SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- You have the right to feel safe, and emotionally and financially secure.
- Seek professional advice about how to protect your family’s assets and income.
- Talk to trusted people who will not judge you or the person that gambles. Consider talking frankly to other affected members of the family so you can support each other.
On this page
When someone close to you experiences gambling-related harm, it can affect you as well.
You have the right to feel safe, and emotionally and financially secure. It is important to protect yourself from any harm that may arise from your family member or friend’s harmful gambling.
Seek legal, financial and other advice to explore your options. Contacting a therapeutic and/or financial counsellor is a good place to start.
It’s not your fault
Coping with a family member or friend’s gambling behaviour can be challenging. Use your energy to help change your own situation rather than theirs. It is important to remember:
- You cannot force your family member or friend to acknowledge that their gambling is harmful.
- You cannot force them to stop or control their gambling.
- No matter what you say or do, ultimately the only person who can take control is the person that gambles. It is important to understand that it is not the person causing harm but their behaviour.
- You are not to blame for their behaviour.
Your relationship with the gambler
Gambling can strain relationships. Suggestions include:
- Inform the person causing harm through their gambling of the negative impact that their behaviour is having on you. Communicate your feelings carefully and openly.
- Don’t try to take control of the their life. It won’t work and will make you unhappy.
- Let the person causing harm through their gambling know you want to support them. They may feel out of control, embarrassed or ashamed.
- Support them in their struggle, but don’t take on their burden, especially not their debts. Choose to say, ‘I can’t do this for you, but I will support you while you are doing it.
- Allow them to take responsibility for their behaviour. Do not help them lie and deceive.
Practical steps to avoid financial harm
Money can be a sensitive subject for many people, and it can become even more sensitive when it is caused by harmful gambling.
If someone close to you engages in harmful gambling you may need to protect your finances.
Partners of people experiencing harm from gambling could consider:
- making a family budget – try to make it achievable, especially when aiming to repay debts, so the person with a gambling problem doesn't feel the need to gamble more
- carefully tracking all family spending
- taking on management of the family finances until the gambling is under control
- agreeing on how much cash or credit your partner can have, so they're not tempted to gamble
- opening up separate bank accounts or have accounts set up that require two signatures for withdrawals
- putting valuables in a safety deposit
- speaking with the bank to ensure your home can't be re-mortgaged
- removing your name from shared credit cards
- cancelling any overdrafts on bank accounts
- getting legal advice so you know your rights, if and when needed.
If you are a family member or friend of someone experiencing harm from gambling, you may want to consider:
- thinking carefully about your own finances before offering to help financially
- paying the bills yourself rather than lending money for bills
- not sharing your PIN numbers
- putting your valuables and cash out of sight
- warning other family, friends and co-workers not to lend money to the person
- changing your will to ensure future inheritance will not be lost to gambling.
Confide in people you trust
Friends or family members can often feel isolated and alone. It may be helpful to seek support from others. Talk to trusted people who will not judge you or the person that gambles. Consider talking frankly to other affected members of the family so you can support each other.
Socialise with others
Spending time with others can relieve stress. You don’t need to talk about your concerns if you don’t want to. Having time out to do things you like can stop you from getting consumed by someone else’s gambling. Maintain your friendships, continue with your interests and hobbies, and do things that you find enjoyable.
Look after your health
A healthy diet, regular exercise and adequate rest can improve your wellbeing and increase your resilience to stress. A gambling counsellor can give you other suggestions on how to look after yourself.
Looking after children
When a parent engages in harmful gambling behaviour, it can have a huge impact on their children.
It is important to help children affected by gambling. Although they may not say anything, they can feel isolated, angry and depressed by what's happening at home.
In extreme cases, gambling may mean children:
- don't have enough to eat
- can't have new clothes or shoes when they need them
- miss out on activities such as sport, school excursions, camps or music lessons
- have trouble with their studies
- have to take on more 'adult' responsibilities, such as looking after younger children
- witness increased arguments and tension
- experience family violence
- experience family breakdown
- experience homelessness.
To minimise the effect on children and to support them emotionally:
- encourage them to talk freely about their feelings, but let them do this when they're ready to
- assure them that they are not responsible
- try to keep them engaged in family activities
- try not to over-involve them in helping to solve financial and other problems caused by gambling
- ensure they understand that the family may need to budget, but that they will be OK
- don't put down the person with harmful gambling as this can be confusing – separate the person from the behaviour and acknowledge that the behaviour is bad, not the person.
Maintaining and restoring relationships
Problem gambling can put a terrible strain on relationships. When someone spends less time with you or doesn't fulfil their commitments, it can feel like they don't care.
You may have many mixed feelings. For example, you may be angry about the debt they've run up and afraid they won't stop gambling, yet want to help and support them.
It is important to rebuild trust, but remember it takes time. You could:
- encourage the person to be honest about their gambling urges, accept what you hear and reward honesty
- talk together once a week, with openness about past hurts or future worries
- take time to have fun together, without talking about gambling problems
- consider going to a counsellor together.
If you are losing hope, it is important to seek professional help. Relationship counselling and mediation can be a safer alternative for discussing problems and seeking solutions if there is a communication breakdown between you and the gambler.
Seek support for yourself
It's not just people experiencing gambling related harm that need support; it's also those around them.
Coping with a loved one’s harmful gambling can be very distressing. Talk with a professional who understands gambling harm if you are starting to experience overwhelming sadness, anxiety or anger. Counselling or self-help groups can help you make important decisions about your relationship.
Gambler’s Help supports family and friends of people who gamble with free, professional and confidential support, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call Gambler’s Help on Tel: 1800 858 858.
Where to get help
- Gambler’s Help Tel. 1800 858 858 24-hour telephone counselling service
- Gambler’s Help Youthline Tel. 1800 262 376 24-hour telephone counselling service for people under 25.
- Your GP (doctor) or other health professional
- Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation
- Gambling Help Online - counselling and information services including a peer support program.
- Gambler’s Help Tel. 1800 858 858, TTY 1800 777 706 – 24-hour telephone counselling service
- Gamblers Anonymous Tel. (03) 9696 6108 – support group for people with a gambling problem
- Gamble Aware – information about the odds of winning, how gambling works, and when to stop
- Lifeline Tel. 13 11 14
- SuicideLine Victoria Tel. 1300 651 251