If you’re concerned about a loved one’s gambling, it’s only natural to want to help. But sometimes it can be hard to know what the right thing to do is. You may have tried raising the subject in the past, or maybe you’re worried that the person you care about could become angry or defensive. But you don’t have to face this alone. There are people who can help you free of charge, and offer techniques and resources on how to deal with a loved one’s gambling and to protect yourself, so you can navigate this confidently.

Hiding bills, past-due notices, winnings, or losses

Increased debt, unpaid bills, or other financial troubles

Increased tension, stress, and arguments relating to money

Gambling instead of spending time with friends or family

Neglecting work and personal needs because of gambling

Getting irritated more easily or having less patience when dealing with normal everyday activities

Having few interests outside of gambling

If these signs sound familiar in a loved one, it’s time to talk about it.

Tips for Starting a Conversation

Preparing to Talk++

  • It’s a good idea to speak with a professional who specializes in gambling problems. They can help you script how the conversation should go. This service is free, and no one needs to know you’re reaching out for help. Click here to find a counsellor in your area.
  • A counsellor can help you set goals for the conversation, and give you advice on how to manage the discussion.

The Talk++

  • When you’re ready to talk, try to stay neutral and stick to the facts. Leaving emotion out of the conversation will help keep you focused. If you think this will be difficult for you, ask a counsellor for strategies to approach the topic in a logical way, without getting emotional.
  • Be prepared that the person may not be ready to have a conversation about their gambling, and may be closed off or defensive. Ask a counsellor for strategies to keep the conversation open and honest.

After the Talk++

  • Recognize positive steps, and give praise for success.
  • Remember that change takes time. It may take several tries before the person successfully changes gambling behaviour.
  • Get help for yourself. A counsellor or a self-help group can help you to communicate effectively, reduce your guilt, and raise your self-esteem. There are resources to help you manage the situation and protect yourself. You have more power than you realize.
  • If necessary, make arrangements to protect your own finances. By reducing their access to funds, you’re helping to strengthen your loved one’s commitment to change. Protecting yourself and your family financially can help give you peace of mind.

What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?

Negotiate Control for the Management of Family Finances

Try to assume responsibility for all credit or debit cards, or consider having a trusted family member or friend take over the family finances until the issue is resolved.

Protect Assets

Set up separate bank accounts. Consider changing bank accounts, mortgages, and other assets so that the person who gambles cannot access them. Change passwords and PINs to limit access to accounts, and consider hiding your valuables.

If You Decide to Financially Support the Person Who Gambles

Pay the bills or make the purchases directly. Do not give them cash. If necessary, you can get help from a credit counselling agency.

What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?