The Counselling Centre

Problem & Compulsive Gambling

One of the biggest problems related to gambling and other compulsive and addictive behaviours is that the person with the problem tends to be the last one to see it.

According to the Texas Council on Problem and Compulsive Gambling, "problem gambling" is an early stage of the disease, characterized by personal and relationship problems related to gambling. "Compulsive gambling" is the advanced stage and involves behaviour that is out of control.

What is Gambling?

Risking money or valuables in hopes of winning more than you're risking is gambling. Calling it a "friendly bet," or a "gentleman's bet," or saying "We're just making the game a little more interesting" does not alter the fact that it is still gambling. Gambling can include buying instant lottery tickets, playing the on-line or video lottery games, playing cards, dice, or dominoes, playing in casinos, playing slot machines, betting on sporting events (with or without a bookie), betting on the horses or greyhounds, betting on games of skill (bowling, pool, golf, video or arcade games), and many other activities.

How to tell if Gambling is a "Problem"

Here's a self-test. Answer "yes" or "no" to the following questions:

  1. Do you ever lose time at school or work due to gambling?
  2. Did you ever gamble to get money with which to pay debts or otherwise solve financial difficulties?
  3. After losing did you feel you must return to gambling as soon as possible to win back your losses?
  4. Do you sometimes gamble until your last dollar is gone?
  5. Do you ever borrow to finance your gambling?
  6. Have you ever sold anything to finance your gambling?
  7. Did you ever gamble longer than you had planned?
  8. Have you ever gambled to escape worry or trouble?
  9. Has gambling ever made your life unhappy?
  10. Has gambling ever been a source of conflict in a relationship?
  11. Has gambling ever been a source of conflict with your friendship, parents and/or relationships?
  12. Do you keep your gambling activities secret from some people for fear that they will be critical, angry, or concerned for your welfare?
  13. Have you ever felt remorse after gambling?
  14. After a win did you have a strong urge to return and win more?
  15. Did gambling ever cause you to lose sleep?
  16. Did you ever celebrate any good fortune by going gambling?
  17. Have you ever committed, or considered committing, an illegal act to finance gambling?
  18. Have you ever felt self-destructive as a result of gambling losses?
  19. Have you ever claimed to be winning money gambling, but you weren't really? In fact, you lost?
  20. Have you ever felt like you would like to stop betting, but didn't think you could?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, we would encourage you to consider your potential for "problem gambling". If you answered "yes" to 3 of these questions, you are involved in "problem gambling." And if you answered "yes" to 7 or more, you may be a compulsive gambler.

Adapted from the University of Texas at Austin website

Overcoming a Gambling Problem

  • Know that no matter how much you practice gambling, it will not affect your chances of winning big.
  • Try to reduce your need for money by cutting back on expenses so you will have less of an urge to try to win easy money.
  • Take a detour so you don’t have to pass by a casino or other gambling location on your way to school.
  • Only carry enough money with you to get you through the week.
  • Keep a record of everything you spend and make a budget.
  • Reward yourself when you choose not to gamble.
  • Take up a fun hobby or sport with other people.
  • Never gamble more than you’re willing to lose.
  • Cut up credit cards and debit cards.
  • Leave cheque books at home at all times.
  • See a counsellor or join a support group.
  • Educate yourself on gambling addictions.
  • If you are going to gamble, never go alone.
  • Set a limit and ask a friend to help you stick to it.
  • Ban yourself from casinos.

What if a friend has a gambling problem?

One of the hardest things about helping people with gambling problems is that they are very likely to deny they have any problem even when it's obvious to people around them. "It's no problem for me. I can quit any time I want." "It's not a big deal. I can cover my debts." "When I'm hot, I win back even more than I've lost." If you think a friend has a gambling problem, show your concern. Don't avoid the topic. Do avoid sermons, lectures, judging and verbal attacks. Don't continue the conversation if you begin to feel impatient or angry. You may encounter defensiveness and denial. Don't take this personally, but make it clear you're concerned and tell the person how his or her gambling behaviour affects you. You may have to set limits with the person. Don't be manipulated into excusing, justifying, overlooking, enabling or participating in the person's self-defeating behaviours. If the person agrees that he or she has a problem, try to:

  • Remain supportive and reinforce even small efforts toward change. Be prepared for some steps backward as a normal part of the recovery process. Help the person make contact with recovering gamblers and professionals that provide counselling.
  • Encourage activities that are not related to gambling, and curb your own gambling behaviours.

Educate yourself about problem and compulsive gambling. The Counselling Centre offers individual and couples counselling to help with these issues.

For more information, call The Counselling Centre at 420-5615 or drop by our office on the 4th floor of the Student Centre.

Gambling Help Line 1-888-347-8888