Gambling is a popular pastime in Northern Ireland, including the poker machines, lotto, instant scratchies, cards, racing or online betting. Many people have fun gambling now and again, but sometimes it can get out of hand and become a cause for distress and financial hardship.

Problem gambling is when betting starts to create trouble in your life, such as debt; relationship problems; loss of a job; stress or depression; or it gets in the way of being a good parent. It may start out fine, but gradually feel like it’s taking over.

This is because gambling can be addictive – it can become a habit that you find hard to control, even though you know it’s causing you and your family harm. The poker machines are especially addictive. Lots of people get into difficulties with gambling and there are many types of support available. Whether you just want to cut down a little, or if you have complicated debts and issues that need greater support, you can find the kind of help that works best for you.

How do I know if I am in danger of developing a gambling addiction?

It’s sometimes hard to know if your gambling is getting out of hand. A common reaction is to minimize it or deny that it’s causing harm. Some people may hide the gambling or start to lie about how much time and money they are spending on it. You might say to yourself “I enjoy this, it’s just my way of relaxing”… “I’ll stop when I have the next big win…” “It makes me forget my worries…” or “I can stop whenever I want”. These are all forms of denial.

What can I do?

  • First of all – talk to someone you trust about your gambling. This will be a first step in finding the best way forward to cut down or stop
  • Call the national Gambling Helpline 0808 8020 133 and they can talk to you confidentially or send out self-help tools and information
  • Debt Action NI on 0800 917 4607 (which is filtered through Advice NI)
  • Contact a Gambling Help Service. Just one session with a professional counsellor can help you assess your situation and set up a plan to suit your needs
  • Have a close friend as an ally who will check in with you and support you to stick to your plan
  • See a financial counsellor to look at money going ‘‘in’ and ‘out’ so you can decide if the balance is right and get help to manage any debts

If you can tick yes to any of the following, your gambling may be starting to become a problem.

Do you:

  • Spend more money and time than you intend to on gambling
  • Feel guilty and ashamed about your gambling
  • Try to win back your losses
  • Miss important things like family time, work, leisure activities or appointments because of gambling
  • Think about gambling every day
  • Have arguments with friends and family about your gambling
  • Lie or steal to get money for gambling
  • Get into debt because of gambling
  • Get consumed in paid game add-on’s ie. Fifa, candy crush and Farmville

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