Gambling is normally an activity that people find fun and amusing.  The lights, the sounds, the game and of course, the chance of winning! In this day and age, gambling is known as a form of entertainment that the majority of people engage in from time to time without any negative consequences experienced but rather just exciting times and good memories.

So when does gambling become a “problem” for someone?  And what does “problem gambling” mean anyway?  Problem gambling is sometimes known as a gambling addiction or an urge to continuously gamble despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to stop gambling.  This could include playing a slot machine, poker, lottery tickets, betting on sporting events or any other game where the outcome is dependent on chance or luck with the attempt to win something of value.  According to the DSM IV, other criteria that define problem gambling include the following:

  1. Preoccupation. The subject has frequent thoughts about gambling experiences, whether past, future, or fantasy.
  2. Tolerance. As with drug tolerance, the subject requires larger or more frequent wagers to experience the same “rush”.
  3. Withdrawal. Restlessness or irritability associated with attempts to cease or reduce gambling.
  4. Escape. The subject gambles to improve mood or escape problems.
  5. Chasing. The subject tries to win back gambling losses with more gambling.
  6. Lying. The subject tries to hide the extent of his or her gambling by lying to family, friends, or therapists.
  7. Loss of control. The person has unsuccessfully attempted to reduce gambling.
  8. Illegal acts. The person has broken the law in order to obtain gambling money or recover gambling losses. This may include acts of theftembezzlementfraud, or forgery.
  9. Risked significant relationship. The person gambles despite risking or losing a relationship, job, or other significant opportunity.
  10. Bailout. The person turns to family, friends, or another third party for financial assistance as a result of gambling.

It is suggested that someone who is experiencing 4 or more of the above criteria for a period of 12 months seek help for problem gambling.

Often times the progression from gambling being a fun and entertaining activity to a problematic behaviour is a slow transition that happens over time.  If you or someone you know is experiencing a problem with gambling you can contact Gambling Support Services, 24/7 at 905-684-1859 to speak with a counsellor.  Calls are free and confidential.