Australia has the highest gambling losses per capita in the world
This is mainly due to the large popularity of gambling in Australia, with more than half of the slot machines in Australia located in NSW.
Gambling among young adults has become increasingly common, especially among young men. Australian state and territory gambling prevalence surveys show that about one-third to one-half of young adults aged between 18 and 24 gamble each year and about 75% have tried gambling at some point in their lives. For these young adults, the most common forms of gambling are poker machines, lotteries, race betting, and sports betting. Other popular gambling activities include instant scratch tickets and casino table games.
Gambling addiction is an impulse-control disorder. When individuals are addicted to gambling, they can’t control the impulse to gamble even if it is at the detriment of their mental or physical health, damaging their relationships, or they are experiencing huge financial losses. They will continue to gamble despite the negative consequences.
Why are young adults at risk of gambling?
They can be :
- more likely to make risky bets
- in the path of easy access to gambling
- most vulnerable after achieving independence
- influenced by family members
- highly influenced by friends
- targeted by aggressive advertising and marketing
- Under 25’s often gamble online
- Under 25’s are more likely to play games that have gambling components
How can you tell if you have a gambling problem?
Some signs that you may have a gambling problem may include:
- Spending more money gambling than you can afford
- Gambling when you should be doing something else, like working or spending time with family
- Feeling anxious or stressed about your gambling
- Using gambling to deal with problems or difficult feelings
- Lying to family and friends about your gambling
- Borrowing or stealing to fund your gambling
- ‘Chasing losses’: gambling to win back what has been lost
- Having constant thoughts about gambling, and feelings of irritability and restlessness if you try to stop gambling
- Resorting to gambling as a way of coping with a bad mood, anxiety or depression, or feelings of helplessness or guilt
- Relying on others for financial support after heavy gambling losses
- Gambling to deal with unpleasant emotions such as guilt, worry, depression, feelings of helplessness or distress
- Making repeated unsuccessful attempts to cut down or quit gambling
What causes problem gambling?
Problem gambling is an addiction. There are many different reasons and factors that can increase your risk of developing a gambling problem, including:
- Having a relative, especially a parent, with a gambling problem
- Being introduced to gambling at an early age
- Pressure from friends to gamble
- Your personality - being competitive, impulsive, restless or easily bored can increase your risk of having a gambling problem
Negative effects of gambling
Gambling not only has the potential to leave you in debt, but it can also negatively affect your mental and physical health and your relationships.
Gambling can become an addiction, just like drugs and alcohol, if you use it compulsively or feel out of control. Gambling can also affect the part of our brain that releases dopamine, a feel-good hormone that creates feelings of pleasure and reward. When we win a bet, our brain delivers an emotional award. If you get addicted to gambling, other pleasurable activities may no longer make you feel good, instead gambling to get the same buzz.
However, the good news is that your brain chemistry can change back and everyday life and things you once enjoyed can feel enjoyable again once you are able to break your addiction.
Some other negative effects of gambling include:
- Family problems and issues with other relationships
- Financial problems including bankruptcy
- Increased rates of unemployment
- Increased alcohol and drug abuse
- Poor mental and physical health
- Low self-esteem
- Relationship problems
- Legal problems or imprisonment
- Poor work performance or job loss
- Poor general health
- Suicidal thoughts
How to deal with addiction
- Set goals: setting long-term and short-term goals may help you stay focused on cutting down or giving up gambling.
- Avoid high-risk situations: such as the use of credit cards, taking out loans, carrying large amounts of cash with you, using gaming venues for socialising, or gambling as a reaction to emotions. These behaviours will weaken your resolve to control or quit gambling. Some things that may help include setting cash limits on your cards.
- Talk about it: talking about gambling with somebody you trust and someone who won’t judge you can ease the pain of bottling it up. It can also reduce the stress that can cause you to continue to gamble.
- Find alternatives to gambling: There are two major risk factors why people continue to gamble, social isolation and leisure substitution. When people stop gambling, they lose motivation to find other activities that are exciting and fun and they may have lost family and friends who could support them in engaging in such activities.
Self-exclusion is a free program where you can ban yourself from gambling venues or online gaming.
You can ban yourself from venues like casinos, pubs, clubs or TABs, or from placing a bet on gambling websites. By law, Australian gambling providers must give customers the option to self-exclude from their venue or products.
You can fill out a form for self-exclusion from NSW clubs and hotels here.
Look after yourself
Giving up gambling when you have spent hours each week gambling can make you feel tense and irritable. You may feel even worse when you visit places where you have gambled or if you walk past a casino, TAB, or gambling section in the pub, or see an advertisement for gambling on television or social media.
Practising self-care, learning how to relax, getting plenty of rest and eating properly can help you stick to your goal of reducing or giving up gambling. Some strategies to overcome gambling may include:
- muscular relaxation training
- engaging in other activities or hobbies
Prepare for a lapse
A lapse occurs when you gamble again after deciding to stop. You do not have to continue to gamble if this happens to you. You can use this to learn more about what triggers your gambling. Examine what worked and what didn’t work in your plan.
You can overcome the habit. The important thing to remember is to be fair to yourself and that it can be hard to give up gambling.
You can often predict when a lapse may occur. You are more likely to lose control and turn to gambling when you have bad experiences in other parts of your life that make you sad, anxious, angry or depressed.
These feelings or experiences can make it hard to stick to your plans. So, it’s important to know some strategies if you feel like gambling.
What to do if you feel like gambling
- Talk to a support person or a professional
- Keep a gambling diary and record your feelings and actions to see what happens and if you can spot ways of stopping next time
- Take control of your money- this may include things like setting limits on your card and researching money management strategies
- Find new activities to fill the time you once spent gambling
- Practise relaxation and mindfulness techniques such as meditation or yoga
Where to get help
Dealing with Debt
Debt can seem overwhelming, but taking the first steps to becoming debt free is key to managing it.
External Contact Information
GambleAware NSW 24/7 Helpline: 1800 858 858
GambleAware Statewide Multicultural Service: 1800 856 800
Gambler’s Help Youthline: 1800 262 376
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
Emergency contact: 000