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Problem gambling can interfere with an individual’s everyday life. While recreational gambling is simply fun for most people, problem gambling is something else entirely; it is a serious issue requiring intervention and treatment.

Young people in particular are at greater risk as they are three times more likely to develop a gambling problem. Research has shown that on average, four to eight percent of 12-17 year olds struggle with gambling problems, while another 10-15 percent is at risk of developing an addiction.

Individuals with a gambling problem are more likely to smoke, drink and commit a crime, and often suffer depression, academic and relationship problems, and financial issues. Because of this, it is imperative to address and seek treatment to combat a potentially devastating and dangerous addiction.

Signs and symptoms

While problem gambling signs vary for each individual, it is important to recognize and discuss rapid changes in a family member’s everyday behavior. Are they leaving or missing at unusual times? Do they retell stories of gambling victories, but seemingly never mention a loss? Have they ever asked to borrow money?

If early signs of compulsive behavior are detected, it is important to start the conversation before the issue overwhelms their life.

Where can you get help for your family member?

The following resources are available when reaching out to a spouse/significant other who has a gambling problem:

  • Minnesota’s Problem Gambling Program
    • There are State funds available for treatment services to Minnesota residents who meet the clinical diagnosis for compulsive gambling and demonstrate financial need.
    • State-approved treatment providers can be found at www.nojudgement.com and are listed by county, city, and provider.
    • Call Minnesota’s 24-hour, toll-free, confidential helpline at 1-800-333-HOPE.
  • Gamblers Anonymous
    • Uses a 12-step recovery program
    • Offers peer-led support groups
    • A list of local meetings available by calling 1-800-333-HOPE
  • National Problem Gambling Help Line
    • Free, 24/7 availability
    • Available at 1-800-522-4700
    • Answers questions and provides resource information
Support groups for you

One of the best ways to assist someone struggling with a gambling problem is to know the resources available to you. To connect with a support system or to seek counseling the following resources are available:

  • Minnesota’s Problem Gambling Program
    • Provides public education
    • 24-hour, toll-free, confidential help line: 1-800-333-HOPE
  • Gam-Anon
    • Peer-led support group for spouses, relatives or close friends
    • Provides immediate support in a crisis
    • List of local meetings available by calling 1-800-333-HOPE
What to say to a family member with a gambling problem

Talking to a family member with a gambling addiction can be especially difficult because you are not only invested in their recovery as a person, but also as a loved member of your family. That is why encouraging healthy behavior sometimes takes a direct conversation.

When engaging a family member in a discussion about their problem gambling, remember to be specific and use examples. Explain that you see a problem and what you are willing to do to help. Above all else, do not be judgmental and keep the door open for future conversations.

Having trouble starting a conversation?

Each situation is different. To help, please read the tips.

Call for confidential help

Treatment is available free of charge for qualifying individuals throughout Minnesota.