Are you worried about a loved one’s gambling?

It’s only natural to want to help a loved one with a problem. But it can be hard to know what to do. You’re not alone.

Signs your loved one may have a problem

  • Hiding bills, past-due notices, winnings, or losses
  • Increased debt, unpaid bills, or other financial troubles
  • Increased tension, stress, and arguments relating to money
  • Choosing gambling over spending time with friends or family
  • Neglecting work, school and personal needs because of gambling
  • Getting easily irritated or having less patience when dealing with everyday activities
  • Having few interests outside of gambling

If these signs sound familiar, it’s time to talk about it.

Financial Troubles

Financial troubles are one of the potentially more visible signs of a problem with gambling. The financial costs of a problem with gambling are significant and can include financial insecurity, reduced disposable income, job loss, loss of home and/or business, increased debt and potential bankruptcy.

Below are a few of the financial warning signs that can be associated with problem gambling:

  • Overdue and unpaid bills
  • Increased spending on credit cards/significant and unexplained debt increase
  • Secretive about money problems and/or account balance(s)
  • Constant flux of money on their person (flushed with money one moment and none available the next)
  • Frequently short/lacking money despite sufficient income
  • Repeatedly borrowing money from friends and/or family
  • Money disappearing from savings account, home, or wallets without explanation
  • Receiving calls from collection agencies

Confidential help is available


How to speak to a loved one about their gambling

1. Preparing to talk

It’s a good idea to speak with a professional who specializes in gambling problems. They can help you script your conversation and give you advice on managing the discussion. Access support services in your area.

2. The talk

Stay neutral and stick to the facts. Try to keep your emotions out of your conversation. If you think that will be difficult for you, ask a counsellor for strategies to approach the topic in a logical way. Be prepared for your loved one to not be ready to have a conversation about their gambling. They may become defensive or closed off. Ask a counsellor for strategies to keep the conversation open and honest. 

3. After the talk

  • Recognize positive steps, and give praise for success.
  • Remember that change takes time. It may take several tries before your loved one successfully changes their 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 and protect yourself. You are stronger than you know.
  • If necessary, protect your finances. By reducing your loved one’s access to funds, you’re helping to strengthen their commitment to change. Protecting yourself and your family can help give you peace of mind.

How to protect yourself

Negotiate for control of family finances

Assume responsibility for all credit and debit cards, or consider having a trusted family member or friend take over until the issue is resolved.

Protect your assets

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

If you decide to financially support your loved one

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

Learn more

Get Help

Help is available free of charge. Get information and resources on how to deal with a loved one’s gambling and how to protect yourself.

Get help


Stories of loved ones affected by gambling

When my partner finally made the difficult decision to get professional help for her problem gambling, I was overwhelmingly relieved. Had she not, our relationship of 40 years would have been in jeopardy.

I had been worried for some time about her frustration, disappointment, and anger at not being able to overcome what she believed should have been a simple process: to stop what was quickly becoming a destructive pattern of behaviour. Like her, I felt helpless.

Knowing that she is receiving effective help from a dedicated team with resources, best practices, and expertly planned programs, has had a profoundly healthy trickle-down effect on me. As she recovers, so do I. It allows me to be supportive in an informed way; it encourages me to be respectful, proud, and loving in the best possible way. I have so much gratitude for those who have made her recovery possible. Getting help was the best decision she could have made for both of us, and I thank her for that.

— Doug, Affected Loved One

For many months, I sensed that my partner was struggling through something in silence. Although it seemed frightening at first, reaching out for support enabled us to have open and honest conversations about our challenges. Throughout the process, I developed a deeper understanding of what my partner was going through, but most important, I was given the knowledge and resources to provide the best possible support. Now, I’m optimistic about our ability to cope and heal through our newfound mutual trust, dialogue, and understanding.

— Melissa, Affected Loved One

Stories about loved ones

Find out how Linda helped her husband overcome his problem gambling habit.

Read Linda’s story

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