factors for gambling by reducing the use of credit cards, taking out loans or carrying large amounts of money.