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How to help someone who gambles

Want to help someone with a gambling problem but not sure what to do? Find practical advice and support services below.

Know what they’re going through

Quite often, a person who is struggling with their gambling may feel like they have little or no control. Learn about what they might be going through so you know the best way to help.

How to talk to someone about their gambling

It can be difficult to know what to say to someone who’s gambling. Often they might not see that they have a problem, or they may be convincing themselves that they have their gambling under control when they don’t. If you’re worried about someone’s gambling, the below advice might help you approach the topic with them:

When speaking to someone about their gambling, it’s important to let them know that the reason you’re concerned is because you care about them. If they feel they are understood, they are more likely to talk openly and honestly, which will allow you to develop and negotiate a plan together. Although it may feel difficult to do so, try to be positive with your communication, and avoid saying things that might come across critical or cause confrontation.

Explaining how you feel might help to lessen the gambler’s defences and keep the conversation open. You could try using ‘I’ instead of ‘you’ to avoid sounding accusatory.

We’ve written a few examples to help you start the conversation, but remember to be yourself, so your conversation sounds natural and genuine. 

  • I’ve noticed you’ve been gambling a lot recently and it’s starting to make me worry. 
  • You’re my friend and I care about you a lot which is why I’m saying this. I’m upset because I’ve seen you do things that are really risky.
  • I can see you’re not happy at the moment and that upsets me. I want to help.
  • I love you and I don’t want you to hurt yourself. Talk to me about what’s going on.

Once you’ve started the conversation, be patient and listen carefully to what they say without being judgemental. Try not to interrupt when they’re talking, as this might stop them from wanting to talk, or make them defensive. It’s important to be calm and caring, but be careful not to allow them to make excuses for their gambling. 

If the gambler is under the age of 18, see our advice on ‘how to help a young person

Key steps to take financially

To be extra safe, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re protecting your own finances too. Keep your passwords private and protect your joint accounts. If someone you know is having financial difficulties because of gambling, they may find it useful to use gambling blocking tools. You could also encourage them to speak to their bank, as there may be a number of ways they can help too

Avoid rewarding gambling behaviour

Giving or lending money to someone who gambles could make their problem worse. Instead, think about setting up a system that rewards positive behaviour instead. For example, you might consider not lending money if they continue to gamble, however, if they cut back or stop gambling you could offer to conditionally help to pay off a bill. 

Keep in mind that when the gambler has paid all their debts, this can be a time when they are vulnerable to relapse. 

For example some gamblers may begin convincing themselves that once the debts are paid off, a small gamble may be acceptable.  

Make sure you're looking out for you too

If you’re worried about someone’s gambling, you might also be feeling angry, hurt or betrayed. It can be difficult dealing with these emotions, but it is completely normal.

However you’re feeling, it’s important to not blame yourself or the other person. Gambling is an addictive behaviour, and gambling disorder is a recognised medical issue that can develop because of a number of reasons.  There are many ways you can help someone who gambles, but remember, it’s not your job to change their behaviour. There are many support services available to help a gambler, and if you’re struggling, there’s help and support for you too.