Promoting mental health, demystifying mental illness, countering stigma and discrimination


What is Gambling Addiction/Problem Gambling?

Some indicators of problem gambling:

  • A person who does not stop gambling, regardless of how bad things get.
  • A person who cannot resist the temptation to gamble.
  • A person who has problems with gambling believes that they are capable of winning. They may believe that they have secret knowledge (system or ritual) to influence a win.
  • A person who is not sure, or cannot decide, if they have a problem with gambling. This is because part of that person wants to gamble.
  • A person who cannot control their thinking about gambling.
  • People who gamble out of control will experience unmanageable lives (debts, relationships).

A questionnaire to evaluate gambling behaviours.

If the answer is 'yes' to any of the following questions, it would be useful to monitor and formulate safeguards for your gambling behaviours.

  • Are you having problems in controlling, cutting back, or stopping yourself from gambling?
  • Do you feel resentful, angry, or irritable when attempting to cut back or stop gambling?
  • Do you gamble to escape from problems or feelings of resentment, stress, boredom, guilt,anxiety or depression?
  • Have you ever gambled to get money to solve your financial problems?
  • After losing money gambling, do you often return to gambling to chase your losses?
  • After a win, do you have a strong urge to return to win more?
  • Do you find that you need increasing amounts of money to achieve the desired satisfaction?
  • Do you ever gamble longer than you planned?
  • Did you ever gamble until your last dollar was gone?
  • Have you ever relied on others for money lost through gambling?
  • Did gambling affect your reputation, or jeopardise a significant relationship, career, or educational opportunity?
  • Do you lie to family members, counsellors, or others to conceal the extent of your gambling?

What are the warning signs?

  • Unexplained absences.
  • Missing school, work or other appointments or meetings.
  • Is preoccupied with gambling, reliving gambling experiences, or thinking about ways to get money to gamble.
  • No longer pays bills on time.
  • Needs to gamble with a larger pot of money in order to achieve the desired level of excitement.
  • Shows signs of stress such as headaches and stomach problems.
  • Has more extreme high and low moods.
  • Tries repeatedly, but fails to control, cut back or to stop gambling.
  • Gambles as a way to escape from family or work problems or to relieve a depressed or unhappy mood.
  • Applies for new credit cards.
  • After losing money, often returns another day to get even.
  • Lies to family members, therapists, colleagues or to others to conceal the extent of the gambling habit.
  • Has committed illegal acts like forgery, fraud, theft, or embezzlement to finance their gambling habit.
  • Has jeoapardised or lost a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of the need to gamble.
  • Borrows money from friends, family, even strangers to pay off catastrophic debts from gambling.

Who is at Risk?

Problem gambling develops quickly...

Three per cent of the population has a problem with gambling. There are serious outcomes for this group, which often includes the loss of their house, job and life.

People who play pokies are more likely to develop problems. Over 80% of people who seek help identify pokies as their primary mode of gambling.

Regular and continuous modes of gambling are likely to be the most harmful.

More vulnerable groups are often more at risk. These groups include people who are depressed, lonely, trying to win money to pay off debts, escaping from problems, from low socio-economic areas, or have other compulsions. They are at greater risk if they start to gamble.

People who start to gamble and have a 'big win' can have unrealistic expectations about gambling. The bottom line is that the house will always win and the odds are always in favour of the house. There is no skill involved in playing 'pokie' machines.

The following are some strategies that may be helpful.

  • Don't gamble every week.
  • Leave your ATM card at home.
  • make a limit and stick to it.
  • Only gamble for fun or entertainment.
  • Be open to Whanau/family about your gambling and how often you do it.
  • Keep your winnings. If you make a win, collect and then put the winnings elsewhere so you don't spend it.
  • Don't borrow to gamble. If you can't afford it, don't do it.
  • When you lose don't spend your money chasing your losses, they will always be there and only get bigger. Know when to walk away.
  • Alcohol and gambling are a bad mix so be careful about drinking and gambling.
  • Don't go gambling alone. Make it a night out with friends and be sociable as well.
  • Don't gamble when you are depressed or to get rid of emotional or physical pain.
  • Be aware of the warning signs of problem gambling.

Why Gamblers seek help

  • Gambling environment becomes second home.
  • Money disagreements.
  • Lies uncovered.
  • Dwindling circle of friends.
  • Losing a relationship.
  • Crime discovered.
  • Debt mountain.
  • Homelessness.
  • Loss of control.

What can others do to help?

  • Talk to the person and tell them how you feel about their gambling. Don't accuse or blame.
  • Be a good listener. Let them share with you without your passing judgment. They may not feel they have a problem or they may be thankful for the chance to finally talk.
  • Be supportive. Offer ways to help them quit by spending time with them that doesn't involve gambling.
  • Help them make a plan and come up with ideas to take control back.
  • Help them to put a self-exclusion order/programme in place so they can't enter casinos or gambling venues.
  • Suggest  seeking help through treatment services.
  • Call a gambling helpline and get advice on the best way to support a problem gambler.
  • Do not give them any money.
  • Set up accounts that need two signatures.

Effective Interventions

  • Emotional support for families and friends is a critical and positive factor.
  • Building self esteem.
  • Group Therapy- encouraging the sharing of experience.
  • For older gamblers where gambling is more ingrained, abstinence may be the best long term solution.
  • Motivational interviewing.
  • Avoid transferring dependency.
  • Use of diaries and other visual records.

Effective Services

  • Helpline and other information services (see below).
  • Peer support - from family or Whanau.
  • Brief and early interventions.
  • Short course interventions.
  • community assessment and intervention services.
  • Community follow up support service.

Outcomes in New Zealand

Around 80% of clients benefit from face to face counselling services.

Barriers to seeking help:

  • Denial of problem
  • Feelings of shame
  • Lack of information on help services
  • Stigma of seeking counseling implies psychological or mental problems
  • Self exclusion
  • Inadequacy of services on offer
  • Programmes that exclude a gender.
  • Frustration about perceived connection between industry and government in generating gambling revenue.
  • Lack of awareness of harm reducing policies or obligations of gambling programmes and patron care.

Not all people who develop a problem with gambling resort to criminal behaviour.
Most problem gamblers, when not gambling, are productive, active, reliable members of society.
Many problem gamblers seek help and effectively overcome the problem.
A supportive environment is one way to help them achieve this.

Talk to some one about it on:

Problem Gambling Foundation Hotline:
Telephone: 0800 664 262

Taranaki Branch of the New Zealand Gambling Foundation:
Free and Confidential Services.

Counsellor /Health Promoter
Sandi Cummings (B.A. Couns, MNZAC)
Kings Building, 36 Devon Street West,
P.O. Box 8018, New Plymouth
Tel: 06 7696020
Mob: 027 787 1817

Support and information is also available from:

Counselling Services
56 Disraeli Street

Counselling Services
Stratford Community House,

52 Juliet St, Stratford

For information or to make an appointment call 0800 664 262

Visit the Problem Gambling Foundation website

E-mail Problem Gambling Foundation

Problem Gambling Foundation,
P.O. Box 8021
Symonds Street
Tel: 09 368 1520

The information within this document has been compiled with the help of the Taranaki branch of The Problem Gambling Foundation who in turn acknowledge the work of Focal Research Ltd. Straight facts - about gambling.


Like Minds Taranaki gratefully acknowledges the financial support of this website by the Ministry of Health

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Taranaki Mental Health Sector