Edition #4: Gambling harm

Woman in her 30's in front of window in her living room looks into camera.
Woman in her 30's in front of window in her living room looks into camera.
Photo: Thom Rigney

‘At times, she was a complete stranger to me …’

The stories family members tell about how gambling changes a person are strikingly familiar.

They talk about how the compulsion to gamble takes over in the moment, prompting arguments and conflict.

They talk about white lies turning into big lies, and the loss of trust, isolation and confusion that the family member feels.

Gabi talks about how the urge to gamble changed her behaviour.

'From a very responsible mother and wife and friend, I became this person that was ruthless when I wanted to feed the beast,' she says.

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And Matt made up stories about fines to placate girlfriend Lauren.

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With an estimated 300 thousand Victorians affected by someone else's gambling, there is clearly a need for strategies to address the harm to this group.

Foundation chief executive Serge Sardo says the families and close friends of people with gambling problems need support.

'Partners feel isolated, mothers and fathers feel responsible and children feel lost and confused,' he says.

It's not just gamblers who need help

Before 2015, campaigns targeting this group focused on encouraging affected others to support the gambler and prompt them to seek treatment. 

While this support is important for gamblers in recovery, the approach sometimes reinforced the isolation felt by affected others.

'Partners feel isolated, mothers and fathers feel responsible and children feel lost and confused.'

Serge Sardo, chief executive Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation

In April 2015, the foundation shifted focus with a new campaign highlighting that it's not just gamblers who need help.

The campaign is supported by a family-friendly practice approach across the Gambler's Help network, where agencies are encouraged to provide help to everyone, not just the gambler.

A discussion paper Addressing problem gambling harm: working with families and friends explores the evidence behind the need for family-focused services including:

  • the partners of gamblers with problems often report significant health problems including disturbances in eating and sleeping, increase in substance use (including smoking and prescribed medications), as well as physical illness including headaches, hypertension and migraines
  • over half the partners of problem gamblers in one study had resorted to excessive drinking, smoking, eating or spending as a way to cope with their circumstances 
  • relationships play a key role in recovery of gamblers with problems
  • problem gambling has been shown to be intergenerational with the harms associated impacting downstream.

Download the discussion paper:

Addressing problem gambling harm: working with families and friends (PDF - 630 KB)

The campaign has now been aired twice with good results for awareness and attitudes among the target audience. 

The advertisement will again be appearing on our television screens from mid-April along with a targeted social media strategy.

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