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The dangers of gambling

A portrait photo of Susan Frankel

Gambling includes playing poker machines, casino games and betting on horse races. It can be fun, but many people find it hard to stop. You can lose a lot of money and hurt people you love. Places that offer gambling try to make you feel welcome so you spend money. But the chances of winning are not good. People who have a gambling problem can get help.

Posted by: Susan Frankel, on 01/12/09

A close-up of a poker machine

The odds of winning are very small

Gambling can seem like harmless entertainment. Many gambling venues are also attractive, enticing and fun places to visit. But gambling can become a dangerous addiction for some people. The occasional flutter can soon become far more frequent, and the losses can quickly mount.

Reformed gamblers and counsellors say gambling can ruin your relationships, drain your finances and destroy your self-worth. You can risk losing everything that is precious to you.

Many gamblers convince themselves that they do not have a problem, and lie to the people they love about their habit. Katy, a reformed gambler, says there is definitely a strong high from winning.

It's like a drug, Katy says. You don't think about what you are losing, just the chance that you might win it back. It's about addiction, not loneliness for many. The high makes you feel it can easily happen again.

The odds of winning

Katy says that most gamblers know that the odds of winning a lot of money are very small, but they still cling to the hope of taking home a big jackpot. Big wins give you a larger adrenalin rush, she says. But now if Katy ever goes to a club or casino, she will only take a few dollars in loose change and no credit or debit cards so as to avoid temptation.

One gambling industry insider says venues like casinos do not actively target certain groups such as people with a disability, but they do make it easy and comfortable to spend time and money with them by deliberately creating an enticing and friendly environment.

He also warns that gambling venues are not built on people winning. There are no schemes or systems that can beat them. Winning streaks are only temporary. So you must be very careful to not spend more than you can afford.

The insider says that people who fear they have a problem can ask any venue to voluntarily exclude them. They then have to ensure that you don’t enter the property to gamble.

The main culprit

The Council of Gambler Help Services identifies poker machines as the main culprit for problem gambling in Victoria, followed by betting on horse races. Online betting is also growing rapidly.

Chris Freethy, executive officer at the Council of Gambler’s Help Services, says some people with a disability may be more vulnerable to gambling problems. He says people can turn to poker machines, for example, because they may feel like they have limited recreation options.

Easy access to online and phone betting is also tempting for many people, warns Mr Freethy.

If feeling socially isolated and unconfident about pursuing other activities, (people) may tend to seek the comfort of a gaming room. Immobile people who rely on computers for stimulation and companionship might be particularly attracted to online betting.

Big problem

Roy Morgan research reports that in the 12 months to May 2009, 56 per cent of Australians aged 18 and over had bought a lottery or scratch ticket, 25 per cent had played a poker machine and 15 per cent had placed a bet. The percentage of Australians over 18 who bet online has more than doubled since 2002.

The Victorian Government's Problem Gambling website has links to free and confidential counselling and other services throughout Victoria. It lists strategies for self-help, as well as advice for family and friends concerned about their loved ones. The Peer Connection program is another service available, with volunteers that have dealt successfully with a gambling problem of their own or their spouse.



A new State Government partnership with Alfred Health has been announced. The $665,000 Statewide Problem Gambling and Mental Health Program will offer enhanced treatment options for people living with gambling problems and mental illness.



Problem Gambling (opens new window)

Gambler's Help (telephone counselling) - 1800 858 858

Gambling Help Online (opens new window)



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Readers comments (3)

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Posted by: lucia, kathmandu, Nepal 14/08/2011 at 11:11pm

pls i really need help!!!!!!!!!!!! i just found out that my husband gambles, he sneaks out sometimes at night and comes back in the morning. sometimes he borrows my money and comes back the next morning without a dime in his pocket. i tried confronting him, and he doesnt give me a reasonable answer. he just tells me he went to visit his friend. please, how can i make him stop this act that really giving me a great concern. will be really happy to hear from you. Thanks.


Posted by: Kermit, 28/10/2011 at 03:10pm

I am sorry to hear of your situation Lucia. Here in Australia we have services like those listed in the story above that can help people who are addicted to gambling. I hope there is something similar where you live.


Posted by: Eric, Malaysia 28/10/2012 at 10:22pm

Quoted: lucia

pls i really need help!!!!!!!!!!!! i just found out that my husband gambles, he sneaks out sometimes at night and comes back in the morning. sometimes he borrows my money and comes back the next morning without a dime in his pocket. i tried confronting him, and he doesnt give me a…

There may be no way to tell him yourself unless his family members or relatives talks to him. Tell some of them that you trust about it. Hopefully your husband will be able to see the dangers in gambling.


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