Gambling Addiction


Gambling Addiction

“I didn’t even know I had a problem, until I tried to stop.”

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 in South Africa take part in illegal gambling for example iFafi.
  • Gambling has the highest suicide rate of all addictions.

Gambling is one of the most insidious (meaning it proceeds 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.

How casinos trap you

  • Casino have no windows or clocks. They design it that way specifically that you don’t notice that time is passing by.
  • The casino floor is brightly lit and enhanced by the sound of bells and whistles that someone is winning big somewhere. It tells you it is a place of fun.
  • No where do you play with real money – you play with colorful chips. If you had to play with real money and watched how fast you are losing it – it would be upsetting and you might stop playing quickly.
  • Then the last incentive – golds cards for regulars, private parking bays, eats and treats on the house, some even provide you with free liquor. The more you drink, the less control you have. The whole setting influences your behavior and ”house” wins all the time.

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.

There are three main types of gamblers

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.

Gamblers believe they can control chance

Chance is one thing we have NO control over. Some gamblers even take classes in forms of gambling, believing their newly acquired skills will help them to win. The fact is when you bet on something, you are not using your logical mind – you are not playing a game of skill, but of chance, which you cannot control at all.

 Gamblers get excited by the thought of possible win

Anyone loves winning – especially if it comes as easy as throwing a dice or pulling a one-arm-bandit. The thrill of it can drive you to keep on playing. A beginner’s luck type of big win is often the trigger for a person to start gambling more often – to experience that thrill again.

 Gamblers carry the ”curse of gambling”

”Gambling is parasitic, selfish and greedy. It thrives from the lives of others and is out everything for nothing.” (Weldon E. Warnock, The Truth Magazine)  The problem gambler is drawn back to the gambling table by the buzz, the bells and excitement of the game –  despite losses stacking up. As addicts progress into an addiction, their body gets accustomed, and requires more and more of the addictive thing to get them the same high as when they started.

Gamblers believe their luck will turn the next time they play 

Problem gamblers all have financial problems. They believe they can turn their lives around if they can only win big one time. They therefore increase the amount of time they spend gambling – with more dire consequences. They really see gambling as a way to improve their circumstances. So although gambling is the cause of all their problems, they see it as a solution to it.

“Hoping to recoup is what ruins the gambler.”

What are the signs / symptoms of a gambling addiction?

Gamblers lie

Addiction requires lying. People who have gambling problems lie about their gambling habits, whereabouts, finances, family and creditors. They lead a double life to hide their addiction. You make promises to stop that you don’t keep. Every addict makes promises to stop, both to themselves and to others. And they are usually sincere in their promises; they believe they will do better. But they don’t realize that, as an addict, they can’t do better, they are beyond the point of self-control.

Gambler chase losses

Gamblers don’t like losing and will always try to recover what they lost. This causes more gambling, more losses and more debt. They deceive themselves by imagining if they win big, they can stop. But the next win encourages them to carry on. They never stop.

Gamblers borrow money

Gambling addicts ran out of money fast – some the day after payday. Then they turn to others and they borrow money. Their reasons sounds legit. No one admits the money is for gambling. They borrow from family, friends, banks and even strangers. In the end they sit with such a huge amount of debt that they can never pay back. The end of line the reached when the person is declared bankrupt because of debt, is sued for the money, or fired from a job, or loses a home and car.

Gamblers bet more and more

The same as with  most addictions, a person has to use more, do more or get more to experience the same kind of rush. Gambling addicts bet more to increase their rush.

Gamblers become obsessed with gambling

Addicts become obsessed with their habit of choice. All a gambling addict can think about is to gamble – where and when. It becomes an obsession that dictates their life. Addicts often find that they are less interested in activities and pastimes that they once loved, purely because they don’t involve the addiction.

Gamblers are unable to stop gambling

One sign of addiction is that you can’t stop – although you know you have to. For the addict there is no such thing as “moderation”. Gambling addicts also lose tread of time when they gamble. They just keep going for hours on end. A person might gamble their whole salary in one sitting just after payday.

 Gamblers gamble 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.

Gamblers gamble to forget  or self-soothe

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.

 Gamblers steal or commit 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.

Gamblers gamble because it it becomes their whole world

The addicted brain can ignore or justify the severe problems an addiction is causing, in favor of continuing the addiction. Addiction to gambling causes the gambler to fall into ever-deeper financial, social, and professional trouble. If you are an addict your indulgences will increase, as will the price that you pay for your binges. It will begin to affect your performance and attendance at work, your relationships, your parenting, your health, and your finances.


What makes people seek help for gambling addiction?


Problems gamblers usually seek treatment when the list of problems they have to deal with starts accumulating. 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.

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.

Contact for help:

South African Responsible Gambling Foundation

  •  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

Recovery from Addiction Program

MobieG has developed an online learning campus that offers easy step-by-step online learning.

MOBIEG’s Recovery from Addiction


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:


Good reads:

In the realm of hungry ghosts. Gabor Maté

Lost Connections. Johann Hari


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