Responsible Gaming

Millions of people around the globe participate in gambling activities. For most, it never goes beyond a fun part-time hobby. But for others, it can create a gambling problem. A gambling problem can further morph into a gambling addiction, which takes over your entire life.

There are various pros and cons to gambling, as well as different reasons for why you might gamble. Here are the main advantages:

  • It’s fun and entertaining
  • It’s a possible way to win money
  • It’s easy to get started
  • There are various forms of gambling

The cons include:

  • You can lose money
  • It’s challenging to win consistently
  • Others may not approve
  • Gambling can be addictive

Gambling has as many upsides as it does downsides. This article will take a look at responsible gambling, including gambling addiction, ludomania, gambling alternatives, and helpful resources for gamblers.

What Is Gambling Addiction?

Gambling addiction is categorized as a mental health condition. It’s similar to other addictions, which include drug-use, pyromania, and kleptomania.

A person who is addicted to something can’t put an end to their behavior, even when they know it’s hurting themselves or their loved ones. People who are addicted to gambling can display varying degrees of symptoms. These symptoms can be mild or intense. Here are the main types of gambling addictions:

Problem Gambler

  • A problem gambler’s habits are not completely under their control, nor are they addicted to the point of compulsion.
  • Their gambling behavior is disrupting their normal life.
  • They may lie about their spending habits to loved ones.
  • They slowly realize that they can’t prevent themselves from gambling more often.

Compulsive Gambler

  • A person who can’t control their gambling desire.
  • They continue to gamble regardless of the consequences.
  • They continue to look for gambling opportunities even though they’re fully aware they can’t afford to lose.
  • Also known as a pathological gambler.

Binge Gambler

  • A person who displays signs of compulsive gambling only during specific periods.
  • They may appear to be in control of their problem.
  • They can go for months on end without showing any signs of addiction.
  • Their compulsive gambling behavior is only shown when they gamble, however rarely it is.

Signs of an Addicted Person

There is a list of signs that you can use to determine if you are or someone you know may have a gambling addiction.

If at least four of these signs have been visible within the past year, it may mean there is an addiction manifesting. These signs should not be considered if an individual has a separate mental health condition. The American Psychiatric Association sets this diagnosis criterion.

  • The need to gamble with a higher amount of money to accomplish the same level of excitement
  • Being irritable or restless when attempting to cut down on gambling
  • Having numerous unsuccessful tries to stop gambling
  • Frequent thoughts about gambling (past and future gambling experiences, ways of getting money to gamble)
  • Gambling when feeling depressed, anxious, guilty, or helpless
  • Returning to get even after losing money (known as chasing losses)
  • Lying to hide gambling activities or its consequences
  • Jeopardizing or losing relationships, jobs, or opportunities due to gambling
  • Relying on the help of others for money problems related to gambling

It’s essential to remember that this list is not enough to ascertain whether you have a gambling addiction. It may aid in understanding your problems, but to receive an accurate and correct diagnosis, you should consult a medical professional such as a psychiatrist or a therapist.

A medical professional’s opinion can help rule out any other mental disorders that may be the cause of these behaviors. Individuals with gambling addictions typically have other underlying conditions, such as substance abuse, depression, and anxiety. It’s vital to receive a thorough evaluation by a professional to determine the cause of these behaviors accurately.

What Causes Ludomania?

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The medical term for gambling addiction is ludomania. There isn’t a clean-cute cause of this addiction, as it involves many factors. These are biological, psychological, and social factors, along with comorbidity.

Other points to consider include mental health conditions, the age at which you begin gambling, and how significant your first wins are.

Biological Factors

Biological factors play a crucial role in ludomania. This is because some aspects of this condition are the same as other addictions. The Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery has found evidence that pathological gambling is very similar to substance addiction. Studies have also shown that addicted gamblers display more physical symptoms during withdrawals than substance addicts.

Brain images show that winning while gambling produces neurological responses that are similar to cocaine users who take a dose of the drug.

Deficiencies in chemicals like norepinephrine, which is secreted under stress, arousal, or thrill, as well as serotonin, which is connected to your level of happiness, are also related to compulsive gambling behavior. Pathological gamblers use gambling to increase the production of these chemicals that they lack.

Psychological Factors

The way you think about gambling can have an influence on your chances of developing an addiction. The “Gambler’s Fallacy” is a prime example of this.

The Gambler’s fallacy is an incorrect belief that a series of independent events will affect the outcome of future independent events. So, if a random event has already occurred numerous times in the past, we tend to think that it’ll happen less often in the future.

The most famous example of this fallacy occurred in 1913, where it gained its alternative name, the “Monte Carlo Fallacy.” In a game of roulette, the ball landed on the color black 26 consecutive times. Gamblers lost massive amounts of money, thinking that this streak would eventually come to an end.

The Gambler’s fallacy further motivates addicted gamblers to chase their losses, as they believe that their luck will turn around shortly.

Other psychological factors include cognitive biases. Some examples of distorted thinking include the illusion of control, denial, superstitious beliefs, and overconfidence in future events.

It’s also been noted that fast-paced games such as slots may elicit more problem behaviors.

Social Factors

External sources play a role in ludomania as well. Problems at work or at home, coupled with high amounts of stress can trigger problematic gambling behaviors, though they’re not necessarily the leading cause.

The sociological environment you are surrounded by can put you at a certain amount of risk. Gambling addictions can be passed through families on to younger generations who are exposed to gambling activities more than usual.

Ludomania is also linked to distress, depression, loneliness, meaningful live events, and low levels of support from friends and family.


Comorbidity is the presence of one or more additional conditions that occur in conjunction with the primary condition.

Several key elements significantly increase the likeliness of developing a gambling addiction. These are:

  • Alcohol addiction
  • Drug addiction
  • Personality disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders

If you already have any of the above conditions, you may be at a higher risk of developing a gambling addiction. It’s vital to consult a medical professional to receive a proper diagnosis and plan of action.

Negative Effects of Gambling

Participating in gambling activities can lead to various adverse effects. Some of these may be obvious, while others are less apparent.


You use real money to gamble, so if you bet too much, you can land yourself in hot water financially. A compulsive gambler can accumulate a large number of debts very quickly. In extreme cases, they can even end up poverty-stricken. The loss of your home, cars, and other assets can lead to total bankruptcy. Legal problems can also arise, particularly if addicted gamblers resort to theft and other tactics to fund their habits.

Mental Health

This is arguably one of the most crucial adverse effects of gambling. The strain that gambling problems inflict on your mental health is massive. Gambling problems can lead to broken relationships, work dismissals, and overall distress, which in turn can result in depression and even suicide. Various conditions that exist prior to or after your gambling addiction also have an impact.

Family and Relationships

The people closest to a person suffering from a gambling addiction face repercussions as well. Not only are they present during the addiction phase, but they can also suffer from other problems. According to statistics, families of people with ludomania are more likely to experience child abuse and domestic violence. Children of gambling addicts can develop substance abuse, depression, and behavioral problems later on in life. 

Work and Career

The negative effects of gambling trickle through into your workplace as well. Gambling can affect productivity, motivation, and general day-to-day activities. You may find yourself sitting at work, wishing you were gambling. Or, you might even start skipping work under the pretense of being sick. A decrease in your working abilities can also lead to permanent dismissal, resulting in loss of income.

Is Gambling Addiction a Common Problem?

Gambling is a major driving force in the Canadian economy. It constitutes the largest segment within Canada’s entertainment industry, generating an astounding $16 billion annually. This figure continues to climb each year.

Worldwide, approximately 1.6 billion people gamble per year. Over 4.2 billion people have gambled at some point in their lifetime. In Canada, there are at least 18.6 million people who actively participate in gambling. Canada is the 8th ranked country in online gambling.

Statistics say that 5% of Canadian adults suffer from problem gambling at land-based casinos. This figure rises to 12% at online casinos.

Gambling has significantly increased in Canada due to virtually every casino offering online gambling. It’s also cheaper than traditional brick and mortar casinos, as well as being convenient.

The average spend per person per casino visit is as follows:

  • Card games such as poker: CA$53
  • Table games such as roulette: CA$50
  • Slots games: CA$50

It’s estimated that around 76% of Canadians participate in some form of gambling. This number equals almost 30 million citizens. Of these, up to 12% could face a gambling problem or already have one.

How to Overcome a Gambling Addiction

If you know you have a problem or think you may develop one, there are a lot of resources available to aid you in overcoming a gambling addiction.

To effectively combat gambling addiction, you’ll need to seek the help of a medical professional. A professional may suggest various types of treatment methods. There is no specific treatment that will manage a gambling addiction. In fact, a combination of treatments is typically recommended.

Medical Treatment

There is no medicine that specifically targets and treats gambling addictions. Some medications show promising effects in reducing the need to gamble, as well as the feeling of adrenaline that accompanies it.

The medications used in gambling addictions are similar to those used in other habits and conditions, such as anti-depressants and anti-seizure medications.

Therapy and Counseling

Psychotherapy is one of the most effective means of treating gambling problems. A trained medical professional can provide in-depth counseling and therapy sessions that have a high success rate. Many individuals suffer from underlying mental health conditions that are diagnosed at the same as gambling problems during therapy sessions. This is one of the main reasons why this treatment is necessary, as it uncovers various hidden issues that may not have been noticeable before.

Group Support and Self-Help

Group support can be monumental in fighting a gambling problem. Gamblers’ Anonymous is an example of a group support system. People from all walks of life attend these meetings with a similar goal in mind. This can be a useful method of gaining advice and insight from people with the same problems as you. Self-help also plays an instrumental role, because, at the end of the day, it’s your life you need to change.

There are self-help recommendations offered by the American Association of Psychiatry to manage gambling cravings:

  • Ask for support from family or friends, or go to a Gamblers Anonymous meeting
  • Try distracting yourself with other fun activities, and don’t avoid healthy socializing
  • Wait for more extended periods before engaging in gambling to allow the cravings to wear off
  • Think about the consequences of gambling and what will happen if you decide to gamble

How Can You Help Someone Cope with an Addiction?

Many people can comfortably gamble without it ever becoming a problem. There are, however, a few individuals who develop a gambling addiction that can potentially impact their lives in a negative manner.

If you have a loved one who is struggling with ludomania, it’s best to identify this problem as early as possible. That way, they can receive treatment and recover timeously.

Compulsive gambling can be challenging to overcome. With the right professional intervention and treatment, many gamblers can successfully recover and learn to manage their condition.

Signs of a Gambling Problem

The first step is to understand the signs that could indicate a potential gambling problem in someone you know:

  • They’ve started lying about their gambling habits
  • They gamble more and don’t notice the deterioration in their relationships
  • They talk about how they might have a problem
  • They borrow or take money to gamble or sell things to make money
  • They spend increasing amounts of time gambling
  • They spend money on gambling despite unpaid bills and a lack of other basic necessities

If any of the above signs are visible, it’s time to pay attention. They might already be seeking help, or they’re too afraid to admit the problem entirely. It’s important to approach this issue in a non-judgmental or threatening manner.

It’s essential to educate yourself on the dos and don’ts of someone with a compulsive gambling problem:

  • Being supportive is crucial
  • Ensure you’re not enabling the gambler in any way
  • Participate in the treatment process as appropriate

For example, you shouldn’t offer to pay off any gambling debts, as this is enablement. Instead, you could assist them in finding financial counseling or other services that tackle debts.


While there’s no guaranteed method of convincing someone to get help, there are ways to encourage them and help open their eyes to the more significant problem at hand.

An intervention is one of these methods. In an intervention, family members and close friends approach the gambler to discuss their concerns. It’s crucial to utilize a positive and loving tone. The gambler shouldn’t feel as though they are being attacked or ridiculed. Instead, they should feel like they have a circle of concerned loved ones who want the best for them.

A gamblers’ loved ones can conduct an intervention, but it’s also useful to employ the help and guidance of a professional interventionist.

How to Prevent the Suicide of Problem Ludomans

There is a high rate of suicide among problem gamblers. This is due to pre-existing mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, which further exacerbate the issue.

Having honest, responsible, and safe conversations about suicidal thoughts can aid you to determine if someone needs help.

If you or someone you know feels suicidal, you can contact the Canadian Suicide Prevention Service on 1-833-456-4566, or you can text “Start” to 45645. This service is available 24/7.

Alternatives to Gambling

Quitting gambling entirely is not the end of the recovery process. Staying in recovery and not giving in to temptation is the main challenge.

Online gambling is more accessible than ever, which can prove difficult for recovering gamblers to avoid it. Luckily, there is a myriad of alternatives to gambling and its triggers.

Even if you aren’t a problem gambler, you may find a lot of inspiration below for substitute activities.

Alternatives to Gambling.
Reason For Gambling Alternative to Gambling
It’s exciting and provides a rush of adrenaline. You can participate in sports and hobbies that induce the same feelings. Some examples include rock climbing, mountain biking, go-kart racing, bungee jumping, rafting, and paragliding.
It offers a social aspect as you interact with other people. You can socialize in various ways. Some examples include counseling, public speaking classes, social groups dedicated to specific activities such as a book club, meeting up with friends and family, making new friends, and volunteering.
It allows you to forget about your problems and relax after a long day. It’s impossible to escape your problems entirely. But, you can find ways to manage these problems better. Therapy, self-help, meditation, and exercise are healthy ways of managing the stress of everyday life.
It helps with feelings of boredom and loneliness. Find something you’re passionate about like music, art, sports, books, and other hobbies. Connect with others who share your interests as well.
Gambling solves money problems. As the saying goes, the house always wins. Gambling is a game of chance. This means you cannot win every game as the odds are inherently against you. Find help in the form of financial counseling to manage your debts.

Myths and Facts about Ludomania

There are a lot of common misconceptions about gambling addictions. It’s essential to have the correct facts when dealing with this disorder. Here are the top five myths:

Myth: Gambling is only a problem when a person can’t afford the value of the loss.

Fact: Financial problems are a natural and dire consequence of gambling addictions. The amount of money involved is not always the primary factor to consider. It’s possible to have a gambling addiction without any financial implications. In this case, the consequences could be filtering through personal relationships or work life.

Myth: You can’t be a problem gambler if you only gamble occasionally.

Fact: There is a category that looks specifically at problem gamblers who only gamble occasionally. These types of gamblers are called “binge gamblers.” It’s more difficult to see the signs of this behavior as problematic because it happens so rarely. However, if the betting that happens during these binge episodes fits the criteria of a compulsive gambler, a problem may still exist.

Myth: People who are responsible don’t have gambling problems.

Fact: A gambling addiction can manifest in any person, regardless of their normally responsible behavior. The addiction leads to a loss of control, but only where gambling is concerned. It does not mean that the person is perpetually irresponsible in life, even though gambling can lead people to behave irresponsibly.

Myth: Children and teenagers who are under the legal gambling age are not affected by problem gambling, as only adults can suffer from it

Fact: Young people are spending an increasing amount of money on gambling, particularly in mobile gaming. Family members who gamble can also indirectly affect a younger person’s attitude toward gambling later in life.

Myth: You can help someone with a gambling problem by paying off their debts or other financial hardships.

Fact: It may be a difficult idea to accept, but it is often the wrong thing to do. Paying off debts can be a way of enabling a problem gambler. They may see it as a safety net if they have money worries again. This could lead to them potentially placing more bets and starting to gamble again.

Helpful Resources for Gamblers

There are a lot of helpful resources to those seeking help with their gambling addiction. It’s important to remember that one method of treatment may not work for everyone else in the same way. At times, it may be beneficial to utilize multiple methods of treatment.

The options include group support meetings with others in similar situations as well as professional therapy sessions with doctors and counselors. Regardless of whether you need assistance immediately, or want to set out a treatment plan, there is help available in all shapes. Here are some resources dedicated to fighting gambling addictions:

This organization has existed for decades. There is a branch for every type of addiction, including drugs and alcohol. There are groups that meet up all over the world to combat disorders. The only requirement these groups stipulate is that you want to quit gambling. There is a twelve-step program that outlines a plan to aid problem gamblers in recovery as well as a commitment to not return to past behaviors.

This is an online initiative that helps people with gambling problems. There is a website with lots of in-depth gambling facts and information. You can phone their hotline to speak to an adviser, or you can visit their website and chat with an online adviser. There is full confidentiality, and you don’t need to provide any personal information if you don’t want to.

Now known as Gambling, Gaming, and Technology Use, this organization is located in Toronto. It forms part of the Provincial System Support Program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). You can access a variety of information about problem gambling to increase your knowledge and understanding of the addiction.

The NCPG advocates for problem gamblers and their loved ones. Their website contains information relating to problem gambling, treatment information, as well as trained counselors.

In every Canadian province you can find a help center for gambling addicts. Below, you’ll find a list of local institutions that you can reach any moment.

Call +1-866-332-2322

Call +1-888-795-6111

Call 1-855-662-6605

Call +1-800-461-1234

Call +1-877-999-7589

Call +1-800-661-0844

Call +1-888-347-8888

Call +1-800-265-3333

Call +1-416-535-8501

Call +1-866-531-2600

Call +1-855-255-4255

  • Quebec: 

Call +1-800-461-0140

Call +1-306-787-7239

Call +1-800-661-0408

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