Problem gambling not only impacts the gambler, stressors can be felt by family and friends, with far reaching emotional and financial repercussions.
If your loved one has a gambling problem, the following are short-term strategies to protect finances and take care of yourself:
Get a clear picture of the situation:
Sit down and set a realistic budget with your spouse/partner. Having a plan will immediately cool down stress levels and minimize the risk that your partner will return to gambling for a quick financial fix.
Negotiate controls for the management of family finances: Try to assume responsibility for the gambler’s credit or ATM cards. Give them access to money for daily necessities only until the situation improves. This will manage cash flow so your partner doesn’t look to a big windfall to manage expenses.
Put emergency measures into place:
Keep track of all money that is spent and owed (check your spouse’s credit rating often or put a note on their file that will alert creditors to a gambling problem before they issue credit).
Protect assets: Set up separate bank accounts. Consider changing bank accounts, mortgages, and other assets so that the gambler cannot access them. Change passwords and PIN numbers. A financial advisor may be helpful with this process.
Protect valuables: Lock away or hide valuables.
Take care of yourself:
Do not rescue the gambler by offering them money to pay off debts. This will only allow the problem to continue.
Talk to family and friends: Keep in touch to ensure that your partner/spouse isn’t borrowing money from them. If the debt is unable to be repaid, it may impact your relationship with family and friends.
Seek professional help: Both for financial advice and emotional support.
These short-term measures can help add stability to the household prior to and during treatment. These strategies give the person gambling space to seek help and regain control over their lives. And it gives you a clear action plan to keep yourself and your finances safe.
The Responsible Gambling Council thanks Laurie Campbell, CEO, and Elena Jara, Director of Education, of Credit Canada Debt Solutions for their help with financial tips.