Having a flutter - what to do when gambling goes too far

At the time of writing this article, a major sporting event is about to take place. I decided to do something that I very rarely do, and I haven’t done in years, which was to go down to my local bookies and place a bet on the team that I thought was going to win. I wanted to hedge my bets a bit on both teams, as I favoured one team and my wife the other side on both. She didn’t know that at the time but did soon after.


When I went to place my bet, what I wanted to do surreptitiously was to experience the whole shebang from the eyes of the gambler. I visited my (amazingly bright) local bookies and went to talk to the friendly guy behind the desk. He explained the process, explaining the different conversing terminology and provide excellent customer service. I could also see numerous different sports to bet on - there was some dog racing going on in America, and a wide variety of football. There were regulars present, and I was feeling a little bit embarrassed as I stuck out like a sore thumb; it's always easy to identify a rookie!

During this process, the first emotional thing that you feel is the excitement that you can do this process, as you are over 18 years of age. The most exhilarating thing for a gambler is to have a win because, at that exact moment in time, they fought the world and they beat the odds; there is no greater euphoria than that. After leaving the shop, however, come all the different emotional experiences. The first one is when you submit a betting slip at the place; it is true what they say that the house always wins because, from the bets I made, I’m either going to break even or lose £2. Then you have an immediate switch from what might be a euphoric experience into something guilt-driven; it makes you feel foolish and, in certain aspects, a little isolated, for a moment.

We are all made aware, thanks to the very prominent advertising slogans, that when you no longer have fun, that is the time stop, to ensure that you have enough money for the essentials in life before you enjoying the process of gambling. Then combine that against the thrill of the chase and potential winnings, and that’s quite a strong emotional pull that is hard to resist.

When we are dealing with individuals who have gambling issues, these people in the first instance usually find it very hard to admit that they have a problem. The reason being is if they are accumulating massive losses, it might be very difficult to tell a loved one of the stark financial reality. This can create an intense amount of anxiety, and that not only adds pressure to the situation, but it can feed the problem. If you’re actively gambling as a way of seeking relaxation, then you are in a vicious cycle because you then face the fact of gambling to feel better, making a potential loss, increasing your anxiety, and then proceeding to start to gamble once more.

There are quite a lot of issues to deal with, so it’s usually easier to break things down into smaller chunks to help you.

  • The first and most important thing to do would be to talk to someone you trust. It might be difficult, but if you open up, then you can at least take action to help you with your problem from that moment forward.
  • If you are gambling to relax, then you can easily replace that with another activity which does not involve gambling, such as deep breathing exercises (PMR's).
  • You can voluntarily contact gambling associations and services that can block you from all gambling sites for a period of three to five years, which can help.
  • Talking to a psychotherapist, a counsellor, or an appropriate talking therapist could help you explore the reasons why you gamble and come up with alternative strategies to help you prevent unwanted gambling. Usually, with gamblers, there is an unmet need that is not being addressed, and talking therapy is very good at establishing what that is and helping you resolve the situation.

Gambling support

If you are affected by gambling issues, then, as well as contacting a professional counsellor, these organisations can help.

  • GamCare offers free information, support, and counselling for problem gamblers in the UK. It runs the National Gambling Helpline (0808 8020 133) and also offers face-to-face counselling.
  • National Problem Gambling Clinic - if you live in England or Wales, are aged 16 or over, and have complex problems related to gambling, you can refer yourself to this specialist NHS clinic for problem gamblers.
  • The Gordon Moody Association offers residential courses for men and women who have problems with gambling - email help@gordonmoody.org.uk or call 01384 241 292 to find out more. It also runs the Gambling Therapy website, which offers online support to problem gamblers and their friends and family.
  • Gamblers Anonymous UK runs local support groups that use the same 12-step approach to recovery from addiction as Alcoholics Anonymous. There are also GamAnon support groups for friends and family.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Normanton, West Yorkshire, WF6 2DB
Written by Brian Turner, BA (Hons.) MNCS Snr Accred / Supervisor. (Prof. Dip PsyC)
Normanton, West Yorkshire, WF6 2DB

I am a psychotherapist that works with anxiety depression and suicidal issues. I use a diverse and wide spectrum of techniques to ensure that my clients feel empowered and confident, so they are able to achieve what they wish to achieve when presenting with a broad range of issues.

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