Responsible Gambling

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Gambling Addiction

Gambling is a thrilling and fun activity. However, for some players, gambling can turn into an addiction. Gambling addicts can lose control of their gambling habits and may find themselves caught up in the dark side of gambling. What is supposed to be a harmless, fun activity can become a dangerous obsession for some.

What is Gambling Addiction?

Gambling addiction, otherwise called Ludomania, is an impulse control disorder where a person keeps on gambling even when it harms both them and the people surrounding them. Symptoms of gambling addiction usually vary from one person to another, depending on the form of gambling.

For instance, gambling for compulsive gamblers begins as an innocent hobby but can quickly become a big problem. If gambling disrupts a person’s normal daily activities, it is considered a gambling addiction.

Common Types of Gambling Addiction

There are various gambling addictions, which we’ve broken down below so you can easily recognize them.

Binge Gambling

When a compulsive gambler still has control of his gambling, he is called a binge gambler. Binge gamblers can go for several months or weeks without displaying any signs of gambling addiction. However, the compulsive gambling habits of binge gamblers can appear when they finally decide to start betting. It is often tough for them to stop themselves or for someone to prevent them from betting.

Compulsive Gambling

A compulsive gambler cannot control the urge or desire to gamble. This gambling addiction pushes the limits because the person cannot resist it. In most cases, a compulsive gambler is aware of the negative effects the habit will have on them and the people around them, their daily lives, and their finances, yet they will still gamble. They usually make huge wagers despite knowing that they must not lose.

Problem Gambling

Most of the time, these gamblers often find themselves chasing loss or thinking about betting. Although they might try to stop the gambling urge, they usually end up forgoing their gambling responsibilities. As a result, their everyday lives become disrupted, affecting them and their loved ones.

Signs and Symptoms of Gambling Addiction

Physical symptoms and signs of gambling addiction are not always obvious, like alcohol or drug addiction. This is why many gamblers continue gambling until they face financial problems.

However, there are sure signs and symptoms that people should look out for. Once they find themselves doing any of these things or showing symptoms, they may want to talk to someone about gambling addiction. According to DSM (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), a player must show at least four of the signs below within one year before they are considered a gambling addict:

Gamblers are advised not to rely only on these symptoms but to also go for medical diagnosis to find out if they have a gambling addiction or not. Similarly, players who have exhibited at least 4 of these symptoms should see a medical practitioner, such as a psychiatrist or other mental health professionals. The professional is in the best position to diagnose and determine if the player is addicted to gambling or is simply experiencing signs of other mental health conditions.

Many people with gambling addiction have other disorders like bipolar, ADHD, substance abuse, and depressive disorders.

Causes of Gambling Addiction

The primary causes of gambling addiction are unknown, but different factors can contribute to gambling addiction. These factors include massive first wins, mental conditions, and desperation for money.

Biological Causes

How the brain responds to betting is said to be one of the significant causes of gambling addiction. Scientists have revealed that the problem often results from how the brain reacts to a gambling win, as it produces a neurological response similar to when a cocaine addict consumes the drug.

On the other hand, compulsive gambling has also been linked to deficiencies in norepinephrine (stress hormone and neurotransmitter) and serotonin (the feel-good chemical). Therefore, a particular group of people may be liable to develop addiction disorders based on their genetic traits.

Psychological Causes

The way an individual perceives gambling may play an active role in determining whether the person will have a gambling problem or not. For instance, loss-chasing is a primary factor in gambling addiction. The gambler keeps going deeper down the rabbit hole while holding on to the next bet and denying that their gambling habits are harming them.

People with gambling addiction usually have a dim view of gambling as they are typically optimistic even when they keep on losing. An individual can also become prone to problem gambling because of the possibility and excitement of winning many times. This is most common with fast-paced gamblers who prefer fast-paced games like slot machines.

Some individuals get hooked on gambling after their first massive win, mainly when it covers the losses they incurred in their previous wagers. These individuals are more disposed to addiction if they continue placing bets with the hope of getting another massive win.


Although some medications might not likely cause gambling addiction, they could trigger the problem. For instance, antipsychotics and dopamine agonists have been associated with increased chances of gambling addiction.

Social Causes

Depression, job loss, desperation for money, and stress are some factors that trigger compulsive gambling. Although gambling addictions are not genetic, they can be passed from older to younger family members by direct teaching or influence. Social factors like the availability of gambling options and having friends that bet frequently can also trigger gambling addiction.

Recognizing Gambling Addiction

Most people with gambling addiction do not often notice the problem until it becomes too late, and they lose their jobs and run into financial debt. This is why gamblers must see the symptoms of gambling early so that they can reach out for help.

Many people with gambling addiction often deny that they have a problem even when the signs are apparent. If you feel you are getting addicted to online betting sites, or your family members and loved ones are concerned about your gambling habits and notice a change in your behaviour, you probably need help.

Gamblers sometimes try to make excuses for their gambling addiction and make it look like they can control their gambling habits. However, this ends up prolonging the problem and making it harder to stop the gambling addiction.

Self-Help Strategies for Gambling Problems

The first step toward conquering gambling addiction is for players to recognize and admit that they have a problem. There are self-help tactics that gamblers can use to help them overcome their gambling addiction. The strategies include:

Treatment For Gambling Addiction

It is not easy to quit gambling, but it is also not impossible. There are many types of treatment for the problem, and the following methods have proved to be quite successful.


Some medications can reduce the urge to gamble. Anti-seizure drugs and antidepressants have been effective so far in handling gambling addiction.


Psychotherapy is an effective way to treat gambling addiction and helps with relapses. It is a spoken therapy that helps improve the gambler’s behaviours and habits. The therapy treatment can be very effective if the gambler has other underlying issues that cause them to gamble.

Prevalence of Gambling Addiction Worldwide

It is challenging to know the exact number of people with gambling addiction in New Zealand because most official records come from the gamblers’ self-report. For example, the number of people suffering from gambling addiction in Canada is around 1.1 million, representing about 3% of the entire population. Similarly, people with problem gambling in the US make up about 2-3% of the population.

On the other hand, the number of gamblers in the UK seems to be higher. A survey carried out by YouGov shows that about 1.4 million people, or 2.7% of adults, have a gambling problem. However, according to the UK Gambling Commission, these figures are just estimates as the official figure remains 0.7%. According to the statistics, men bet more than women; this implies that men are more prone to become gambling addicts than women.

Unfortunately, many gamblers are reluctant to join groups and organizations that will help them overcome gambling problems. Some gambling addicts may overcome the habits when they change their behaviour or lifestyle with support from friends and families. However, many others continue to gamble and lose several years of their lives to the harmful act without making an effort to seek help.

Effects of Gambling Addiction

Like every other addiction, gambling addiction comes with several long-term and short-term negative effects, some of which are glaringly obvious. The negative effects of gambling addiction include:

Financial Ruin

People suffering from gambling addiction or gambling problems often find themselves in a deep financial crisis, like accumulating huge debts. In contrast, others even gamble away their most prized assets like cars, homes, etc. Compulsive gamblers face worse repercussions; not only do they lose their finances, but they also put the finances of their colleagues, friends, and families at stake. In severe cases, compulsive gamblers even put investors’ funds and their jobs at stake, and this could lead to legal tussles and even jail terms.


It is not only a compulsive gambler that suffers the effect of gambling addiction; the families are also affected. Research has revealed that children of problem gamblers may suffer various forms of domestic violence and child abuse. They are more likely to suffer from mental health conditions and addictions later in life.

Mental Health

Constant betting often results in psychological and mental issues because the disorders affect the individual’s way of life and thinking. This leads to strained relationships and other social and mental problems such as suicide, anxiety, and depression.

How to Help Someone With Gambling Problems Or Addiction

As we earlier mentioned, the signs of a gambling problem or addiction are not always obvious, especially in problem gamblers. Even family members living with gamblers may not quickly notice that they have a gambling addiction until it is too late.

Here are certain signs to look out for in a gambler:

Once you notice any of the above signs in your loved ones, try to help them. Do not ridicule them, threaten them to stop, or judge them because they may become withdrawn and reluctant to share their problems with you. What you should do as a concerned and caring friend or family member is educate yourself on how to help them overcome the gambling addiction. You must show them that you are ready to support them in any way possible.

Avoid offering them financial assistance or volunteering to pay their debts because that might encourage them to gamble more. The best way to help problem gamblers is to participate in their treatment. You can also connect them to a financial service provider who will draw out a plan to settle their debts.

Stopping Suicide in People With Gambling Addiction

In some cases, compulsive gamblers often choose suicide as their last resort when they finally lose control. Suppose you notice that your friends, colleague, or family member is constantly withdrawing from meetings or is feeling depressed; you can help them by dialling the suicide helpline.

Different countries have set up national organizations for suicide prevention to help people with suicidal thoughts due to gambling addiction or other causes; here are some of the helplines:

Gambling Addiction Resources

In addition to those resources in New Zealand, several organisations have been set up around the world to help people with gambling addictions. The organizations treat problem gamblers using several treatment methods ranging from counselling and psychotherapy to group meetings with other people with similar conditions.

Similarly, the organizations use advanced treatment programs that sometimes involve medication use. Although there are plenty of these organizations worldwide, we recommend using the most trusted ones to help gamblers overcome their addictions.

  1. Addiction Center: This resource centre owned by Recovery Worldwide was founded in 2014 and has provided guidance and assistance to individuals with gambling addiction and other mental disorders. Addiction centre plays the middleman between treatment solutions and problem gamblers while working with renowned treatment centres to offer financial solutions, counselling, and rehab placement. You can check them out at:
  2. Gamblers Anonymous: Founded in 1957, Gamblers Anonymous is one of the oldest help organizations dedicated to helping people with gambling addictions. Through its local groups, the organization has continued to offer all-around assistance to gamblers and their loved ones. is their website address.
  3. The National Council on Problem Gambling: The council was founded by Irving Sacher, Robert Custer, and Joseph Dunne in 1972 and has since grown to become the main support centre for problem gamblers while focusing on assisting addicts to overcome their ugly gambling addiction. NCPG also provides problem gamblers with vital information guides that help them get the treatment they need. The National Council on Problem Gambling is not against gambling activities; it is a neutral body. Find out more at
  4. Responsible Gambling Council: Gamblers or their loved ones seeking help and resources can reach out to this council on their hotline at +1 (416) 499-9800 or on the website The Responsible Gambling Council is an organization that is dedicated to diminishing the risk of gambling addiction through discovery, innovation, and awareness.
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Last updated: February 24, 2023