The gambling industry’s takings have almost doubled from 2006 – 2016 (from £8 million to £14 million). Its success can be blamed on gambling’s appeal to our craving for the thrills of risk taking and instant reward. However, the odds are not always in the player’s favour, and when gambling is not controlled, the house always wins.

Problem gambling, or a gambling disorder, is defined as gambling behaviour which results in the disruption or damage to an individual’s health, wellbeing, family life, personal and financial pursuits.

Gambling addiction is characterised by an individual’s urgent need or compulsion to keep gambling, regardless of the severe losses associated with doing so.

Gambling problems can cause lots of pain, but if you have problems with gambling and you’d like to stop, support and treatment is out there for you.

Gambling problems often make debt issues worse, and vice versa. It’s a vicious cycle: borrowing more money to pay for gambling can make your debts increase, and struggling to keep on top of your mounting debts can be a trigger for more gambling.

How common are gambling addictions?

A 2017 report by the Gambling Commission found that more than 2 million people are addicted to gambling or at risk of developing a problem.

Men are also 7.5 times more likely than women to be classed as problem gamblersNHS Questionnaire – Are you a problem gambler?

NHS questionnaire – Do you have a gambling problem?

Try this questionnaire:

  • Do you bet more than you can afford to lose?
  • Do you need to gamble with larger amounts of money to get the same feeling?
  • Have you tried to win back money you have lost (chasing losses)?
  • Have you borrowed money or sold anything to get money to gamble?
  • Have you wondered whether you have a problem with gambling?
  • Has your gambling caused you any health problems, including feelings of stress or anxiety?
  • Have other people criticised your betting or told you that you had a gambling problem (regardless of whether or not you thought it was true)?
  • Has your gambling caused any financial problems for you or your household?
  • Have you ever felt guilty about the way you gamble or what happens when you gamble?

Score 0 for each time you answer “never”
Score 1 for each time you answer “sometimes”
Score 2 for each time you answer “most of the time”
Score 3 for each time you answer “almost always”

If your total score is 8 or higher, you may be a problem gambler.

What causes gambling addictions?

Is it not yet fully understood what ‘causes’ a gambling addiction. However, like many disorders, it is agreed that a combination of genetic, biological, environmental and personality factors are involved which interact together.

Although there is no concrete ‘cause’ of a gambling addiction, there are certain people who demographically appear to be at a higher risk of developing a problem. Gambling addiction can also co-exist alongside other addictions (e.g. drugs and alcohol) or develop alongside, or lead to, depression and anxiety. 

Further resources and support

There’s evidence that gambling addictions can be successfully treated in the same way as different addictions. It is possible to beat your gambling addiction, and the following places offer support:

  • GamCare offers free information, support and counselling for problem gamblers in the UK. It runs the National Gambling Helpline (0808 8020 133) and also offers face-to-face counselling.
  • National Problem Gambling Clinic – if you live in England or Wales, are aged 16 or over and have complex problems related to gambling, you can refer yourself to this specialist NHS clinic for problem gamblers.
  • Gamblers Anonymous UK run local support groups that use the same 12-step approach to recovery from addiction as Alcoholics Anonymous.