Module 6 - Recognising and responding to gambling harm

Anyone in the community can provide referral information about counselling and other assistance offered by Gamblers Help, but talking about gambling can be very hard for people struggling with this issue.

Shame and the stigma of gambling harm mean communication must be done with care and sensitivity.

You can:

  • Use non-judgemental communication
  • Listen and help people identify and implement their own solutions, rather than providing advice.


People experiencing gambling harm often find a way to stop gambling, or get it under control.

This may involve removing or reducing the stresses that contributed to the gambling in the first place.

Help is available

People who are experiencing gambling harm can be helped by:

  • professional services
  • being excluded from gambling venues
  • signing up to BetStop, a National Self-Exclusion Register
  • the encouraging support of friends and family – they do not need to do it alone.


The rates of people seeking help from gambling support services is low.

This can be due to people finding help with family and friends, or with the aid of online information and resources.

It can also be because of the stigma surrounding gambling harm, and feelings of guilt and shame.

People may also be in denial of the harm their gambling is causing.

What can we do?

If you think someone is experiencing gambling harm, it’s important for you to help them if you can.

Significant negative results of gambling harm can include relationship breakdown, financial problems, loss of employment, and mental health problems, including suicide.

Below are 8 way that you can help someone experiencing gambling harm.

1. Have the conversation

The best way to find out if someone is experiencing gambling harm is to ask.

Make sure you choose a time when you can talk in private and are both calm.

Before you talk to the person, be prepared for the full range of responses you may encounter, from relief through to anger.

The person may deny, minimise, rationalise, or lie about their gambling or they may blame others.

Be aware that they may feel ashamed or embarrassed and may not want to talk.

Problem gamblers usually only seek formal assistance when there is no other choice.

Psychological distress, financial and relationship breakdowns appear to be the primary motivating factors.

The principal obstacles are reported to be shame and embarrassment, and a false hope in the ability to regain control, or win back losses.

(Delfabbro and Le Couteur, 2006:135)

Conversation tips

  • Without blaming, tell the person how their gambling might be affecting others
  • Focus on positives and fixes rather than the problems themselves
  • Get them to talk about what might be good about gambling less
  • Let them know you’re asking because you care about them
  • Use the words they use
  • Ask them, “How bad do things have to get?”
  • Be patient – this is a process that can take weeks or months.
  • Blaming the person for causing problems for others
  • Labelling them a problem
  • Lecturing: if you keep chipping away at people they won’t hear you
  • Telling people what you would do, unless you’ve overcome addiction
  • Telling people what to do. Come to a solution together.

Gambling over time

The longer a person gambles, the chance that they will experiencing severe gambling harm increases.

It’s important to act early!


2. Listen to what they have 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 are experiencing gambling harm 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
  • Ask for their perspective, what they’d do in your situation
  • Ask them what they think is an appropriate course of action, how they want you to help them
  • Give them time to tell their story.


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.

3. Encourage them to help themselves

Self-help strategies and peer support are more appropriate for people with less severe gambling issues, but they can work.

For more severe gambling harm, we recommend professional gambling treatment.

You can have an active role in encouraging a person to get gambling treatment by being informed and asking them the right questions.

Sometimes all people need are self-help tools and gambling information to help them take the first steps.

Work with the person to agree on acceptable behaviours, such as talking to a professional or staying within agreed spending limits.

Be clear about what you are willing to do to help the person.

Also be clear about what behaviours you will tolerate, although you may revisit these boundaries over time.

4. Ask about potential difficulties with managing money

It’s likely the person you’re concerned about has difficulty handling money when gambling opportunities exist.

You could:

  • Suggest setting an agreed limit for them to spend on gambling each week
  • Help them set up a budget and direct debit for bills
  • Plan together how to limit their access to money for a period of time. Ensuring they have enough to pay their bills and purchase food and other essentials while saving any extra money.

You can also encourage them to reach out to the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 to speak with an Anglicare Financial Counsellor. You can find out more about Anglicare’s Financial Counselling service here.

5. Encourage them to take up other activities away from gambling

A person who has stopped or cut down their gambling may experience a gap in their life that gambling used to fill.

They may miss the social aspect of gambling.

If this is the case, suggest other fun or social activities, like going to the movies or having a meal with friends.

Reconnecting with family and friends can provide social support.

This may help the person feel less anxious, depressed, angry or bored, and therefore less likely to gamble.

6. Provide information about support options

People experiencing gambling harm may have been struggling to control their gambling for years before they are motivated to talk to someone who can help.

Some people experiencing difficulties with gambling address the issues themselves.

Providing information about self-help resources can be a good way to help them get started.


Online support

Gambling Help Online welcomes anyone affected by gambling to become members of their community. They have different areas for gamblers, and for family and friends. This is to make the discussions as useful as possible.

Gambling Help Online provides anonymous, free, confidential advice and counselling. There’s also information online to help people plan how to change.

Simply visit Gambling Help Online and select ‘Get started’. You’ll need to register an email address to get things going.

Live chat

Chat live with a counsellor 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The stigma of gambling addiction can make it difficult to seek help, but an online chat can feel less daunting.


Phone support

You can access professional phone counselling and 24-hour helplines at:


Face-to-face counselling

Anglicare Tasmania offers SMART Recovery Group and Family & Friends Sessions across Tasmania. SMART Recovery offers a supportive environment for people to achieve their goals and change problem behaviours. Visit our website to find out more about the SMART Recovery Program.

Anglicare’s Gamblers Help Service also offers face-to-face counselling for individuals and affected family and friends, as well as self-exclusion from venues.

7. Plan next steps

Dealing with negative reactions

If the person is denying they have a gambling problem, to you or to themselves, beating them over the head with it is unlikely to get them talking.

We need to create a safe space, in which people know that we are there to support them, rather than to blame or judge them.


If they don’t want to talk

If the person does not want to talk about it, you can tell them that gambling help is available and that you are willing to talk when they are ready.

If the conversation becomes unproductive or aggressive, you should end the discussion and try again at another time.


If they don’t want to change or are in denial

Although it may be obvious to those around them, the person may not see their gambling as a problem until they experience a crisis that they cannot solve themselves.

They may also go through cycles of awareness and denial.

If the person does not want to change, you should sensitively ask if gambling and its consequences are getting in the way of the life they want to live.

Support is available, you are not alone

Anglicare’s Gamblers Help Family Resource Booklet will help you support the person you care about while also taking care of yourself.

The booklet shares the warning signs of gambling harm, tips for having healthy conversations about gambling, practical steps to protect you and your family from the financial impacts of gambling, and services and supports online and in your local area.

Download the Gamblers Help Family Resource Booklet here.

A collection of pictures of the front cover of brochures that Anglicare Tasmania has to help people with issues related to gambling.

8. Raise awareness

You can raise awareness in your community, workplace or friendship group by:

  • Checking in on acquaintances, friends and family if you suspect they may be experiencing gambling harm
  • Support community activities related to financial wellbeing
  • Get familiar with online resources
  • Get familiar with what support services there are
  • Encourage people to check how severe their gambling is by using the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) and the Gambling Calculator.

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