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How to help a loved one who gambles

How to help a loved one who gambles

If you have a friend, spouse or family member whose gambling habits are causing you concern, there are ways that you can support them — and yourself. On this page, you’ll find practical advice and services recommended by experts.

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Try to understand what they’re going through

If someone close to you is struggling with gambling they may have tried to hide it from you, causing you to feel hurt or betrayed. Gambling can be an addictive behaviour, and gambling disorder is a recognised medical issue. Often, the person who is struggling with gambling may feel they have little or no control over the situation.

The best way to start a conversation with them is to show empathy, and reassure them that you’re not going to judge them. It's also important to understand that they may have hidden their gambling due to the stigma attached to it, which makes it more difficult to open up.

Understanding someone who gambles
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Take care of yourself too

If someone close to you is struggling with gambling and they've kept it from you, it might have caused you to feel hurt and betrayed. These are difficult emotions to deal with when you’re trying to show compassion, but they are completely normal, so try not to give yourself a hard time about it. 

Remember: it’s not your job to fix someone else’s behaviour. 
There are many support services available for both them and you. 

You can only take care of someone else when you’re looking after yourself too.

Looking out for you

How to talk to someone about their gambling

Talk to them with compassion

It’s difficult to know where to start when bringing up problems with gambling, especially if your loved one doesn’t recognise that their gambling is affecting their life.

Make sure you let them know that the reason you’re concerned is because you care about them.

If they feel safe, they’re more likely to talk openly and honestly, which will allow you to work together on a positive outcome.

Do your best to keep calm and positive with them, and avoid saying anything that might come across as critical or confrontational.

Explain your side

It probably hasn’t even occurred to them that their behaviour is affecting other people, so explaining how you feel might help to open their eyes. 

Stick to using “I” rather than “You” to avoid sounding accusatory.

Here are a few conversation starters to help you get the ball rolling. The more we can all open up about gambling, the more we can reduce the harm it causes.

use ‘I’ instead of ‘you’
to avoid sounding accusatory

use ‘I’ instead of ‘you’
to avoid sounding accusatory

Protect your finances

If someone you care about is having financial difficulties because of gambling, encourage them to get professional financial support. You could suggest that they speak with their bank, who may be able to help, or recommend that they set up gambling blockers on their devices.

Even if you trust your loved one, addiction can make people behave in ways that are outside of their usual character. 

It’s a good idea to protect your own finances by keeping your passwords private and protecting funds in any joint accounts you share with your loved one. If you have children with the person who you’re worried about, make sure the children’s accounts or savings are also protected.

Gambling blocking tools
Stacks of coins

Don’t contribute towards gambling

It might be tempting to give or lend money to someone you care about to pay off their debts, but it’s not likely to help the problem overall. In fact it could make things worse, and it puts your own money at risk. Lending money isn’t recommended, but if you do decide to do it, make sure you have financial controls in place to make sure they can’t spend it on gambling.

Celebrate their progress

Encouraging them

Rewarding positive behaviour is really important for encouraging success. While lending money to someone who is continuing to gamble is not helpful, it might be worth considering offering to help them pay off a bill when they have successfully cut back or quit to encourage their progress.

If they’re doing well, make sure you tell them so that they can recognise the positive impact of their progress. For example, you could say: