Problem gambling and addiction

For a minority of players, it is very difficult – even impossible – to gamble responsibly.

When gambling, it is essential to know your limits and play within your means. Failing to do this can be seriously costly – and not just financially. This page will help you understand and identify problem gambling and addiction.

Problem gambling versus addiction

The first thing to know about problem gambling and addiction is that they are not the same thing. This is because, while all addicts are problem gamblers, not all problem gamblers are addicts.

Below, we have explained the difference between problem gambling and addiction:

Problem gambling

All it takes to become a problem gambler is to spend more than you can afford to lose. Put simply, if gambling becomes a problem in your life, for any reason, then you have a gambling problem. This could mean you are anxious about how much you spend, or you feel that your losses are out of control. However, this does not mean you are necessarily an addict.


Gambling addiction is a form of behavioural addiction. This means that, unlike drinking, smoking, or drug reliance, it does not stem from chemical stimuli. However, the symptoms and characteristics are very similar to substance addiction. Addiction has nothing to do with the size of your losses; rather, it means you are incapable of regulating your play. Addicts are compelled to gamble, and their habit can rapidly consume their lives.

Identifying gambling addiction

Every specialist has a different set of criteria for defining addiction. The following were proposed by Dr Mark Griffiths of Nottingham Trent University, a leading addiction specialist:


You find yourself uncontrollably drawn to gambling and ‘crave’ it in your down time.

Mood modification

You use gambling to make yourself feel better, or to attain a ‘high’ or ‘rush’.


You find that you need to gamble more in order to reach the same highs you previously experienced from gambling less.


You feel anxious or uncomfortable when you have not gambled for a period of time.


You know that you should stop gambling or reduce the amount of time you spend gambling but find yourself incapable of doing so.


You have returned to gambling after an extended period without gambling.

Do most or all of these apply to you, or someone you know? You can find more information about what to do next here.

Support for problem gamblers

“GamCare provides support, information and advice to anyone suffering through a gambling problem”.

For more information about GamCare click here.

“Gambling Therapy is a free online service that provides practical advice and emotional support to people affected by problem gambling who reside outside Great Britain.”

For more information about Gambling Therapy click here.