Deciding to talk about it

If you think someone close to you has a gambling problem, taking the first step to help them can be difficult. They may feel embarrassed or ashamed, or they may actually feel in control of their gambling and think they don't need to change.

Should you say something?

People with gambling problems often aren't aware they are affecting others. Once they understand how much their gambling is hurting those close to them, many take their first steps towards getting help.

Deciding whether to say something isn't easy, and it can be complicated by the nature of your relationship. For example, you may be concerned about a friend's gambling, and not know if their partner or family are aware of it. You may wonder whether it's your place to say something.

While it's difficult, if you're concerned that someone close to you has a gambling problem, it's best to say something to them, sooner rather than later.

To help work out the best way to approach the conversation you can:

Having the conversation

The best way to find out if someone has a gambling problem is to ask. Make sure you choose a time when you can talk in private and are both calm.

  • Let them know you're asking because you care about them.
  • Tell them about the impact their gambling is having on you and others – for example, your children.
  • Be non-judgemental and always focus on the gambling, not them, as the problem.
  • Avoid 'you' statements, such as 'you should' or 'you must'. This can sound like you're blaming them.

Gambling can be a huge stress on a family and relationships, so much so that in extreme cases it has been associated with domestic violence. Make sure you're going to be safe when you bring up gambling with the person you're concerned about.

Explain how you feel

Explain what you've noticed, why it concerns you and how it makes you feel. For example, you may have noticed that they:

  • have stopped doing activities they used to enjoy
  • have money troubles with other people
  • have more health or stress-related problems
  • are always short of money.

Listen to what they have to say

It's very important to listen to what the person with the gambling problem has to say.

They may say very little or deny there's a problem as they aren't ready to talk. They may get angry and tell you to mind your own business. If they deny they have a problem or get angry, you can:

  • ask them to at least think about their gambling
  • ask them to take the test to help work out if their gambling is a problem
  • give them information about where to get help anyway – when they calm down they just might follow up
  • take a break and agree on another time to talk.

Often, people are relieved to finally talk about their gambling. An honest, non-confrontational discussion can be just what they need to get started on the road to recovery.

You could then look at:

Getting help

For more information about getting help if someone close to you has a gambling problem, see:

You can also call Gambler's Help on 1800 858 858 or Gambler's Help Youthline on 1800 262 376 for free, confidential, professional advice and support. These phone lines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you would like to chat live with a counsellor online, visit gambling help online. This service is also available 24/7.

Find out more about the many ways to get help, including help for young people.

Support, advice, counselling

Read more about how we are putting families and friends at the forefront of our thinking in reducing harm caused by problem gambling.

Read the paper (PDF - 630 KB)