Gambling: harmless fun or an addiction?

Crown Casino and Entertainment Complex - MelbourneMost of us, from time to time, spend money gambling. After all, a day at the races, is always a bit of fun. Being part of a syndicate in the lottery is exciting. And even having trying your luck at the casino can be thrilling. But for some people gambling is problematic.


Why do people gamble?

There are many reasons why people gamble, whether it be on a sports game or purchasing a lottery ticket. Some do it for fun, others for excitement, the thrill of winning or simply to be social. Some people only bet once or twice a year, and some make it a weekly event. However, sometimes gambling for entertainment can take a sinister turn, and become an addictive habit.

Statistics show that as many as 500,000 Australians either have problems gambling or are at risk of becoming problem gamblers. Furthermore, one problem gambler affects between five and 10 other people. This equates to a possible 5 million Australians who are affected by gambling.


What do people gamble on?

Around two thirds of Australians gamble. In total, Australians spend around $20 billion annually on all forms of gambling. Statistics show the average Australian spends around $1641 each year gambling, while the average poker machine player spends $2,407 each year.

At risk or problem gamblers spend a whopping $11,500 each year on poker machines, while more than half of Australians buy lottery tickets or ‘scratchies’.

All forms of gambling are on the downward trend, except for two — racing and sports betting.

Sports betting has doubled in recent years with 1 in 7 Australians gambling on sports. This has coincided with extensive promotion of sports betting throughout the media.


Clues that gambling may be a problem

People who have a problem with gambling exhibit many signs. If you are concerned that someone close to you is gambling, keep an eye out for some of the following clues:

Financial clues

  • Unexplained debt or borrowing
  • Secrecy around money
  • Money/assets disappearing
  • Unpaid bills/disconnection notices/lack of food in the house
  • Missing financial statements and secret bank accounts/loans/credit cards

Emotional clues

  • Moodiness, unexplained anger or depression
  • Violence
  • Becoming withdrawn from family and friends

Behavioural clues

  • Avoiding social events
  • Skipping work or study to gamble
  • Secretiveness about activities
  • Defensive when questioned
  • Disappearing for amounts of time that cannot be accounted for
  • No time for everyday activities
  • Overuse of sick days and days off
  • Taking unusual amounts of time for tasks or coming home from work late.


Is gambling a problem for you?

According to Gambler’s Help, you may have a problem with gambling, if you:

  • Gamble to avoid dealing with problems or disappointments
  • Skip work or study to gamble
  • Spend more time gambling than with family and friends
  • Think about gambling every day
  • Gamble to win money, not just for fun
  • Gamble to win back money lost by gambling
  • Feel depressed because of gambling
  • Lie or keep secrets about gambling
  • Borrow money to gamble
  • Argue with family and friends about gambling or to have an excuse to go out and gamble
  • Gamble for longer periods of time than originally planned
  • Gamble until every dollar is gone
  • Lose sleep due to thinking about gambling
  • Don’t pay bills and use the money for gambling instead
  • Try to stop gambling, but can’t.
  • Become moody when trying to stop or cut down on gambling
  • Try to increase the excitement of gambling by placing bigger bets
  • Break the law to get money to gamble.


Help is available

Problem gambling can destroy lives. It can ruin relationships, cost you your marriage, and your job. However, help is available.

If gambling is affecting your life or the life of someone close to you, seek the support of a qualified counsellor who specialises in gambling support, for gamblers and those around them.

Types of support available may include:

  • Telephone help
  • Online help
  • Face-to-face
  • Online self-help tools
  • Financial counselling.

Making a decision to change your gambling behaviour can be scary, but it is possible to get it under control.

For further information, contact the Gambler’s Help Line on 1800 858 858 or visit



About the House Magazine, August 2012, Waiting for the Wins, Australian Government Publication

Problem Gambling,

Australian Institute of Family Studies, Sports betting on the rise, 26 November 2014,

Gambler’s Help,

Gambling Help Online,