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Gambling 101

Risk factors for Developing a Gambling Problem

These are risk factors that can contribute to the development of gambling problems or make it more difficult to stop. People are more at risk if they:

  • have an early big win (leading to false expectation of future wins)
  • have easy access to their preferred form of gambling
  • hold mistaken beliefs about the odds of winning
  • do not take steps to monitor gambling wins and losses
  • have had a recent loss or change, such as divorce, job loss, retirement or death of a loved one
  • often feel bored or lonely, or have a history of risk-taking or impulsive behaviour
  • have financial problems
  • have few interests or hobbies, or feel their lives lack direction
  • have a history of mental health problems, particularly depression and anxiety
  • have been abused or traumatized
  • have a parent who also has (or has had) problems with gambling
  • have (or have had) problems with alcohol or other drugs, gambling or overspending
  • tie their self-esteem to gambling wins or losses.

The more factors that apply, the more likely a person is to develop a gambling problem.

Gambling problems occur along a continuum. These are not discrete categories but possible points along a range of involvement.

  • No gambling: Some people never gamble.
  • Casual social gambling: Most people gamble casually, buying the occasional raffle or lottery ticket or occasionally visiting a casino for entertainment.
  • Serious social gambling: These people play regularly. It is their main form of entertainment, but it does not come before family and work.
  • Harmful involvement: These people are experiencing difficulties in their personal, work and social relationships.
  • Pathological gambling: For a small but significant number of people, gambling seriously harms all aspects of their lives. People with gambling problems this severe are unable to control the urge to gamble, despite the harm it causes. These people are more likely to use gambling to escape from problems and to get relief from anxiety.

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