Skip to Main Content

Gambling and alcohol - A risky combination

Dr Anastasia Hronis (clinical psychologist)

Have you ever noticed that your gambling gets out of control when you drink?

Or perhaps the reverse - that you drink more when you gamble?

It’s common to see people mixing drinking and gambling. For many people, the pair offer a way to socialise with others. The reality is, however, that mixing alcohol and gambling can actually be quite a risky combination.

For some people, drinking leads to excessive gambling, while for others, gambling may lead to excessive drinking. It’s hard to know what causes what, and it may vary from person to person. In these cases, the focus really becomes less about “the chicken or the egg”, and more about the risky combination of both alcohol and gambling.

When we drink, alcohol has an impact on the part of the brain called the Frontal Lobes.

The frontal lobes of our brain are responsible for cognition, thoughts, memory, judgements, decision-making, and impulse control. Drinking alcohol makes it much more difficult to regulate ourselves, reduces our inhibitions and makes it harder to make sound and rational decisions. Drinking alcohol can result in us taking risks we wouldn’t ordinarily take.

For some people, combining alcohol and gambling results in:

  • Drinking more than they intended to
  • Spending more money gambling than they intended to
  • Stay at the venue for longer than intended
  • Experiencing changes in mood as a consequence of drinking and gambling.

Gambling in itself can be an emotional roller coaster, and drinking can amplify that experience.

If you’re planning to spend time drinking or gambling, consider if you can have one without the other. If you are intending to both drink and gamble, think about ways in which you may be able to set pre-defined limits for yourself e.g. limits of money or time. Consider signing up for voluntary pre-commitments or placing limits on the betting apps ahead of time. Making these decisions once you’ve already had something to drink can be very difficult, so planning in advance is always key.

Remember, one size does not fit all. For some people, having a drink and placing a bet may be possible without significant consequences or a loss of control. For other people, it is best to avoid the combination completely, especially if you are someone who is vulnerable to having difficulty controlling either your drinking or gambling.

For more support on this topic or any gambling issue you might want to talk about, call Gambler’s Help 1800 858 858.


The science of addiction.png

The science of addiction

University of Melbourne neuroscientist Dr Jared Cooney Horvath recently talked to us about what happens in our brain when addiction occurs, and how to overcome it.

Read article
The brain’s cue and reward system

The brain’s cue and reward system

University of Melbourne neuroscientist Dr Jared Cooney Horvath recently talked to us about what happens in our brain when addiction occurs, and how to overcome it.

Read article
Close up of an unhappy couple

Weighing up the risk - When your loved ones stop supporting you

It is essential to consider how your gambling could be affecting your partner or family as ignoring these consequences can lead to greater problems within your relationships.

Read article

Sports betting – can we have one without the other?

In Australia, sports and gambling have become such a synonymous pairing that it has become difficult to imagine one without the other. So how can we experience the joys of our favourite sports whilst being mindful of gambling?

Read article