Finding Support

When Problem Gambling Becomes More Than Problematic

The sneaky thing about problem gambling is, by the time you’re wondering if it’s a problem, it likely already is. And there are a number of negative consequences it could create. You could lose money you can’t afford to lose, put strain on your relationships with friends and family, or it could negatively affect school or work. All things you probably don’t want to happen.

It makes sense to keep an eye out for the signs. You can ask yourself if gambling is affecting your mental or physical health. For instance, do you gamble to feel less anxious, and then feel more anxious after? Are you choosing to gamble instead of meeting your friend to work out at the gym? Have you missed or slacked off at school or work in order to gamble?

All of these are warning signs associated with problem gambling.

Do You Feel Seen? Early Warning Signs of Problem Gambling.

  • Skipping classes or work to gamble
  • Spending less time with friends or avoiding family events to gamble
  • Lying about how much time and money is spent gambling
  • Using gambling as a way to escape problems or to get a “high” feeling
  • Having increased debt, unpaid bills, or other financial problems due to gambling
  • Borrowing and/or selling personal items, or stealing, to get money to gamble
  • Thinking about or gambling more often, for longer periods of time
  • Experiencing extreme highs from wins, and extreme lows from losses
  • Feeling a sense of emptiness or boredom when not gambling
  • Feeling less anxious, depressed or lonely when you gamble
  • Using gambling as a way to earn money
  • Chasing losses

Help Is Here

If you’re finding that you can’t slow down or even stop gambling, there are lots of options for help and there will be one that works for you too.

You may want to confide in a friend, your parents or guardian, an elder or perhaps a member of your religious group. Speaking to someone can be a very important first step. Other places you could contact include on-campus services, such as Health and Counselling, Student Wellness or Residence Life.

Find a Gambling Treatment Centre

If you want to talk to a counsellor with experience in gambling-related problems, there are services that are:

  • Free
  • Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Provided in multiple languages
  • Offered on a confidential and anonymous basis (you don’t even have to give your name)
  • Available via text, chat or phone

Visit this link to access free services across Canada.

Take control of your cashflow

One of the main risks associated with gambling is getting yourself into financial trouble. If you’re concerned that is happening to you, or if it already has, there are some things you can do to help you manage your money. Here are some ways to limit the amount of cash you have access to so you can protect yourself from spending money you can’t afford to lose.

  • Turn off the ability to pay by Touch ID, delete credit card numbers and stored passwords and sign out of any payment accounts
  • Have your wages automatically deposited into your savings account
  • Freeze your ATM cards
  • Remove electronic payment access from your mobile phone
  • Set up bank accounts that require two signatures for withdrawals, rather than just your own
  • Set up cash-withdrawal limits

Can You Press Pause on Your Gambling?

Has this happened to you? You’re trying to cut back on how often you’re gambling but find yourself reaching for your phone and before you know it, you’re back to feeling bad about how much you’ve spent. You’re not alone but there’s a helpful tool you can use called “Self-Exclusion”.

Self-Exclusion is an option to literally make an agreement with gambling places (online or offline) not to gamble for a chosen length of time. It’s like putting your gambling outlets on DND. Something to consider if you feel like you’re spending more time betting than you’d like. And it can be an important step in helping manage your gambling.

When and why to self-exclude:

  • Gambling is causing you financial, health, or relationship problems
  • Your school or work life is suffering
  • You feel you could benefit from taking a break
  • Gambling is causing you, or the people around you, stress
  • The urge to gamble is becoming uncontrollable and you are ready to change
  • You feel your gambling has “taken over” aspects of your life and is causing physical, emotional, or psychological harm
Visit RGC Self-Exclusion Page

You’re Worried About Someone’s Gambling. What Can You Do?

When you think someone you know may have a problem, you’re the kind of person who wants to help. In fact, that’s probably why you’re reading this now. But it can be hard to know what to say, or how to say it. The good thing is, we can help.

You’ve Spotted The Signs

There are probably clues that tipped you off that your friend, roommate, or family member has a problem. Some of these signs may be familiar to you:

  • Always on their phone online gambling
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use while gambling
  • Choosing gambling over work, school or family
  • Missing multiple assignments or skipping classes
  • Having few interests outside of gambling
  • Hiding bills, past-due notices, winnings, or losses
  • Losing a job
  • Increased debt, unpaid bills, or other financial troubles
  • Flush with money one moment, broke the next
  • Increased tension, stress, and arguments

How to Talk to Someone About Their Gambling

You’ve decided to speak to the person about what you’re seeing. But before you do, here are some tips:

  • Practice

    You may want to speak with a professional who specializes in problems related to gambling. They can help you script your conversation and give you advice on managing the discussion. That could also be a trusted co-worker, a mentor, a peer educator or other experienced person you know.

  • The Talk

    • Choose a safe and quiet environment that provides privacy and puts people at ease
    • Stick to the facts, stay neutral, and don’t bring your emotions into it
    • Use non-judgemental, non-blaming language
    • Speak about impacts
    • Focus on options to help (not on the actual problems)
    • Let them know you care
    • Listen to what they are saying
    • Share the best options for getting information and resources

    If that feels too hard, ask a counsellor for strategies on approach. Be prepared that the person you care about might not be ready to talk about it – they may get defensive or closed off. A counsellor can also give you ways to keep the conversation open and honest.

  • After the Talk

    • Recognize positive steps, and give them props for success.
    • Change takes time. It may take a few tries before they change their behaviour.
    • Set boundaries for yourself and don’t hesitate to get help for yourself if needed. A counsellor or a self-help group can discuss any feelings of guilt you may be experiencing or can advise on continuing any communications.
    • If this person is a family member or intimate friend, it may be necessary to protect your finances.

Help For Problem Gambling

Feel like you might benefit from talking to someone? You have options.

Learn More