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Gambling – questions to ask

By Rachel Rosen


Recent research suggests that about a third of problem gamblers are under 30, and that many of them don’t know where to turn if they decide to seek help.

For the vast majority of people, gambling never becomes a problem, but it can have serious consequences when it does. 

Questions to ask your children:

1) Do they gamble? Under-18s aren’t allowed to gamble (with some minor exceptions - you can check out the exact legal position here) but the rise of online gambling via websites and apps has potentially made it easier for young people to do so. Your child may worry they’ll be in trouble if they admit to gambling – make it clear you’re asking, not accusing.

2) What do they like about it? Many people can gamble responsibly without developing a problem. Learning the strategy of a game or figuring out the best team to place a bet on can be fun. But if your child mentions seeking the ‘rush’ that comes with placing a bet, it could be a warning sign that they are at risk for future problems or are trying to deal with some other problem by blocking it out with the excitements of gambling.

3) Whose money are they using? When young people gamble, often it’s with someone else’s money (possibly yours!) You need to be aware that if you allow them to do this, you may be helping them to commit a crime (and be liable yourself).


Who is likely to develop a gambling problem?

Anyone can develop a gambling problem. Two factors that seem to put young people at risk of developing a problem are a history of gambling in their family and the age they started gambling themselves. The earlier people start, the more likely they are to experience gambling-related problems later on. 

Should I be worried about gambling on social networking sites and in free play?

Social gambling games can teach you how to play games like poker but it’s really important that players understand that the odds offered are often not the same as those of real gambling games; they’re usually at least a little better. This means that you may be more likely to win on social gambling games, but could lose much more frequently in real gambling games. There is no clear research yet into whether this activity is a gateway to gambling for money.

Is gambling an addiction like drugs?

Being addicted to gambling can seriously damage your physical and mental health. Gamblers with a problem can miss out on exercise and suffer from stress; they sometimes eat a lot while gambling. A gambling problem can result in the loss of social relationships, poor outcomes at school and, in severe cases, people commit crimes in order to fuel the addiction.

Gambling is often called the hidden addiction: it can cause people to think, feel and act differently although it has few of the more obvious warning signs that come with alcohol and drug abuse. A problem gambler might suffer from depression and anxiety, be unable to account for money they’ve spent, lie about their whereabouts, and spend less time with friends and family.

What are the warning signs?

  • significant interest in gambling and gambling-related activities
  • problems in school, such as a loss of interest or unexplained absences
  • changes in personality or behaviour
  • changes in relationships (new friends and acquaintances whilst ignoring old friends)
  • changes in mood
  • explosive bouts of anger
  • displays of anxiety and stress
  • spending more time and/or money gambling than intended
  • wanting to stop gambling or betting but thinking it’s too hard
  • telling lies about winnings
  • having arguments with family or friends
  • returning to win back money or possessions that have been lost
  • regularly missing or being late for school or work
  • borrowing money and not being able to pay it back

GamCare have a site for young people as well as their resources for adults


Image: Benjamin Watson CC BY