Gambling Addiction


Gambling Addiction

“I didn’t even know I was addicted. Until I tried to stop.”

Gambling is one of the most insidious (proceeding in a gradual, subtle way, but with very harmful effects) of human vices (a practice, behavior, or habit generally considered immoral, sinful, criminal, rude, taboo, depraved, or degrading in the associated society), as it presents the illusion of easy money yet can quickly lead to financial ruin.

Gambling addiction—also known as pathological gambling, compulsive gambling or gambling disorder—is an impulse-control disorder. If you’re a compulsive gambler, you can’t control the impulse to gamble, even when it has negative consequences for you or your loved ones.

As is true with other forms of addiction, many of the people affected by this disorder never seek or receive treatment for their condition.

Fast facts about gambling

Gambling is a successful industry, because the house always wins.

The odds are NEVER in your favor whether it is poker, blackjack or anything else.

20% of all gamblers in South Africa are at risk of becoming a problem gambler.

The National Lottery is the most dominant form of gambling in South Africa with 90% of gamblers participating in it.

26.2% of gamblers take part in illegal gambling for example iFafi.

Gambling has the highest suicide rate of all addictions.

Misconceptions about gambling

  • Games of chance have nothing to do with skill or strategy. Most gamblers know it and are realistic about their odds of winning.
  •  But some gamblers have misconceptions about this type of game. For example, they may believe that with the right tricks and strategies, luck will be on their side. Or that doubling their wager or changing slot machines will affect their odds of winning.
  •  Don’t believe it! There is no way to control chance or luck. Good luck charms, lucky numbers, and careful calculations never increase your odds of winning in games of chance.

Here are a few things to consider:

 Can luck smile on you?

Throughout the ages, people have believed that mysterious forces guide their destiny. Even today, some think of luck as a person who smiles down on them or as a force to harness. Some gamblers are convinced that playing more often will make them better or luckier. But in fact, the exact opposite is often true.

 Is it possible to influence chance?

Chance is always unexpected or unpredictable. People have no power over it. Some gamblers may think they can control luck or develop enough skill to gain the upper hand. But nothing that you can learn or do will make you luckier. Luck is just that—luck.

 Does one round affect the next?

Winning a game of chance is always an isolated event. Imagine that at the exact moment the mailman knocks on the door, your phone rings. That does not mean the phone will ring every time the mailman knocks. Each game is a separate event, too. It is never affected by the results of previous rounds.

 If you play long enough, do you have a greater chance of winning?

To illustrate your odds of winning when gambling: if you flip a coin four times in a game of “heads or tails,” you may win three or four times in a row. However, if you play long enough, you should expect 50% heads and 50% tails.

 What is the best way to win?

The only sure way to make money in gambling is to STOP playing as soon as you win. If you continue to play, the law of averages always catches up with you.

 In other words…

  • Chance has no memory: A slot machine has no greater chance of “paying out” on the hundredth spin than on the first. Each spin is a new spin.
  • Chance is indifferent: Whether it is nice out or raining, whether you are rich or up to your ears in debt, nothing changes your odds of winning.
  • Chance is black and white: In games of chance, you either win or lose. You never come close.
  • Chance is not magic: Good luck charms and lucky numbers may be fun, but they do not improve your odds of winning.

Test your beliefs about luck!

Do you believe you can gain the upper hand and put luck on your side by working on your skills? Do you recognize yourself in the following statements?

The ideas we make about an activity determine our action. Why is someone willing to risk gambling and continue to play even in the face of significant losses? Because he thinks he can win. But this idea has no connection with reality: it is an unreasonable idea.

Gambling are never games of skill or strategy. There is no trick to controlling luck or chance.

What causes a person to become addicted to gambling?

People who have gambling problems feel a compulsion to play.  Games of chance are risky if you play for any reason other than to have fun.

Three types of gamblers have been identified:

Recreational gamblers:

  • Gambling does not pose a problem to these gamblers.
  • They gamble only for fun.
  • Gambling is a social pastime for them.


“At risk” gamblers:

  • Gambling causes them problems.
  • They feel guilty about their gambling habits.
  • Gambling may get them into quarrels.
  • They sometimes feel depressed.
  • Gambling often takes a big bite out of their budget.
  • They have to pay back their losses.

Problem gamblers:

  • They have many serious problems related to their gambling addiction.
  • They are subject to depression.
  • They may have suicidal thoughts.
  • Their gambling obsession may lead to divorce.
  • They have debts, and sometimes live in poverty.
  • Their desperation may lead them to commit criminal acts.

The Road to Gambling Addiction

A gambler will experience a few  feelings that combine to cement their gambling addiction.

The illusion of being able to control chance

Chance is one thing we have no control over. No matter how smart or skilled we are, it will not make us any luckier. But when gamblers bet on games of chance, they think they are using their mind, as if they were playing games of skill. But they are not. Chance does not discriminate—it bends to nobody’s will, smart or not.

 The lure of the jackpot

Gambling can make you feel great. Everyone loves winning. It has been proven that we remember our wins longer than our losses. Some people may win when they first start gambling—sometimes even a lot of money. This is the early win phase, better known as “beginner’s luck.” It leads some people to believe that gambling is the road to easy street.

 Gambling fever

The vast majority of problem gamblers went through a win phase when they first started betting. Gamblers often consider their wins proof that they are lucky or good at the game, which encourages them to keep playing. Winning gave them such a sense of euphoria that they yearn to feel again.

 The belief their luck will change

Gamblers start spending an increasing amount of time gambling. Games of chance are governed entirely by chance, have nothing to do with skill, and are statistically proven to always end in loss. That is when they enter the loss phase. Holding on to the hope that Lady Luck will return, they cannot quit. Despite the negative impact of gambling to excess, they see it as the only way to improve their lot. Gambling is their problem, but they see it as a solution.

What are the signs / symptoms of a gambling addiction?


People who have gambling problems generally try to hide it from the people around them. They start lying to their spouses, families, coworkers, and friends.

“Chasing” losses

Some gamblers say they are just trying to win back the money they have lost. They will claim that once they win big, they will stop. Or that they lost because they changed strategies or were not lucky. But when they chase their losses, they end up piling up even more losses, and often debts.

Borrowing money

What do pathological gamblers do when gambling puts them into a financial hole? They borrow—from their family, friends, coworkers, or even strangers, without always admitting the real reason they need the money. They may also have other people pay their gambling debts. They may max out their credit cards or take out a second mortgage.

 Always betting more

Like someone who has drugs or alcohol problems, problem gamblers have to up their “dose” of gambling to enjoy it. In other words, they have to bet more and more money to get the kind of rush.

Being obsessed with gambling

When this happens, gamblers cannot stop thinking about the last time they gambled and the next time they will. Any reason is reason enough to go gambling, and they will try any strategy to get the

Being unable to stop gambling

Many gamblers know they should not gamble so much, and want to quit. They try repeatedly, but cannot fight the urge to play.

 Gambling out of need

When trying to cut down on their gambling or stop altogether, some gamblers experience “psychological withdrawal symptoms.” Like someone who has a drug or alcohol problem, they become irritable, impatient, agitated, or tense if they do not get their “dose” of gambling.

Gambling to forget

These gamblers play to distract themselves, forget their problems, and reduce their stress. The game is not just entertainment for them. It is something they do to feel better and escape from whatever is bothering them. And then the gambling itself causes problems.

 Stealing or committing fraud to gamble

Despite their losses, problem gamblers continue playing, and their finances keep getting worse. Borrowing money from family, friends, and co-workers is no longer enough. To fund their habit and try to solve their problems by hitting the jackpot, they turn to misdeeds and crime.

Gambling because it is the most important thing in the world

Gamblers can become so addicted to the game and the hope to win it all back that they fall into ever-deeper financial, social, and professional trouble. Everything about their lives gradually revolves around and is affected by gambling. It puts their families, friendships, studies, jobs, and future career prospects at risk.

What makes people seek help for gambling addiction?

The people most likely to seek treatment for diagnosable gambling problems are those individuals with higher numbers of possible symptoms. Other groups with more than an average chance of seeking treatment include those individuals who experience a larger number of negative consequences from gambling participation, older adults and those individuals who receive strong pressure from their intimate partners to enter treatment.

How can I help someone with a gambling addiction?

Recovery from Addiction

Get help

Paying debts

When gamblers start to lose more and more money and pile up gambling debts, they often fall into the trap of borrowing to keep on playing. Despite losing increasing amounts, they keep hoping that striking the jackpot will help them pay off their debts. Unfortunately, they never win enough, and their debts continue to rise.

  •  Put a stop to the financial drain
  • Whether your debts are small or large, you have to end the vicious cycle of borrowing. Remember that no situation is hopeless—there is always a way out. Worrying and panicking about your finances will not help, and can actually trigger a relapse.

 Here is what to do when you are carrying too much debt:

  • Stop gambling (and never gamble to try to pay off your debts)
  • Take responsibility for your debt—contact a credit counselling service or bankruptcy trustee
  • Make a proposal to your creditors and pledge to repay a portion of your outstanding debts—this will be your first step to winning back your self-esteem
  • Take a part-time job if necessary to repay the debts—this will occupy your free time and help keep you focused
  • Talk about your problem to someone supportive and trustworthy
  • Ask someone completely trustworthy to look after your bank and credit cards for a while
  • If necessary, cut up your credit cards
  • Protect your assets by transferring property titles and other assets into your spouse’s name

Limit your cash on hand by…

  • Having your pay automatically deposited into your bank account
  • Closing your cheque accounts and getting rid of debit cards
  • Using a bank account that requires two signatures for withdrawal
  • Setting daily withdrawal limits

Get professional help

To find a professional or support group…


You can do a self-test quiz to learn more about the symptoms of gambling addiction.

Gambling Quiz

MOBIEG Helpline

If you need more help, you may chat to an online counsellor on MOBIEG Live Chat.

The service is free and you may stay anonymous.

Book a Counselling Session

You can book individual counselling sessions with the following therapists:



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