March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month. While the actual designation was created 18 years ago in America, it still applies to Aussies on the other side of the ocean. In fact, we may need it more than those in the U.S.

According to Alliance for Gambling Reform spokesman Tim Costello, “Gambling in Australia is the equivalent of guns in America.” 200,000 Australians are estimated to have a high-level problem, while twice that number have a low-level addiction. In fact, Aussies spend an average of $1,300 annually on gambling, with the next highest nation being Singapore ($600 per capita).

How Does Addiction Occur?

When an individual wins at any form of gambling, the body releases dopamine that stimulates the reward centre of the brain. This can have an effect much like drugs or alcohol, and for many it’s incredibly addictive. In fact, Costello has stated that dopamine “hits your brain with the force of cocaine.”

Signs of Compulsive Gambling

So how do you know if you’re a compulsive gambler? Well, there are a number of symptoms that frequently manifest. They include:

  • You constantly think about gambling.
  • Gambling has cost you a relationship and/or job.
  • After losing all your money, you borrow from others in order to keep gambling.
  • You have resorted to fraud and/or theft to support your gambling habit.
  • You become irritable when you stop or cut down on gambling.
  • In order to get the same thrill, you constantly have to increase the size of your wager.
  • Gambling has become a way for you to escape depression and/or anxiety.
  • Your lie to friends and family about how often you gamble.
  • Instead of quitting after a losing session, you continue to play in an effort to reverse your fortunes.
  • You have tried to quit gambling, but you always end up going back.

Some of the entries listed above may simply place you in the “at risk” category. However, if two or more of the items describe you, then it’s time to seriously consider seeking help.

Advice for online gamblers

Factors that Lead to Problem Gambling

Most people can gamble and simply walk away without any issues. However, due to complex factors such as biological, environmental, and genetic, some quickly become dependent on the stimulus. Here are some of the most common:

  • People suffering from depression or anxiety.
  • Personality traits such as being impulsive, competitive, or having a short attention span.
  • Those with friends or family members who are problem gamblers.
  • Individuals who are young or middle-aged. While older players can also become addicted, the previous two age groups are more in danger.
  • Certain medications, especially those known as “dopamine agonists” can increase compulsive behaviour.
  • Individuals with substance abuse problems.
  • Certain mental health disorders. These include attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

If you meet any of the criteria listed above, it might be wise to either limit your gambling or avoid it altogether. Otherwise, you could be at an enhanced risk for addiction.

How to Quit

Like any addiction, some individuals are able to quit cold turkey. However, this is generally the most difficult route to take.

For most, a combination of therapy and a support group works well. Certain medications may also curb your impulsive tendencies, but this isn’t recommended for everyone.

Where to Get Help

The Gambling Help Online site is an excellent resource for problem gamblers throughout Australia. It’s available 24/7 and offers confidential access to information, advice, live chat, and email support.

The National Gambling Helpline also exists to help Aussie residents. Assistance is professional, confidential, and available 24/7. The number is 1800 858 858.

Additional Reading

Australian Casino Sites does its best to provide gambling news of interest to Aussies. Here are some notable examples of our past content.