Concerned about someone’s gambling?

Concerned about someone’s gambling?

If you are concerned about someone else’s problem with gambling, it is only natural to want to help. But helping can be very tricky. They can deny that they are having a problem or even refuse to talk about it.

That’s why you need to be prepared. You may want to ask a mutual friend or another family member to help. The most important thing you need to remember is that you cannot stop someone from gambling. They need to want help before they’ll accept it.

If you think someone you care about has a gambling problem, you should speak with someone knowledgeable about it. Don’t try to help until you’ve spoken with someone you can trust - like a counsellor, doctor or parent. It’s important to know the facts about what this person is going through. You don’t need to reveal who the person is, but you do need to talk about the issue and generate a plan of action.

Here are some things you need to consider while deciding how to approach someone with a gambling problem.

Before you raise the issue…

  1. Get informed: Research problem gambling and understand the problem first
  2. Be prepared: If there is a chance of violent or abusive behaviour, exercise caution. Get a support system in place - family, friends, clergy or counsellor
  3. Choose the right moment: If the person is expressing remorse about gambling, or has just finished a gambling episode, this may be a good time to talk

Raising your concerns…

  1. Use an "I" point of view: Express feelings with “I feel” or “I think”. The listener will feel less defensive and an argument will be less likely
  2. Remain calm: Keep a cool head when talking about the person’s gambling and other hot button issues like family finances
  3. Negotiate and set firm boundaries: Make clear your expectations about future gambling, managing finances and responsibilities. Click here for RGRC’s list of credit counselling agencies or information about money management

After the conversation…

  1. Support positive changes: Recognize and acknowledge positive steps and give praise for successes
  2. Get help for yourself: A counsellor or a self help group can help you to communicate effectively, reduce your guilt and raise your self-esteem
  3. Remember that change takes time: It may take several tries before the person successfully changes their gambling behaviour

Tips for spouses, partners or other family members:


  • Recognize that gambling is only one aspect of your partner/family member’s life
  • Acknowledge their good qualities
  • Stay calm when discussing gambling and its consequences
  • Tell your partner/family member that you are seeking help for yourself
  • Acknowledge the problem to children using age-appropriate language and detail
  • Negotiate and put into place controls on the management of family finances. If your partner is unwilling to cooperate, make arrangements to protect your own finances.


  • Lecture, accuse or preach
  • Threaten or give ultimatums unless you plan to follow through
  • Gamble with your partner
  • Exclude the individual from family activities
  • Lend money to, or bail out, the gambler

If you are concerned about your gambling, or the gambling of someone you care about, please click here for free and confidential help.