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How to help someone who gambles

How to help someone who gambles

If there is someone in your life whose gambling is causing you concern, there are lots of ways that you can support them — and yourself.

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Try to understand what they’re going through

People who gamble may start to hide their gambling and feel they have little or no control over the situation. Learning about what they are going through may help you to support them.

Having a conversation is a great starting point.  The best way to start a conversation with them is to show empathy, and reassure them that you’re not going to judge them, so they feel more comfortable about opening up.

Let’s open up about gambling
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Take care of yourself too

Feeling that someone is hiding something can cause you to feel hurt or 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: there are many support services available to help the both of you. You can only take care of someone else when you’re looking after yourself too.

How to look 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 talking about gambling, especially if the person who is gambling doesn’t recognise that their behaviour is affecting their life.

Make sure you let them know that the reason you’re concerned is because you care and you want to help.

If they feel safe and supported, they’re more likely to talk openly and honestly.

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


Explain your side

They may not be aware that their behaviour is affecting you or others, so explaining how you feel using “I” rather than “You”, to help them understand your perspective. 

The more we can all open up about gambling, the more we can reduce the harm it causes. If you’re unsure about how to talk about someone’s gambling, read our suggested conversation starters that may be a useful guide.

Start a conversation

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

Protect your finances

If you have noticed that someone is having financial difficulties because of gambling, encourage them to get professional financial support.

It’s also a good idea to protect your own finances by keeping your passwords private and securing funds in any joint accounts you may share with the person who gambles. If you have children with the person who you’re worried about, make sure the children’s accounts or savings aren’t accessible.

Our budgeting and finances advice page has more information on how you or someone who gambles can get the right financial support for your unique situation.

Help with budgeting and finances
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Don’t financially contribute towards gambling

It might be tempting to give or lend money to help them pay off their debts, but it’s not likely to help them in the long run. In fact, it could make things worse, and it puts your own money at risk.

Celebrate their progress

Encouraging them  

Celebrating progress is really important for encouraging success. 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:

Moving forwards

Progress is always positive, but keep in mind that when someone has paid off their debts, this can be a time when they could relapse.

Some people might begin to convince themselves that because their gambling is no longer as harmful, occasional gambling might not impact them.

Continue to offer them support and if they do start gambling again, try not to be too disappointed. It may help to encourage them to write down what led to their relapse, so they can begin to understand more about why it may have happened and what they should watch out for in the future.

There are a lot of organisations and information out there to support anyone who’s being affected by gambling. The first step is to start talking about it.