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Why do people gamble?

Someone may start gambling for fun and have some early wins. Then they keep playing in the hope they’ll win again and experience the same good feelings. However, when they lose, particularly big losses, the cycle of compulsive gambling can begin.

Gambling can be an escape for people who’ve experienced a stressful change in life. Or who want to forget about life’s worries, such as relationship issues or money troubles. Others may start gambling on the pokies because they’re lonely and crave company.

People who’ve grown up in a home with a parent or grandparent that has a gambling issue, have a higher risk of developing a gambling addiction.

Generally, there are four main reasons why people gamble. These might help you understand how gambling can become addictive and why it’s hard to stop.

  1. For social reasons – This may be because it’s what a group of friends do when they get together, or because it makes a social gathering more enjoyable.
  2. For financial reasons – to win money, because someone enjoys thinking about what they would do if they won a jackpot, or because winning would change someone’s lifestyle.
  3. For entertainment reasons – because they like the feeling, to get that rush or “high”, or because it makes them feel good.
  4. For coping reasons – for someone to forget their worries, because they feel more self-confident, or because it helps when they are feeling nervous or depressed.

These reasons don’t absolve the person gambling of responsibility, but they do provide a better understanding of what motivates your loved one to keep gambling and why it has become a problem.

Remember, your loved one did not choose to have an early win. They didn’t choose to become addicted. And they likely don’t realise how gambling works. Keep this in mind if you find yourself becoming angry at the person in a way that could be unhelpful.

Here is more information that may be helpful before you have the conversation with the person about their gambling:

Take a look at the effective treatments available for gambling addiction and encourage them to seek the most appropriate type of help for them.

Check out the local resources available to help people with gambling addiction, so that when you are talking with the person you can tell them about these.

Discover how gambling affects the brain as explained by a neuroscientist.

Watch real-life stories of people who’ve opened up and talked about the effects they were experiencing and got the support they needed.

Because financial problems can be a big part of gambling, you should be aware of the tips that can help the person to manage their financial difficulties.

When you’re ready, here are some tips on how to have the conversation with your loved one about their gambling behaviour.