Recognising Problem Gambling

Responsible gamblers budget a certain amount of money to wager on their games, but some people are tempted to spend more than they can afford. In some cases, gambling becomes a real problem and leads to hardship for the individual and his/her family. Some people encounter problems at work and even lose their jobs. When this starts happening, or even if it simply starts interfering with your normal social and family activities, it is time to start taking remedial action, because it means you have developed a gambling problem. Compulsive gambling can also lead to crime, because people will then go to extreme lengths to get money to support their gambling habit.

The following international definition explains what the term means: ‘Problem gambling is characterised by many difficulties in limiting money and/or time spent on gambling, which leads to adverse consequences for the gambler, others, or for the community.’

What to look out for

These are the things to look out for as signs of gambling addiction:

  • Being preoccupied with gambling, or thinking of it all the time.
  • Gambling with increasingly large amounts of money until you in financial difficulty.
  • Gambling for longer and longer periods, more and more regularly.
  • Lying or trying to hide the fact that you are gambling so often and/or with so much money.
  • Neglecting family and friends because you are too preoccupied with gambling.
  • Developing problems at work because you are focussed on gambling.
  • Developing health issues (such as severe lack of sleep or bad eating habits) due to gambling.
  • Criminal behaviour (such as theft or fraud) to get hold of money for gambling.
  • Developing emotional issues due to gambling, to the point where you might even contemplate suicide.
  • Regularly combining gambling with other risky behaviours, such as alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Trying to stop, but instead going back to gamble even more.


Like any other form of addiction, the first thing to do in terms of gambling addiction is to acknowledge the problem. As soon as you realise you have developed the problem, or are at risk of becoming an addict, you should then look for help – because as mentioned under the symptoms, people battle to stop on their own.

There are professionals and organisations in New Zealand who can provide advice and help manage your life without gambling. It is better to ask for help than for the problem to become worse. You may be reluctant to discuss the details of your problem with strangers, but asking for help is not a disgrace – it takes courage to acknowledge you have a problem.

Most professionals specialising in addiction problems use a combination of methods. Among others they will provide detailed advice and counselling, assist you to work through self-help programmes, or suggest relevant peer-support programmes.

If you realise you have developed a gambling addiction problem, you could start finding solutions by contacting one of the organisations in New Zealand that specialise in helping people to manage their gambling addiction:

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