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Most people can gamble as a recreational activity, a small percentage of people will develop a gambling problem and some will develop a strong compulsion to gamble (pathological gambling disorder).

Are You at Risk?

While there’s no way to predict who will go one to develop a gambling problem, researchers have identified certain risk factors that seem to increase a person’s odds of having a problem.

If you like to gamble you should realize that gambling can be an addictive pastime and that you should gamble with caution and with awareness. If you gamble and find that several of the list items below match your experiences, then you should gamble with great caution, if at all.

Gambling Risk Factors

Factors that increase the risks of developing a gambling problem include:

  • Being in a tight financial situation
  • Winning a lot of money early in a gambling career
  • Starting to gamble as a child or teenager (younger gamblers are at greater risk)
  • You are impulsive
  • You or someone in your family has or has had a mental illness, substance abuse problem or gambling problem
  • You gamble as a way to escape your problems (deal with stress or emotional problems)
  • You have ever been abused
  • You think that you have a system or a special skill for gambling
  • You are bored, depressed, anxious or feeling directionless in life
  • You always want to win back any money you lose
  • You have recently suffered a life upheaval, such as a divorce or the loss of someone close to you *

How to Reduce the Risks of Developing a Gambling Problem

No matter how many risk factors you identify with, if you choose to gamble, it makes sense to gamble smart, and to take steps to reduce your chances of ever developing a gambling problem.

Safer Gambling Suggestions

  • Know that if you gamble, you are probably going to lose. Think of it as entertainment only, and not as a way to make money
  • Don’t gamble after you’ve been drinking or using drugs
  • Be aware of your emotions and never gamble as a way to escape negative feelings
  • Decide in advance of a gambling session how much you’re prepared to lose and how much time you’ll spend playing, and never exceed this limit
  • Never gamble more than you can afford to lose
  • Keep track of your wins and losses (write them down) so you’ll know accurately how much your gambling habit costs
  • Take the concerns of others seriously. If friends or family express concern about your gambling behaviors, then you’d be very wise to listen to their words – people developing a gambling problem often fail to observe in themselves what others can clearly see from a distance.
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Page last updated Sep 01, 2010

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