An understanding of the inner workings of the poker machines is reliant on an appreciation of randomness. ‘Randomness’ is a tricky concept, in that we often think we understand what this term means and may use it frequently without even realising that its true meaning evades us. As a test, if you were asked to define the word random what would you say? What does ‘random’ really mean?

The term ‘random’ is made up of two related concepts, for something to be considered random it must operate as an independent event and it must be unpredictable.

The word ‘random’ implies independent events; when we say that two events are independent we are saying that there is no connection or association between them. For example, if I drop a pen at my desk and at the same time a person at the local pub gets the feature, these two events are independent as they are not connected or associated in any way. Interestingly, each spin of the machine is independent of all other spins, the machine does not connect previous spins with the successive spins, and therefore each spin is an independent event.

The word random also implies that the events in question are unpredictable, that is there is no rule which governs what will happen next. If an event is random, as is the inner workings of the poker machines, there is no way to predict what will happen on the next spin or series of spins as there is no rule to what is happening. What has happened previously, for example the last 10 spins of the machine gives no information or indication whatsoever of what will happen in the next spin.

A misguided understanding of randomness influences people’s beliefs about the machines and their chances of winning. A problem gambler may think that they can in some way control or influence the outcome of play, without realising that the randomness of the machines means that this is impossible. An accurate understanding of the random operation of poker machines is a way to change the way you think about the poker machines and allow you to make informed choices about your gambling.

For more information on how gaming machines work, watch Part 1 and Part 2 of ‘Gaming Machines: Facts and Myths’, featuring Jay Laga’aia.

If you think you may have a problem with poker machines or any other form of gambling, help is available. Call Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 to speak with a gambling counsellor. Free individual sessions are available to anybody who might be concerned their gambling has gotten out of hand.

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We need to change the way we talk about gambling

change the way we talk about gambling

Have you listened in to someone at a gambling venue playing the pokies? There are similar statements that seem to arise regardless of which venue you are at:

“I’m up”.
“I’m having a good run”.
“I’m on a winning streak”.
“The machines are hot today”.
“I have won $200”.

The problem with these statements is that they add to the illusion that you can ‘beat the machines’. How do statements such as these create this illusion? Through 24-hour accounting. The way we talk tricks us into believing we have won. If we were to use a different time period, for instance a year, month, or even a week, we would be unable to use terms such as “I’m up” or “I’ve won $200”.

The truth is that you have been losing since you started gambling. Think of all the times you have put money into the machines over the course of your gambling history; a $200 win on one of these occasions does not in fact mean you are ‘winning’, but rather that you have “only lost X amount”. Even if you have ‘won’ today, you have still lost money in the long-run.

If you think you have been using 24-hour accounting and are concerned about the amount of money you have lost while gambling, call Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 for confidential and free advice.

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Keeping Secrets


Whether gambling is a problem for a person depends on the circumstances and experience of each individual; however, a typical feature of problem gambling is that it is often shrouded in secrecy – that is it lied about or covered up in some way.

Problem gambling is often a cause of embarrassment, guilt and shame, and as a result is often kept a secret from others. In contrast, recreational gambling usually involves a social setting in the presence of others, and the amount spent, won and lost is not kept a secret.

Individuals with gambling problems often try to keep the amount of money lost a secret from even themselves, by rarely checking their account balance or avoiding calculating their losses, particularly for longer periods of time such as weekly or monthly losses. Individuals may also use alcohol to relieve the feelings of guilt or shame following a gambling session, which in term may exacerbate the harm caused by gambling.

Your gambling is a problem if it influences your life in a negative way. It may start as little ‘white lies’ or omitting details about a gambling session such as how much was lost or the length of time at a venue. The tendency to downplay or lie to others about your gambling in many cases leads to relationship problems and fosters denial.

If your gambling has become a source of secrecy, you can call Gambling Help at any time on 1800 858 858 for free and confidential support, or visit www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au for more information on the free services available in your area.

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Youth Gambling

Youth gambling

Did anyone watch Insight on SBS last week? There was a vigorous and informative discussion on youth gambling (Insight – Youth Gambling).

Gambling is a popular pastime in Australia and Australian youth are no exception with a participation rate of 70-80%. However one in every twenty young Australians will experience problems with gambling before they are 25, and a further one in six are at risk of developing gambling problems. Young people are at least five times more likely to develop gambling problems compared to the general adult population, and almost ten times more likely to be at risk. These are sobering statistics.

Young men are much more likely to have gambling problems than young women. Amongst the young male population, international students are particularly vulnerable due to social isolation and cultural factors. One in ten male international students gamble at problematic levels.

Over recent years we have seen a major shift in how people gamble. Sports and online gambling are becoming more popular, at the expense of traditional mediums such as poker machines. The boom in online gambling makes gambling much more accessible and available. The new mediums naturally draw in young people due to their strong connections with sporting culture and the internet.

So what’s the takeaway from all this if you are a young person who likes to gamble? Be informed about the bets you are making and the games you play. Learn the odds, the probabilities of winning (and losing) and keep track of your wins and losses - Gambling Help have a mobile phone app to help you set a gambling budget and stick to it. If you find yourself spending more money and time than you can afford, then it’s a good idea to talk to someone about it.

People who experience problems with gambling don’t often seek help, and young people are even more reluctant than the average adult. A conversation now can prevent a lot of problems down the track. Stay safe, be informed and talk to someone if you think you are in trouble.

Gambling Help provide free and confidential support and treatment. You can call Gambling Help around the clock on 1800 858 858 or visit www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au for more information.

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The Glamour of the Gamble


Picture it. A beautiful woman in a long evening dress, hair and make-up immaculate. A dashing gentleman in a 3-piece suit, cigar in one hand, martini in the other. The rich, vibrant atmosphere of the casino, the very essence of the building feels rich and luxurious. The world almost seems like a fantasy… and that’s because it is.

The ‘James Bond’ world described above is often the first image that comes to mind when thinking about casinos. Casino owners and Hollywood would like us to believe that this glamorous world exists, that the big win is just around the corner, and that we too could live a life of luxury but the reality of the casinos is far different.

The reality: You are more likely to come out with less than when you went in. Millions and millions of dollars are spent each year in order for casinos to remain running, and yet they still turn over a profit. So where does the profit come from? The gambler’s loss.

The Australian Government (2010) place the total losses through gambling in Australia to reach $19 billion (2008-09) and the social cost to the community is estimated to be at $4.7 billion a year. 115,000 Australians are classified as problem gamblers, and a further 280,000 are at risk of becoming problem gamblers.

Don’t become one of these statistics, play your cards right and seek some help. Call Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 for 24/7 free and confidential support.

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Gambling as an escape

Escaping reality

While people get into gambling for a myriad of reasons, problem gamblers often engage in gambling in order to escape from negative emotions. These emotions might include loneliness, boredom, anxiety, stress and even depression. For example, many gamblers might rush off to the local pub or club after an argument with a spouse, or to “de-stress” after a hectic day at work. Does this sound familiar to you?

Many venues are safe and friendly environments, with regular patrons often surrounded by friends and acquaintances. Is it any wonder a gambler’s mood improves upon entering? Once a session commences, a gambler’s mood usually further improves, as their attention shifts away from personal problems and focuses in on play. Thoughts focused on winning dominate: “Am I up?” “Am I down?” “How long until the next feature?”. This intense focus on play is a powerful distraction, and personal problems seem to miraculously disappear. Have you experienced something similar?

Gambling can be such an effective means of distraction, such a powerful means of escape, that many individuals don’t see their gambling as a problem in their lives. Rather, they believe it is part of the solution, something that makes their lives more liveable. Have you ever felt this way?

The reality though, is that gambling nearly always plays a detrimental role in the lives of heavy gamblers. It can cause a range of harms including financial problems, relationship difficulties, health issues and emotional problems to name just a few.

Most importantly, while “escape” explains what gets gamblers into a venue in the first place, it doesn’t explain why problem gamblers are unable to stop gambling once a session has begun, while recreational gamblers can. Understanding why you can’t stop once you’ve started is a crucial step in controlling gambling. The good news is that a counsellor can help you with answering this tricky question.

If gambling is, or is becoming, a problem for you, help is at hand. Free, confidential and non-judgmental support and treatment is available – call Gambling Help at any time on 1800 858 858.

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Knowing vs Believing

Two human head silhouettes with cogs and gears

“I know I can’t win”. How many times have you heard a person with a gambling problem say that? If you have a gambling problem, how many times have you said that to yourself? Yet despite this, people with gambling problems continue to gamble. Why?

There is a difference between knowing and believing. We can know something without truly believing in it. Human beings are complex creatures. There is often internal conflict between what we know is good for us and our habits, needs and desires. That’s why someone may know they cannot win on a rational level, but when they are at the venue they can’t help but gamble excessively.

What can we do to resolve this conflict between what we know and what we actually do? We need to move beyond merely knowing and arm ourselves with knowledge about how gambling really works, in order to develop a true belief that we cannot win by gambling. When we truly believe something, then our actions will be consistent with our beliefs. So spend a little (or a lot of!) time and effort to understand exactly WHY you can’t win. As a starting point there is a range of excellent educational resources available online (e.g. http://www.whatareyourodds.com.au/).

To demonstrate the power of knowledge, let’s consider the popular poker machine game Black Rhinos. Playing one line at a time on a 5c machine, it would take 6.7 million button presses costing nearly $330,000 to have a 50% chance of winning the top prize of $10,000. You will have other smaller wins along the way, but you can expect these will not even come close to covering what you put in. Are these sorts of odds worth betting your hard-earned money on? Are they worth the time and energy you put in, the heartaches, the impact on your family?

Knowing how gambling really works helps people develop a true belief that they cannot win. So, start informing yourself and begin the journey of overcoming your gambling problem today – Gambling Help can support you along the way. Call Gambling Help on 1800 858 858, or visit www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au for free and confidential support.

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Acceptance and Commitment – Part II

In Part I, I talked about acceptance – acceptance of what cannot be changed in life and of our imperfections. Today I want to talk about how to commit to taking action on what we can change, so that we can live a richer and more meaningful life in line with our values.

What are your values? Values are freely chosen and are as unique as each individual. In our heart, we all know the values we want to live by, the values which will make us truly happy and fulfilled. But how many of us actually take a moment to review if we are living our lives in line with our values? If you haven’t done this recently, then perhaps it’s time for some quiet reflection, or a heart-to-heart with someone you trust. Let your values be the compass that guides you through life and keeps you on track.

Once we’ve clarified our values, we can then commit to taking action to live by them. A common pitfall is to commit to big exciting goals and later feel disappointed when we cannot achieve them. Instead, take small steps – make small, realistic and incremental changes over time. If gambling is not in line with how you want to live your life, then identify a few small things that you can change and carry those out within a set timeframe. For example you can organise family or social activities on the days when you normally gamble, leave your ATM card at home when you go out gambling, or ask for support from a trusted friend or family member. Regularly review your progress and adjust your action plans accordingly. Be honest with yourself and be flexible. If things are going well then take on some more challenging changes, if they are not going so well then step back and focus on making one small change at a time.

As you make incremental progress towards a value-driven life, the pain caused by excessive gambling will dissipate, though it will never entirely disappear. Therefore it is important to continue to make room for negative thoughts and emotions as they come up. The goal is not to live a pain free life, because such a goal is not realistic. Instead, aim to lead a rich and meaningful life that includes all of its inevitable disappointments. By accepting our mistakes and taking committed action to live by our values, we can all move closer towards such a goal.

Free, confidential, expert help and support is available anytime by calling Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 or visiting the website.

just take the first step

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Acceptance and Commitment – Part I

Accept what you cannot change

It’s 5pm, knockoff time. You just got paid today. You are thinking of dropping into the club on the way home and going for an hour on the pokies. You’ll withdraw $100 and if you lose that, that’s it. There’s a little voice at the back of your head saying you won’t be able to stop at $100, but the urge is too strong and the little voice is suppressed. Besides, you are bound to hit a winning cycle soon and maybe tonight’s the night.

It’s midnight. You walk through the club car park in a daze. You are not sure how you got to your car. As you drop into the driver’s seat all you can think about is the whole pay you’ve just blown on the pokies… again! You can picture your wife’s frown as she opens another Final Demand letter. You can sense the fear of your children as yet another argument erupts. That little voice isn’t so quiet anymore. It’s shouting at you now: “You are the worst father and husband ever. You are worthless. You are a loser.”

Does this story sound familiar to you? If it does, then know that you are not alone. I’ll let you in on a little secret – everybody (myself included) has these struggles in their head. Whether it’s chocolate, ice cream, alcohol, or gambling, we are all regularly tempted by things we know are bad for us in excess. You, like everybody else, will experience urges that are difficult to control. You, just like everybody else, will make the wrong choice from time to time. When you do make a mistake, thoughts might pop into your head that are self-critical, self-blaming and self-devaluing.  There is nothing unusual about any of that. It is all part of the bittersweet experience that is life.

So what can you do to make the right decision next time? The first step is acceptance. Accept that you, like every other human being, are not perfect. You have and will experience struggles in your head about the right thing to do. You have made and will continue to make mistakes. When you do make a mistake, accept that your mind will often be one of your harshest critics.

By accepting the gambling problem instead of being caught up and consumed by it, you’ll have more mental clarity and energy for all the other important things in life. If you are not constantly focused on just gambling, or being consumed by self-blame, how much more will you get out of life? For the first time in years, you may truly appreciate a cuddle from your child, or rediscover the joy of your favourite movie, music or book.

So far, I’ve talked about accepting our imperfections and what cannot be changed in life. In Part II, I will discuss how to make changes to what you do have control over, in order to overcome problem gambling.

If this post strikes a chord with you, and you’d like to talk about it, a professional gambling counsellor can help guide you through this journey of transformation.
Call Gambling Help on 1800 858 858.

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The Marketing of the Machines

Random Number Generator

The construction and marketing of poker machines is a massive and constantly expanding industry. Success in this industry is based on the ability of game designers and marketing teams to create machines that give players an illusion of control. The illusion of control is the tendency for people to believe they can control or at least influence outcomes that they demonstrably have no influence over.

The intention of game designers is to make players THINK they have some control the machine or are able to influence the outcome of a game when in fact the outcome of the game is completely random or predetermined. A real life example of the illusion of control is the belief often held by young children learning to cross the street. If they press the button to cross fast enough or a particular number of times they might think they can control the changing of the traffic lights, which are in fact programmed to change at specific intervals determined by the expected flow of traffic of a given road.

Every element of the gaming experience, from the symbols and sounds of a game to the curvature of the machine’s screen are the product of hours of research undertaken by the gaming industry for the sole purpose of increasing a user’s sense of control over the outcome of the machine.

Director of Game Development for Bally Technologies, Brett Jackson says “One of the things that really sets apart slot machine design is that our games cannot be skill based, they are about random outcomes, … so to make it exciting for they player quite often what we will do is create the illusion of skill where there is a lot of interactions but they do NOT change the outcome of the game”.

Modern technology creates new ways for the gaming industry to deceive players into thinking that they are in control of a game in which they are not.

Curved screens make the player feel they are participating rather than watching the game and help players stay in the ‘zone’. The use of ‘turning reels’ makes the person feel that the timing of their touch of the button has an impact of what symbols appear, when in actuality the symbols which appear are chosen by a random number generator and appear three seconds after the first button press. The random number generator chooses particular symbols regardless of the timing or pressure of the person’s button press.

Touch-screen poker machines have increased the interactive- element of poker machines, with animations including bubbles or hearts when players ‘rub the machine for luck’.  The continual development of gaming machine technology mean that players must be educated on the tactics employed by marketing  agencies and game designers who aim to trick players into thinking they control a game which is governed purely by chance.

For more information on how gaming machines work, watch Part 1 and Part 2 of ‘Gaming Machines: Facts and Myths’, featuring Jay Laga’aia.

For those who think they may have a problem with poker machines or any other form of gambling, help is available. A gambling counsellor can be found by calling Gambling Help on 1800 858 858. Free individual sessions are available to anybody who might be concerned their gambling has gotten out of hand.

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Sports Betting


The legalisation of internet sports gambling, accompanied by the development of smart phone gambling apps, has made sports betting ever more readily accessible and acceptable. This widespread acceptance of gambling in Australian culture has seen a large increase in gambling advertising during sporting events. Tom Waterhouse’s in-game presence with the NRL’s TV commentary team, spruiking betting odds, was perhaps the most notorious recent illustration of gambling pervading mainstream culture.

All of this exposure has integrated gambling into the fabric of everyday Australian life. Gambling is portrayed as a fun activity, commonly associated with socialising, drinking, sports, and taking some time-out. With all of these positive impressions out there, it is not surprising that many of us form positive associations with “having a punt” with many unaware of the dangers of gambling.  For some, this positive association can lead to a slippery slope of increasingly harmful gambling.

For those who think they may have a problem with sports gambling, poker machines or any other form of gambling, help is available. A gambling counsellor can be found by calling Gambling Help on 1800 858 858. Free individual sessions are available to anybody who might be concerned their gambling has gotten out of hand.

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What are your triggers?

TriggerIdentifying personal triggers for gambling is a difficult task, but the identification of such triggers is the first step toward being able to control them.

They may vary between individuals, as we are all unique in our personal experiences, but the list below provides some common triggers that many gamblers experience.

Low Mood: Feelings of stress, depression, loneliness, fear or anxiety can increase the risk that people will gamble to escape or relieve their distress.

Elevated Mood: Feelings of happiness, optimism or excitement can also make people more susceptible to engage in a gambling session, as they may be celebrating or ‘feeling lucky’.

Boredom and Time: Spare time can be a strong trigger for gambling, as people may wish to escape their boredom by engaging in gambling to provide entertainment. Free time can also lead to the formation of ‘scheduled gambling time’, for example if you have free time between work and dinner you may form a habit of gambling during these hours.

Money: Having access to ‘spare’ money and financial difficulties can both trigger a gambling session.

Access: Easy access to gaming venues, smart phone gambling apps and betting venues also increase the likelihood of a gambling session.

Alcohol and Drugs: The presence of alcohol and drugs can impair our self-control and ability to make rational decisions. Alcohol and drugs may also serve as an independent trigger as many individuals may only gamble when under the influence of these substances.

So how do we learn to manage these triggers? Strategies might include: distraction, relaxation techniques, financial planning (such as only taking a daily cash allowance and removing cards from wallets or giving control of our finances to a trusted family/friend/financial planner), and avoiding/reducing intake of alcohol or drugs can all help. Counselling or psychological treatment can assist individuals to identify their personal triggers and provide additional, personalised information about the strategies listed above.

If you recognise or relate to the triggers above, please contact Gambling Help on 1800 858 858, for free and confidential support. You can also order or download a free pocket-sized workbook from Gambling Help, to assist you in understanding your gambling, and take steps to make it more manageable or to stop altogether.

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Social Conditioning and Gambling


Many people with a gambling problem question the influence of social factors, specifically the role of their upbringing and family dynamics, on their gambling. They often say that they were raised in a ‘family of gambling’ or that ‘gambling is in their blood’; these statements reveal the influence of social conditioning on problem gambling.

Although many other factors contribute to the development of problem gambling, social conditioning appears to play an important role in this development for some people.

The influence of a family’s level of gambling or opinions of gambling may increase a person’s vulnerability to gambling-related harm. This may be through a person’s increased access to gambling, through family events which involve card games or that are held at gaming venues. Familial opinions of gambling, including the view that gambling is a positive and fun activity or a way of making money quickly may shape an individual’s perceptions of gambling.

Gambling treatment may provide individuals with an informed understanding of gambling and the consequences of gambling. This is one of the many benefits of seeking treatment for problem gambling, as people are exposed to new ideas and ways of understanding gambling, which they have never previously encountered. These new beliefs may provide a greater opportunity for behavioural change allowing people with suffering from gambling-related harm to escape the ‘trap’ their gambling has become and create their own understanding of gambling, independent of the social factors which may have increased their vulnerability to gambling since childhood.

Free, confidential, expert support and treatment is available by calling Gambling Help on 1800 858 858. For more information on the services that Gambling Help offer, visit the website.

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Shame and Gambling

People experience a complex range of emotions while gambling. Some emotions are undeniably positive such as excitement, surprise, and hopefulness – and individuals may gamble in the hope of experiencing such feelings. Unfortunately another emotion is also often experienced while gambling: shame.

Shame has been defined as a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the feeling of having engaged in wrong or foolish behaviour, or finding oneself in a regrettable and unfortunate situation. It is an uncomfortable emotion that we want to escape from as quickly as possible. This can be dangerous, as we can then find ourselves stuck in a trap, whereby to rid ourselves of the feeling of shame we engage more frequently in the behaviour that is driving it. This is often the case with gambling.

Tony* has been playing the pokies with increasing frequency over the past six months. As he loses more money and keeps more secrets from family and friends, his feelings of shame increase. This leads Tony into a cycle of shame and gambling. The cycle starts with Tony bargaining with himself – “If I can just recover my losses, I’ll never gamble again and no one will ever knowWhen Tony loses more money the next time he gambles, he starts to have negative thoughts about himself – “There is something wrong with me and I should know better” – which leads him to gamble in order to escape the negative thoughts he is experiencing. This cycle continues and Tony finds himself increasingly trapped between feelings of shame and a desire to escape through increased frequency of gambling.

This shame cycle contributes to increased social isolation, further financial loss and may act as a real barrier to seeking help. If you or someone you know want to beat the cycle of shame, confidential and expert help is available around the clock by calling Gambling Help on 1800 858 858.

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Why is internet gambling dangerous?

Just last month the New Jersey Devils and the Philadephia 76ers became the first professional US sports teams to be sponsored by online gambling companies. Online gambling is now legal in three U.S. states. Closer to home, online gambling on sporting and cultural events is permitted in Australia. It seems that the rapid growth of online gambling has led to its increasing acceptance in society.

Despite forms of internet gambling such as offshore online casinos and online poker not regulated by Australian law and not allowed to operate in Australia, participation in online gambling is growing across the board. It seems that those who gamble online may be at higher risk of developing gambling problems than those participating in other forms of gambling.

So why is internet gambling dangerous? Firstly, gambling on sites that are not regulated in Australia leaves people open to being taken advantage of by unscrupulous operators. What’s more, online poker rooms may be inhabited by professional players who prey on unsuspecting amateurs, or may even cheat by using sophisticated software called “poker-bots”.

Perhaps most importantly, certain features of online gambling games make them highly addictive. Online gambling is readily accessible, available anywhere and anytime; play is rapid, there are rarely forced breaks in play; players can bet very large amounts in a short space of time, there are rarely delays in winnings being credited. Perhaps most worryingly, players can gamble while alone at home, meaning that online gamblers can lose track of both time and money when they play.

But these addictive features are not only present in online gambling games.
What features of your preferred mode of gambling do you think make it difficult to stop once you start?

Free, confidential, expert help and support is available anytime by calling Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 or visiting the website.

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Spin City – The psychology behind the lure of pokies

There are many reasons why people start playing the pokies and why they keep going back. They might have been introduced to pokies by their family or friends, they might play as a form of escape, they might keep going back to try to win back their losses. However, did you know gaming machine designers use psychology to lure people in?

Let’s start off with patterns. Human beings have an inherent need to seek out patterns and structure in our world. Poker machines play to this basic need by generating endless random patterns. When a certain pattern emerges (e.g. a winning combination) we recognise it instantly. Seeing patterns emerge out of this randomness is rewarding in itself, and helps keep players engaged.

Patterns are not the only thing we instinctively search for. Humans are automatically drawn to attractive faces, and in particular to eyes. Designers play to this by incorporating attractive female faces with impressive eyes on gaming machines.

The outcome of each spin is determined at random by a computer chip in the machine. However clever machine design can give players an illusion of control. Modern machines are designed with more and more interactive elements, which trick players into thinking there is an element of skill involved. Machine design also taps into player superstition. For example touch screen technology is used to interact with players when they touch the machine, playing to a common superstition that touching a machine grants luck for the next spin. This illusion of control may make you think you can use skill or luck to “beat the machine”, whereas in reality the outcome is completely out of the control of the player. In fact the outcome is always going to be a loss for the player in the long-term, because the machines are programmed that way.

So what’s the point of knowing all this? Knowledge is Power. By better understanding the psychology behind the lure of pokies, you can arm yourself with the knowledge to make the right decisions in the future.

This article is based on VideoScience’s insightful video on the psychology of slot machine design – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYoQrL1hKoo.

For more information on how gaming machines work, watch Part 1 and Part 2 of ‘Gaming Machines: Facts and Myths’, featuring Jay Laga’aia.

For those who think they may have a problem with poker machines or any other form of gambling, help is available. A gambling counsellor can be found by calling Gambling Help on 1800 858 858. Free individual sessions are available to anybody who might be concerned their gambling has gotten out of hand.

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Loneliness and Gambling


People with a gambling problem often start gambling as a way to escape feelings of loneliness. They see venues such as casinos or pubs as a way to meet new people and socialise, and this can be an attractive option for those struggling with feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Feelings of loneliness may also aid in the maintenance of gambling problems. A person may continue to gamble because going down to their local RSL or casino where they know some of the regulars or staff members might help them feel connected to the community. Gambling may also distract a person from the negative thoughts and feelings they wish to avoid. Problem gamblers often use gambling as a way to escape feelings of loneliness temporarily.

What is often misunderstood is the way in which problem gambling exacerbates or intensifies feelings of loneliness in the long-term. People with a gambling problem usually establish a regular and strict routine of gambling, which can include a significant amount of time alone in front of a poker machine, without interacting to or speaking to anyone. They may stop attending social functions or events which interfere with their gambling routine, such as birthdays, work functions or family celebrations.

Also, in response to feelings of shame or embarrassment, problem gamblers may become more secretive about their schedules and less inclined to talk openly with friends and family. All of these factors isolate the problem gambler from those around them, further intensifying feelings of loneliness. In these situations, the individual may feel that gambling is their only escape and may need to gamble more and more frequently to drive away growing feelings of isolation.

Speaking to a professional about the feelings of isolation and loneliness which often accompany problem gambling may be a useful strategy in breaking the cycle of loneliness. You’re not alone – call Gambling Help on 1800 858 858, or visit www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au

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Helping a family member

Helping a family member

It is estimated that there are between 80,000 and 160,000 Australians with a significant gambling problem, equating to 0.5 to 1.0 per cent of Australian adults. This is a large number but the larger number is hidden behind these figures. For every person who has a problem gambling, there are their spouses, children, parents, and/or siblings. For these people, gambling can have a large impact but they are typically left out of the formal statistics. The devastation and emotional suffering that gambling can cause is huge. It can range from seeing a loved one self-destruct and be powerless to stop it, to losing the family home due to the actions of one’s spouse.

John* was gambling heavily over a period of 15 years. John lived with his wife and two children, aged 8 and 10. John was ashamed of his gambling and kept it hidden from his family. Because he controlled the finances, John’s wife did not know that the once almost paid off family home was now owned completely by the bank, due to a series of loans taken out over the past 10 years. It was when the bank moved to repossess the house that John came clean to his wife.  Even though it was horrifying to learn that she had lost her home, the lies bothered his wife the most. She just could not forgive him for having kept this a secret for so long and she felt like she did not know who he was any longer. Three months later, she filled for divorce.

While the experience varies from person to person, the common theme is the significant impact gambling has. Many services that offer free gambling counselling also work with family members of those affected by gambling.

A call to Gambling Help, on 1800 858 858, can put you in touch with trained professionals who can advise on how to protect yourself and help family members with their gambling problem.

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Gambling and relationships


People with a gambling problem are probably very aware of the impact it is having on their own lives – not having money, the feeling of loss of control, to name but a few. The area that is sometimes less obvious is the impact on people around the problem gambler. For parents it can be devastating to see a child become addicted to poker machines, not just for the waste of money but also the fear that they may end up harming themselves out of desperation. For friends it can confuse them why they are no longer getting calls or why money that was borrowed from them is not being returned. The impact can be greatest for the person’s partner when they see common money disappear into machines and at the TAB. At times the family home can even be placed at risk as debt increases.

The problems in relationships can seem to be a direct consequence of gambling but it can also sometimes make the gambling worse. As someone gambles heavily and the people around them start reacting by either getting angry or moving away from them, the gambler can feel increasingly isolated leading to an even greater escape into the world of gambling. The losses and the impact on their friends and family can also lead the gambler to gamble even more in the hope of winning back some of these losses and rectifying the problems their losses has created for others.

The impact of gambling on relationships is more complex than simply gambling creating problems for those around. It can sometimes be losses or problems in relationships than can drive someone to gamble in the first place. Either during a period of mourning or following conflict with those around them, a person may seek refuge in the world of poker machines and the TAB. It might provide them a temporary relief from the pain and frustration they feel.

When gambling affects those around the gambler, people will often eventually move away from the gambler, particularly those who are not bound by blood but rather choice such as partners and friends. When this happens, the gambler will often suffer a compounding problem, in addition to direct impact of the gambling – they will lose these important relationships.

Professional help in the form of counselling can help overcome an addiction to gambling and also deal with the breakdown of relationships that often accompanies gambling. Gambling Help can provide a list of counsellors the provide free sessions in your area.

Free, confidential and expert help and support is available any time by calling Gambling Help on 1800 858 858.

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Why me?

Why me?

Many people who experience a problem with poker machines will at some stage ask themselves the question ‘Why me?’. Why do I have this problem and not someone else? It is an important question and so let’s have a look at a couple reasons that might be at play. Before we do this, allow me to clarify that the reasons presented here are by no means exhaustive and accurate for each person but rather factors that I have found important from working in the field.

The most important reasons for developing a problem with poker machines is something called ‘early positive experience’. It seems that 9 out of 10 people who have a problem with gambling on electronic gaming machines experienced an early win that had a lasting impression.  Although this idea has been around for a while, its significance for problem gambling treatment can be credited to researcher and clinician, Dr Fadi Anjoul. For the 1 out of 10, the positive first impression comes by association – for example being with a friend who had a big win. The early positive experience cements a very important belief in the person’s mind – you can win on a poker machine. Think about this, if you had lost the first 20 times you played the pokies, what would you think of them? Probably something along the lines of, ‘these things are stupid’. Whereas if you win $200 after putting in $20, what would you think?

Another important albeit secondary reason is the role of reacting to emotions. We all feel bored, sad, lonely, poor, and a whole range of other feelings. Some people can sit with such feelings and see them as part of life and remember they will pass soon while others find these feelings very uncomfortable and try anything possible to get rid of them. This includes going to the pub and playing the pokies.

Other potential reasons include genetic or biological factors. Years of research into gambling has shown that those with a certain genetic constitution are more likely to have a gambling problem than others. Brain chemicals such as noradrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine have also been implicated.

Drugs and alcohol can also play a role for some people. Once intoxicated, we don’t make the same rational decisions as we would normally make, which can include going to a poker machine for a slap.

Finally, not appreciating the nature of randomness can play a part, particularly in the chasing of losses. Some people with a problem with poker machines believe that once a lot of money has been put into a machine, it has to start paying soon. Having lost a large sum can lead someone with this belief to continue pouring more money into the machine with the expectation that their chances of winning have improved.

For those who think they may have a problem with poker machines or any other form of gambling, help is available. A gambling counsellor can be found by calling Gambling Help on 1800 858 858. Free individual sessions are available to anybody who might be concerned their gambling has gotten out of hand.

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What will your New Year’s Resolution be?

Well it’s that time of year again. The time when people make all sorts of commitments about what they want to change in the New Year. Some people want to lose a few kilos, some want to give up smoking and for others, they would like to have a life free from gambling.

We all know that not all resolutions will stick. So the big question is how can you increase the likelihood that your New Year’s resolution will be successful? There are several things that anyone can do to improve their chance of success:

1. Get support

Once you have made the commitment to stop or reduce your gambling, let significant people in your life know- people that can provide support and encouragement and can also hold you accountable.

2. Increase your motivation

One of the best ways of tipping the balance towards making a change is to write down the costs and benefits of your behaviour. Be honest – calculate the costs of gambling so far. What has it cost you financially, socially and emotionally? It’s easy to discount our financial losses and the cost to our relationships our health and our wellbeing. Be honest with yourself, write it down and talk about it.

3. Consult the experts

Gambling Help is a 24-hour telephone counselling support line. Not only can they give you expert help over the phone, but they can also put you in touch with a counsellor in your area. These counsellors are specialists in treating problem gambling.

4. Find alternative activities

Sometimes gambling has taken up a big part of your life and giving up gambling can cause feelings of loss and sadness. It’s important therefore to get back in touch with what you value and enjoy. Find alternative activities that can take the place of gambling. For some it might be taking up a sport, finding a new hobby or spending more time with loved ones.

5. Reduce your triggers

There are often people, places and things that can remind us of gambling and trigger an episode. Write down the activities, moods, people, places and things that are triggers for you. You can make plans to try and avoid these triggers or alternatively find things to support you in sticking to your goals when these triggers arise. When you do feel urges to gamble, remember research shows that most urges last only a few minutes and will pass.

6. Remind yourself of probabilities and the house edge.

It is important to remember that all forms of gambling are created to make money for the gambling operator. There is always a house edge, which means that the value of a prize is always less than the probability of the win. Keep this in mind and remember that in the long run – THE HOUSE ALWAYS WINS and the LONGER YOU PLAY THE MORE YOU LOSE.

Most importantly, it is vital to remember that change is possible and that just because you may have tried without success in the past, this does not mean you should resign yourself to a life with problem gambling. With the right strategies and a strong commitment, a life free from problem gambling is within your reach!

Change is possible

Take action now, call Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 or visit www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au and make 2014 a year that counts.

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Why stop gambling?


It may be easy to think that gambling is inherently a bad activity but a closer examination of this assumption will usually lead us back to a puritanical, church-based evaluation of it. While for some people this might be reason enough not to gamble, most people no longer support the idea that something is wrong just because the church says so.

So, what reasons are there for stopping? Firstly, many people may want to stop for the money. If gambling was leading to long-term profits it would not bother many people (stockmarket anyone?). As most people would appreciate, earning money is not easy and losing it to the bookie or the poker machine is not usually people’s first choice of things they would want to spend it on. A related reason is the effect on our mood from losing money. It may not be the money itself but the ‘gambling hangover’ that leads people to re-evaluate whether they want to keep going with their punting. For others, it is the impact on relationships that drives them to want to stop. The impact of gambling on partner can take many forms but it can include financial insecurity and trust. When a significant other puts their foot down, some gamblers decide that it is time to stop. For others, it is neither the loss of money or the impact on others but rather the feeling of loss of control. As human beings we like to feel like we are in control of our lives and our behaviours and so to have a behaviour that we feel unable to stop or control can be enough to want to do something about it.

Whatever the reason, if you are interested in looking at reducing or stopping your gambling, I would encourage you to seek help. A trained professional can make the journey a lot easier and a lot quicker than trying to find the path alone.

Free, confidential, expert help and support is available anytime by calling Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 or visiting the website.

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Pigeons and Poker Machines

pigeon_holes[1] B. F. Skinner, arguably the most famous psychologist after Freud, made a remarkable discovery in 1948. Using pigeons in a cage, he gave them food pellets through a dispenser but used an important condition – the food pellets were given at regular intervals but it was not related in any way to the pigeons’ behaviour.

Something very remarkable happened to the pigeons – of the eight pigeons, six began an elaborate series of behaviours before each pellet. One bird would turn counter-clockwise three times. Another would repeatedly thrust its head in the direction of the same corner in the cage.

Once the behaviour has been established the pellets can be dispensed less regularly, even hours between each one, and yet the behaviour continues.

While humans and pigeons are different in many regards, this experiment has some interesting implications for understanding human behaviour, notably gambling.

We know that payouts from poker machines are in no way dependent on the behaviour of the player and yet how many patterns do players create?

Certain machines are used above others as they were once associated with a win. Players will try and use certain patterns in their playing such as increasing the bet because in the past when they did this, the machine payed out.

Understanding the random nature of poker machines, as well as the percentage that is returned to player (less than what is put in) can help in overcoming a problem with these machines.

A qualified and experienced psychologist can help work through these issues. You can access FREE help here or by calling 1800 858 858.

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Speaking to someone about their gambling

Couple-Talking019Many people know of someone who gambles to excess- a friend, friend of a friend, a partner or family member. It can often be hard to know how to help. Concerned friends or family members often explain that they don’t know what to say, and sometimes feel they can’t say anything for fear of making the gambling behaviour worse.

The following are some tips to keep in mind when speaking to someone about their gambling.

-       Ask the gambler how they are going with their efforts to reduce or stop their gambling. Ask this in a non-judgmental way, so they don’t feel like they will be harshly judged if they answer they are not going so well.

-       Remember that people can and do recover from problem gambling, however behaviour change can be hard for some people.

-       People do not develop gambling problems over night. Many people are unaware of the signs of problem gambling and it can take some time for the gambler to realise the serious nature of the problem.

-       Don’t be afraid to tell them how their gambling affects you or other people in their lives, but do this in a calm manner (remember, yelling probably hasn’t worked in the past and likely leads to big arguments, the gambler storming off and nothing being resolved).

-       Let them know that you support them in any efforts to change.

-       Encourage them to seek professional help if they are not going so well.

-       Helping someone with gambling difficulties can be hard work. Therefore, it is also important to get support for yourself if you notice it is weighing you down.

-       Do not take blame for someone else’s gambling behaviour. In the end, the choice to gamble or not to gamble is made by the gambler themselves.

For more tips about helping someone with their gambling, check out the following link.

You can also call Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 or go to the website for more information and support.

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Stay on Track mobile app

urlStay On Track

Do you enjoy a bet, but sometimes lose track of your wins and losses?

Stay On Track is a FREE mobile phone application that makes it easy to set a gambling budget and stick to it.

When you gamble responsibly, it doesn’t have a negative impact on your life or the lives of those around you.

If you’re interested in responsible gambling and keeping track of your budget then you might like to download the app for your iPhone or android.  We would also like you to let us know what you think of the app by giving us your feedback.

Once you’ve downloaded the Stay on Track mobile app from the Google or Apple store, all you need to do is:

  1. Enter your name or nickname.
  2. Decide how often you want to be reminded to enter your bets.  Some people bet every day and others only once a week, either way the app can prompt you to enter your wins and losses with a pop-up reminder.
  3. Set your Betting budget. You can choose the dollar amount, but it’s a good idea to only enter a figure that you are prepared to lose.
  4. Decide on a Tracking period for your budget. We recommend that you select the same date range that you get paid on. So if you get paid weekly, your Tracking period will be a week, if you are paid fortnightly it will be two weeks etc.
  5. Enter your bets and the results as you go.

The MyTracker page is the heart of the app.

It has a simple graphic chart that tells you exactly how you are tracking against your budget by showing the time elapsed and the money spent. If you’re on track, the screen will be BLUE. If you’re doing better than expected, the screen will be GREEN and if you’re on track to lose more than you budgeted for, the screen will be RED.

Next to the graphic, you will get tips and ideas related to how you are tracking.
Getting into trouble? Click through to the Advice tab for more info. Or contact Gambling Help 24 hours a day via phone or online, with the touch of a button.

This is the Settings screen.

Use this screen to enter your details and set the frequency of bet entry reminders.Click the arrow to get to the next screen.

This is the new Betting budget screen.

To get to this screen tap the Bets tab at the bottom of the screen, then tap the + New betting budget button.

To enter your betting budget tap the entry field.

At the end of each Tracking period, you’ll be prompted to come back to this screen and set a new Betting budget.

Click the arrow to go back to your list of Betting budgets.

This is the screen you use to enter your bets.

You can get to this screen by tapping the Bets tab and then one of the Betting budgets in the list – the most recent one is at the top of the list. Then tap the + New bet button.

To enter a new bet simply enter the information required.

If you want to record the category (Horse Racing or Pokie Machine etc.) or add a note, that is optional.

This is what your bets look like when you’ve entered them.

The red figures show losses and the black figures show wins.

To update any individual bet simply tap the Edit button and then either the pencil icon to edit it, or the red circle icon to delete it.

The MyTracker screen is the heart of the app. Its simple graphics show your progress for the current period.

The Betting budget line tracks how much of your budget you’ve spent. If you have a win the line moves backwards and if you have a loss it moves forwards.

The Tracking period shows how far into your chosen betting period you are. If you’re only a few days into your Tracking period but you’ve already spent most of your budget, that means it’s time to slow down.

This figure shows the net total you’ve won or lost since you first downloaded the app.

The iPhone Stay On Track app is available on the App Store and the Android Stay On Track app is available on the Google Play Store. Click HERE to download for iPhone and HERE to download for Android.

For frequently asked questions visit our website here.

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Playing the Pokies – A bit of fun or causing you problems?

438390-pokiesWhile many people start playing the pokies for a bit of fun, some people start to see an increase in their spending as time goes on. The question is, when does it go from a bit of fun to being a problem?

There are a number of things people can look at to understand if their gambling has become a problem:

How much are you spending as a portion of your income? We all have recreational activities and these often cost money but spending more money than we can afford is a sign that gambling is taking over. A rule of thumb is that spending 5% or more of net weekly income is suggesting that there may be a problem.

The impact on others. Having fights or arguments over playing the pokies with your partner or family? Lying to them about your playing? Has your partner threatened to end the relationship over it? These are all signs gambling has gone from a bit of fun to a problem

Impact on yourself. Felt terrible after heavy losses? Spent more than you planned and then regretted it? Angry at yourself for not having more self-control? Problem gambling not only has an impact on others but also on yourself. Most people don’t feel good after they have spent more hard-earned money than they should have.

Gambling alone or with others.  Initially playing the pokies is often done with other people but if you find yourself playing alone, that can be a sign that it’s taking no longer just a bit of fun.

If you find that poker machine playing is causing difficulties, or that you have difficulties related to any other form of gambling, you can always call Gambling Help on the following number 1800 858 858 or go to the website for more information and support.

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Gambling and Depression

imagesWe know that when people gamble at harmful levels, this is associated with a higher risk of suffering from depression, anxiety and/or difficulties with alcohol and/or drugs.

In Australia, the most common problem associated with gambling is typically found to be depression. In fact, up to 60% of people who are struggling with gambling issues may also develop issues with depression.

Depression is more than just feeling sad. Whilst depression manifests itself differently from person to person, common symptoms include the experience of intense feelings of low mood or hopelessness, losing interest or pleasure in previously enjoyed activities, sleeping too much or too little, lacking energy and motivation, poor appetite or eating too much, feeling bad about yourself, having difficulties concentrating, or having thoughts about harming or killing yourself.

Often people may also report physically slowing down, or alternatively feeling more restless and fidgety.

If you or someone who know is experiencing depressive symptoms, it is important to talk to someone about it.  There are a variety of health professionals who deal with depression, such as Psychologists, Psychiatrists, General Practitioners, Social Workers and Counsellors.

For more information about depression, check out the following link. You can also call Gambling Help on the following number 1800 858 858 or go to the website for more information and support.

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Playing Poker: Ready to Test Your Skill?

Dogs Playing PokerOne type of gambling that has become very popular lately is poker, especially Texas Hold ‘Em. Not only are a lot of people playing it at home with mates, but a lot of pubs are now offering it many nights a week as well.

Poker can be a fun and exciting game to play, and it’s also a game where you can develop skills that will help you beat your friends. A lot of people then start to think: “hey, I’m pretty good at this, I’m able to beat my friends a lot of the time. I should start playing in the poker tournaments and try to win big money!”.

Sounds like a good idea…. Or does it?

The first option available if you want to play more poker is to go to the casino, and take part in the games there. Here is where a lot of people become unstuck. When you are playing with your friends, you are testing your skill against people who don’t know that much about poker, or who just play for a bit of fun. However, the players at the casino play much more frequently, and are likely to be a lot more skilled than the people you are used to playing against.

Just like how if you win a running race in school carnival, it doesn’t mean that you can win the state or national championships or at the Olympics, winning a local poker game doesn’t mean you can win at the casino or in a big tournament. Pretty soon you’re going to start losing more often, and you may find yourself a lot more behind than what you had planned!

The other option is to try to make some money by playing poker online. Here is where things can get really difficult. Online poker is illegal in Australia, so any poker you play online is on a website based overseas. That means that you can’t be sure that the site is well regulated and that your money and details are being treated safely.

You also can’t be sure who you are playing against- you could be competing against computer programs called “bots” that had been programmed to play poker and beat the odds. There really is no way of telling who you are playing against, and again you may find the odds are stacked against you and you are losing a lot more money than you had thought!

If you find that your poker playing is causing difficulties, or that you have difficulties related to any other form of gambling, you can always call Gambling Help on the following number 1800 858 858 or go to the website for more information and support.

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Luck in gambling- is it real or just an illusion?

Luck is an Illusion

Luck is an Illusion

“Wow- I’m doing so well today- I should keep going now I’m on a lucky streak”

“I’m down today- I should keep going, my luck is sure to change eventually”

“I should have left yesterday when I was still lucky- if I’d left before my luck changed I could have come out ahead”

Have you ever caught yourself saying one of these things in your mind? It’s common that we think about luck when we look back on our gambling experiences, whether we gamble on poker machines, on sports, at the casino or on horses.

When we win a few bets, we begin to think that we’re “lucky”and that we should do the most to capitalise on that luck. We start to increase our bet size, place more bets, or make riskier decisions. This makes sense in other settings where a string of wins means that we’re getting better at the game we are playing.

However, it doesn’t work this way with gambling. A string of wins on a poker machine or on the roulette table doesn’t mean we’re getting better at the game- these are random games where there is no way of improving our performance. Luck in gambling is just an illusion.

A cluster of wins occurs by chance and not because we are lucky or doing anything to increase our probability of winning. Similarly, when we bet on sports, the outcome is determined by things outside of control- even if we are feeling “lucky” today, there’s no way that this luck can influence what will happen on a far-away race track or oval.

Subsequently, when we increase our bet sizes when we feel lucky, we are just increasing the likelihood that we will lose more money that day!

It works the other way round too. When we lose whilst gambling, or we’re feeling unlucky because of other things that have happened in our day, we feel that our luck must change soon, and that it’s a good idea to try our luck gambling. But is that right? A poker machine is just a machine, and it can’t tell that we might be feeling unlucky that day or are due for a change. Neither does a deck of cards, a ball in a roulette wheel, the horses running, and the athletes playing a sport know that we are unlucky that day and due for a change. Thus this belief in luck is really just a trick our mind plays that encourages us to keep gambling.

If you find that you get stuck in thoughts like this with your gambling, or you want to talk about other thoughts and feelings you have about gambling, you can always call Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 or go to Gambling Help for more information and support.

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Gambling Help Mobile app

road testWant to take our brand new Gambling Terminator app for a test drive? We are looking for people to road test our latest app first hand and then let us know what you think by giving us your feedback.

Here’s a little bit of background for you…The innovative Gambling Terminator app helps to support gamblers by cutting down or cutting out their gambling by:

  • Detecting when you’re in a NSW gambling venue
  • Sending reminders
  • Providing a diary
  • Making Gambling Help easier to accessIMG_2028

The way that the app works is by sending reminder messages that interrupt gaming-machine play and give the gambler a chance to re-think their choices and whether they want to continue gambling or go home.

IMG_2027Gambling Terminator also has a Gambling Diary feature to help users stick to their goals for cutting down time and money spent gambling. It tells users how long since they’ve last gambled, how much money they’ve lost since they signed up for the service and their triggers for gambling – such as boredom, loneliness or stress.

The app provides instant access to live phone and online counselling services which operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

So what do you reckon? Are you up for being a road tester?

Ok here’s how to start…Firstly, there are two versions of the app available. You can download the iPhone version here and here’s where you’ll find Android version or you can find it on our website here.

Once you’ve road tested the app, give us your feedback here.

By the way if you know anyone who might like to use the app it’s free to download so please share it.

We look forward to your feedback.

Problem gamblers can access free, confidential help 24 hours a day, seven days a week by contacting the 1800 858 858 Gambling Helpline or visiting http://www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au.

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How much money have I really lost on gambling?

TOBEY_MAGUIRE_SPIDERMANA common issue that most people face is trying to recall how much money they have lost over a lifetime. When somebody loses they tend to think ,“I’ve just lost $500”, when instead, they should be thinking “I’ve just lost another $500. I am now down $x…[replace with total loss]”.

It’s quite easy – and scary – to estimate how much you’ve lost since you first started gambling.

To do this you ask yourself ‘How many years have I been playing?’ If, for example, the answer is 10, you divide this into 3-4 periods of time – say, year 1, years 2-4, years 5–7, years 8–10.  You then estimate how much you would have lost on a weekly basis and multiply it by 52 to work out roughly how much you would have lost in a year. You then add this up for each year and you will have a rough total of how much you have lost since the beginning. Here’s an example:

  • Year 1: $50/week x 52 weeks = $2600
  • Years 2-4: $100/week x 52 weeks x 3 years = $15600
  • Years 5-7: $200/week x 52 weeks x 3 years = $31200
  • Years 8-10: $500/week x 52 weeks x 3 years = $78000
  • Total losses = 2600 + 15600 + 31200 + 78000 = $127,400

You can be as detailed as you want by breaking the years into smaller spans. I often find that the last 1-2 years are the most severe so it’s a good idea to do them separately. 

Once you know your total loss you can constantly remind yourself when you win or lose. If you win $1000 you say to yourself “I am now down $126,400”. If you lose another $1000 you say to yourself “I am now down $128,400”.

Putting it into this perspective you can easily see that any win is lessened by the total amount you are still down, and any lose is even more significant, making it harder to shrug off.

So don’t tell yourself how much you’ve lost today. Tell yourself how much you’ve lost over your lifetime!

For more gambling help tips and to find FREE counselling services visit our website

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Quit Gambling For Good in 2013

I quit post itSo you’ve tried. Maybe you went without gambling for a week, maybe two. But then, like the time before, and maybe the time before that, you found yourself thinking about it.

The urge grew stronger and before you knew it you found yourself there again. The place you promised yourself, maybe even promised your partner and family, that you would never go..,

What ever your personal hell, you were there. Your hand was in your pocket, there was less money, and even more pain, guilt and regret than you ever thought possible. BUT IT DOES NOT NEED TO BE THIS WAY. REALLY.

Let’s get something straight. Quitting gambling isn’t easy. But if you’ve really looked at what gambling has cost you (and not just the money and possessions you may have sold, but friendships, your happiness and health) and have decided you don’t want that for yourself anymore, you can turn your life around. But it takes a real desire to change, time and hard work.

Research says that someone struggling with a gambling problem can think about gambling up to 80% of the time. That’s a lot of brain time being consumed with gambling thoughts.

For many people, this is why giving up gambling is so hard. Without changing those thought patterns and filling your time with other more meaningful activities or healthier interests, it’s easy to become bored, and the lure of gambling can pull you right back in again.

Everyone has slightly different ways of dealing with things. What works for you may not work for someone else and that is why it’s so important to develop a program with a professional gambling help counsellor that works for you and your needs. This help is free, confidential, and available to everyone. There is help available every day, every hour of the day. You can call 1800 858 858 right now and get started, or you can read on a bit more…

Problem gambling, also known as gambling addiction, or compulsive gambling, is a type of impulse-control disorder and getting on top of it needs expert help.

If you find it hard to control thoughts about gambling. If you can’t stop at the limit you set. If you can’t quit even though you know your gambling is hurting not only yourself but your family, friends and loved ones, it’s likely gambling has become a problem for you, an addiction that is out of control.

The reality for many problem gamblers is that unless they get some kind of professional help they will continue to be caught up in gambling and continue to suffer its affects.

The life of a compulsive gambler is hard.

Whether you’re up or down, broke or flush, happy or depressed, you will still be thinking about gambling and find it hard to control your behaviour.

The truth is, if you’re preoccupied with gambling, spending more and more time and money on it, chasing losses, or gambling despite serious consequences, you have a gambling problem.

For a minute lets say there was an accident and you broke your leg. What would you do?  Ignore it?  Tell your leg to fix itself? Live with the pain and lie to your family and friends and yourself  while trying to get around with a broken leg?

No?  So why would you treat a gambling problem any differently?

Having a problem with gambling can make you feel isolated, as though no-one understands what you’re going through. But the truth is you don’t have to do this alone.

There are many people and services ready and able to provide help and support whenever you’re ready to take action. They can help you to take steps to control your gambling and quit. For good.

Gambling is a game of chance. No matter what we want to think, the REALITY is that the odds are always stacked against you. If you’re thinking about making changes to your life in 2012 why not try these five tips to help you change your life for good and say goodbye to problem gambling forever.

Many problem gamblers say that once they’ve taken the first active steps to deal with their situation, they immediately feel much more positive and in control.

There are things you can do today that will help you take control of your gambling:

  • Self-exclusion (banning yourself from venues including pubs, clubs , casino and TAB. It is a legal process and it works. Gambling Help counsellors can help you through the paper work and support you through the process)
  • Keep a gambling diary. What you’ve done, what you haven’t, how you feel. You can keep track of what gambling REALLY costs and keep focussed on WHY you don’t want gambling in your life.
  • Limit your access to money (cash and credit)
  • Get a helper (a family member or friend and professional support)
  • Sign up for Free SMS Reminders
  • Get free stuff


If you live in NSW, you have the right to ask a pub or club to exclude you either from the whole venue or from certain areas within it. In the case of clubs, at the moment you will need to sign a separate document for each club you may visit, but that is soon to change.

Currently you can self-exclude from several hotels in one go. You can also ask the casino to exclude you and have yourself banned from TABs.

Your local gambling counsellor or Gambling Help can help you to complete this process.

To exclude yourself from online or mobile phone-based gambling, visit the GamBlock website onwww.gamblock.com. This is not a free service; charges can be up to $100US per year.

Keep a gambling diary

Many people find that they learn a lot about the things that make them spend too much on gambling by keeping a gambling diary. There’s one included in our workbook, which you can order or download via the Gambling Help website

Or you might prefer to simply jot down the details in a small notebook or use the notes function on your phone.

Each time you gamble, write down the day and date; the time; the place; who you were with; how much cash you were carrying and your net win or loss. It’s also important to make a note of why you were gambling: did your friends encourage you? Were you bored, angry or stressed?

By looking back at these details later, you will probably be able to see patterns that will give you an idea of what makes you want to gamble too much. You’ll also get an idea of how much time and money you’re losing to gambling.

Limit your access to money

If you decide to gamble, leave your ATM and credit cards at home, and only take with you an amount of cash that you can afford to lose. NEVER ‘chase your losses’, or try to win back money you’ve already lost. This is the way that gamblers most often end up in serious trouble. Once you’ve lost, or won, walk away.

You can also consider asking your bank to lower the daily withdrawal limit on your ATM card. Freezing  (fill a take-away or ice-cream container with water place your card in and freeze) or shredding your credit cards, or giving them to someone you trust can also help.

Get a helper

Pick someone in your life you trust and talk to them honestly about your gambling and the fact that you would like to get more control of that aspect of your life.

Ask them if you can ‘check in’ with them once a week, or as often as you need to, to talk over the steps you’re taking to change your life. Making positive changes can be difficult when you first start. Having someone there to cheer you on can be a big source of strength and encouragement.

If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone you know, call Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 it’s available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The person at the other end of the line has talked to hundreds of people just like you, and they understand exactly what you’re going through. You can call as many times as you like, it’s free from a landline and if you’re on a mobile they can call you back.

You can also arrange to speak to the same person each time, if you prefer.                            The gambling help website also has a list of people and organisations near you who can offer free help and support.

All Gambling Help services are free, including telephone, online counselling (via email or instant chat) and face-to-face treatment and support.

Sign up for Free SMS Reminders

Are you more likely to gamble on particular days or at particular times? If so, visit the website and subscribe to our SMS messages to help remind you of your decision to get your gambling under control.

The messages include facts about gambling, encouraging messages and information about help and support.

Get FREE stuff

Gambling Help offers free materials and information to help you understand gambling and get your gambling under control, books, DVDs, workbooks. Download from www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au or order so that materials are posted to you. Everything is free.


There is no try, only do.

Take action now, call Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 or go to http://www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au and make 2013 a year that counts.

What do you have to lose except a gambling problem that you really don’t want.

Posted in Counsellor Sam's Advice, Tips On Controlling Your Gambling, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When it Comes to Gambling…

Are you telling yourself the whole truth?

While everyone knows that admitting a problem is the first step in recovery, it’s a tough ask. Our minds are fabulous at denial and we often tell ourselves so many other things before we can think about telling ourselves the truth.

We tell ourselves we win more than we lose and there’s no problem if you can afford it.

We convince ourselves a win is due, so we talk ourselves into spending one more $50 making one last trip to the ATM.

Sometimes we borrow money from people, telling ourselves we’ll pay them back with our winnings, except we don’t tell them we’ve borrowed the money and usually we don’t win.

If people have called us out on our gambling, tried to tell us we have a problem, we tell them they’re the ones with a problem – they can’t mind their own business or they don’t like to see anyone having fun.

Sometime we tell our partners or our family that we’ve quit. We tell ourselves they won’t know that we’re making up stories about where we’ve been and what we’ve spent our money on.

A quick truth test

Do you plan to spend a certain amount of money on gambling but find yourself spending more, maybe going back to the ATM or topping up your account?

Do you lose track of time when gambling? Say you’ll spend an hour and it’s usually much more.

Are you making excuses for why you can’t afford to go out with friends or why you need to borrow money?

Do you ever feeling guilty or worried about how much you spend on gambling?

Have you ever thought you could gamble and win your way out of debt?

Ever borrowed money from your friends to cover gambling debts or taken money from your family or  workplace.

Do you find you’re thinking more and more about gambling and losing interest in your friends, family or activities you used to enjoy?

What now?

It’s important that you are honest with yourself about your gambling and the harm it may be causing you or others. It’s going to be hard at first but it will help you to move forward in a positive way.

Some people find it helpful to keep a note of how much, how often, how long and who they gamble with. Keeping track is a way to really see the truth about how much you’re gambling. Often people begin to see patterns about their gambling habits and can work out what to do to get their gambling back under control.  Try writing down the time you gamble, the day and date; the place; who you were with; how much cash you were carrying and your net win or loss.  Why were you gambling? Did your friends encourage you or were you alone?  Were you bored, drunk, angry or stressed? You might want to download or order a free pocket size workbook that helps you with this and offers other ideas on controlling your gambling.

Download or order a free workbook to be sent to you in a plain envelope.

For many people, confiding in friends and family about gambling problems can be the start of real change.

Some people confide first in their partner and/or family and together seek help from Gambling Help services (anywhere in Australia call 1800 858 858) or click here for services in NSW .

While others seek professional help first before discussing the issue. Free specialist help is available whenever you need it for you and for family and friends.

It might be that your family or friends at first react with shock, anger, distress and sadness.  Sometimes it can take a bit of time for the people who care about you to understand what you’re up against.  Or you might find that they are relieved to know what is really going on – often partners or family suspect something is wrong and they’ve feared the worst.  Generally speaking, having the truth “out there” is key to gaining control of your gambling.

You may want some extra information before making any decision. Download a copy of Gambling Impact Society NSW’s Problem Gambling – A Self Help Guide for Families (4 MB) or click here to have one sent to you.

Truth time

If gambling has become a problem for you, know free, confidential, expert help and support is available anytime by calling 1800 858 858 or online. There’s no shame in getting professional help, no one will judge you or think less of you.

If family and /friends offer you support take them up on it.  You may be able to find ways of dealing with the problem or seeking help together.  Remember, the more everyone understands the truth about gambling problems the closer everyone is to being free of the problem. Gambling Help specialists will help you and your family and friends understand the truth about problem gambling and how to overcome it.


Posted in Counsellor Sam's Advice, Friends and Family, Poker Machines, Tips On Controlling Your Gambling | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Building Your Quit Gambling Muscles

Having ‘stuffed up’ doesn’t mean you give up…

At gambling help we often get stories from people who have been doing well controlling their gambling, perhaps not gambling for a few weeks, and then being devastated by a fall into old patterns – angry they’ve “stuffed up again”.

While disappointing at the time, relapses are common and are part of the process. Don’t be hard on yourself, learn from the relapse, strengthen your approach and gear-up for another go.

How’s your quit muscle?

You’ve probably seen the ads on TV about quitting smoking. The one that shows the bloke has given up four times, each time he was able to be free of cigarettes a little longer, and finally he quit for good and made his life what he wanted it to be.

It’s all about resistance training, making your quit muscle stronger, and taking control of your gambling is no different. There will be stuff ups and set backs, but every time you learn more and it prepares you for quitting for good.

You probably know the basics of getting your gambling under control, but here’s a quick review and then on to the set-back fix.

Cash and credit

Limit your access to cash – lower the daily ATM withdrawal amount on your bank account, give your ATM and credit cards to someone you trust, consider having your pay put in an account without ATM access. Put money towards all your bills via Bpay on payday. Buy all your groceries, and pay for petrol or transport costs on pay day – have someone go with you.

Limit your exposure

Think about when and where you would previously gamble and avoid putting yourself at risk. Organise things to do at lunch and after work/study. Travel to and from work a different way to avoid venues.

Unsubscribe to all newsletters, websites and emails relating to gambling. Consider software to block access to gaming sites. Take the step and exclude yourself from the TAB, casino or the pubs and clubs where you used to gamble. Clubs NSW now offers multiple venue exclusion in one easy step.

Plan and occupy

Gambling takes up a lot of time and energy, removing gambling from your life means you need to fill in the gap it leaves, so plan to become more physically active and more social. Book in times and dates with friends to do things or catch up and be sure to tell them you won’t be going to places that offer gambling. Think about doing a course or joining a team sport, take up a hobby. Be extra careful to book in activities for your vulnerable times – times when you would previously be gambling.

Get a coach

Whether it’s a friend or partner, your doctor or a professional gambling counsellor, have a go-to person to do things with or call for support when you need to. Consider GA meetings.

Have the Gambling Help number 1800 858 858 on speed dial – someone who understands gambling is available every day, any time of the day, it’s free and confidential.

What to do when you slip-up

Set-backs are normal, you could have done well for a few days or a couple of weeks, maybe a few months. It’s unusual for people who are giving up not to have some close calls or complete set backs. If you fell back into old habits don’t despair, look at what happened and learn from the slip, make that quit muscle stronger.

Get a clear picture

List writing helps our minds process information and when we can work out what happened we can put measures in place to avoid repeating the same behaviour. Take a look at what was going on when you slipped up.

What made you gamble?

Where did the urge come from? Were you bored? Perhaps not filling in your free time enough? Was it something you saw, something you heard?

What made you decide to do it? Did someone encourage you to go with them? Were you thinking about money, was it payday?

Take stock

Get back to basics, remember gambling needs money, time, and a ‘game’. Revisit your money management plans, look at how you keep yourself busy and think about self-exclusion and the other ideas to keep you away from venues and gambling sites. Keeping track of your money, knowing where every dollar went and keeping a budget can help you stay focused on the real value of money.

Write down a list of the good and bad things about playing the pokies or poker whatever gambling activity you have trouble controlling. Include how you feel.

For the third list, write down how you would like your life to be, what you want to achieve by being gambling-free. Think about what you need to do step by step to make these goals come to life.

You can get a better understanding of your gambling and keep your mind on your goal to stay gambling-free by reviewing your lists everyday. Anytime you need a few more ideas or support call Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 or chat to a counsellor online.

The easiest way to stay on track and pick up after a relapse is to have an expert on your side. Think about regular appointments with a gambling specialist. You can find free, confidential support near you by putting your postcode into the search box here.

Remember a relapse isn’t when you give in, it’s when you give it more. Refine your no-gambling game plan and build your quit muscles.

Posted in Counsellor Sam's Advice, Tips On Controlling Your Gambling | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

License to Punt

“Bring On Pokies Reform” asks the question many of us want to know the answer to “So what happened to the license to punt proposal?”

Recently “Bring On Pokies Reform” submitted a story to the Gambling Help website


Because it was such a great question and the story offered some interesting insights, this blog is based around a response to Bring On’s story.

“So what happened to the license to punt proposal? Has the government fallen for the “licence to punt is un-Australian” line? I’ll tell u what’s un-Aussie, being a dead shit who can’t afford to go out for a few beers with mates because you’ve blown every cent on pokies. How about losing the great Aussie dream- house, family, friends. All gone because we can’t stop pressing those buttons, watching those lights, being intoxicated by those sounds and waiting in agonizing, excruciating anticipation for our luck to change. If ur playing pokies ur luck is going to run out. Cmon guys – let’s get everyone who is sick of this to write msg on here! Something has to be done. We are powerless against these machines designed to steal every cent. I wish everyone good and ask you to get fighting!

We’ll get onto a quick rundown on “license to punt”, but the most important thing to note here is that everyone who has problems with pokies (80% of people who contact Gambling Help) are NOT powerless. You can call 1800 858 858 anytime, talk to an expert over the phone or online, (via email or instant chat) see a gambling specialist, and leave the pokies and their misery behind. All of these services are free and confidential and they work. To play with your words a little Bring On, it’s the pokies that are shit and you can leave them for dead.

Here’s where the pokies reform is at…

The political motivation for pokies reform was that the Gillard government needed independent Andrew Wilkie to form government and his vote was given on the condition of action on the pokies – so that people would set limits on how much they would spend before they “played”.

His position was introduce some long-overdue pokies reforms, (reforms recommended by a number of Productivity Commission investigations into Gambling) including changes to poker machine technology and gambling policy so that the potential harm caused by pokies including that people could lose up to $1,200 an hour would be curbed.

While public opinion polls showed pokies reform was supported by around 80% of the population, the industry disagreed and spent more than $40 million in advertising telling everyone it wouldn’t work and it was un-Australian etc. There was lots of talk about lost jobs and how communities would suffer because pubs and clubs would go broke and close down. A lot of politicians were very uncomfortable.

All of that became less of a problem when the Gillard government got the numbers it needed when former Liberal Peter Slipper became Speaker, so they dumped Andrew, hit hold on pokies reform and now while there is talk every now and then about problem gambling and pokies, there is little real action.

The Gillard government pokies reform bill was “watered down” according to the Greens who wanted to put through another bill and nothing much has happened. Neither the Greens nor anti-pokies senator Nick Xenophon agrees to the Government’s new plan, so it’s doomed in the Senate and unlikely to go anywhere.

Somewhere in the new bill is a trial of technology on pokies so that people can set limits before they “play”. Originally the trial was supposed to take place in Canberra starting in February next year but no agreement can be reached and it won’t surprise you to hear that it will delayed or be shelved if there is a new government.

The industry and Gillard government can’t agree and one of the reasons is that Clubs ACT reckons the government will have to give them $36 million to compensate them for lost revenue during and after the trial. There is still debate over how the technology will work and if it will be ready by 2014.

Clubs ACT Chief, Jeff House, is on record as saying “I’m waiting for parliament to pull its collective finger out of its collective arse.”  And Bring On, that about sums it up!

What now?

What all this tells us is that people will act to protect what is a very profitable industry. In Australia, pokie player losses are more than $12 billion a year. We all know that this money is taken from everyday people’s pay packets and frequently at the expense of household necessities like gas, electricity and food. The money ends up in the pokies where the venue (casino, pub or club) keeps it and provides some to the government in tax.

We know that around 60 per cent of the money lost is fed into poker machines by the 600,000 people who play them each week, and 95,000 of those people are considered problem gamblers.

Bring On, many people agree pokies are designed to “intoxicate”, they are certainly designed to make money for the venues and they often cause agonizing and excruciating problems for people who have lost control over how much time and money they spend on them.

What’s luck got to do with it?

Bring On, pokies aren’t about luck. They are computers operating programs designed so that the chances of you winning big are less than 1 in 1 million, each and every time you press the button. Their lights and sounds are geared to keep you in the zone, to keep you giving them your money, as you say to steal every cent.

It’s within your power to say no, to not give them your money. Yes get fighting, start with that first $1 you don’t put in, get free specialist help to support you in the battle (click here for free gambling help services near you, make a deal with your mates and all deny the pokies any more of your money.  Help each other and build a great Aussie dream that doesn’t include the pokies.

You can also self-exclude from venues (ban yourself and Gambling Help can assist you with this), join Get Up campaigns and other pokies reform groups and write to you local Council and local MP and let them know you want something done. All the best Bring On and everyone else looking to fight the pokies.

Posted in Counsellor Sam's Advice, Poker Machines, Tips On Controlling Your Gambling, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Hokey Pokie Machine

Before we put our left (or right) hand into our pockets, get out our wallet and shake it all about, let’s be clear about one thing, pokie machines are not designed to help players make money.

Yes, you might sometimes have a win, but if you keep playing, you’ll most likely lose all the money you put in. Pokies are designed to make money for gambling operators and they do, by taking your money.

Australians spend more than $19 billion a year on gambling, around $12 billion is spent on the pokies.

One in six people who play the pokies regularly has a severe gambling problem. It’s not just the money lost, though the average problem gambler loses around $21,000 a year, it’s that many people lose themselves. How much of yourself have your put in to the pokies?

Pokies myths, shake it all about

Early versions of poker machines, the one arm-bandit, had reels inside that spun around to reveal a combination of winning and losing symbols.  But modern pokie machines are hardwired – computer programmed – to show predetermined combinations that will never allow the machine to pay out more than it takes in.

If you opened a pokie machine up all you would find is a computer. The symbols displayed when you win or lose are chosen by a ‘random number generator’. Because the generator is created by computer software, it is possible to make the machine display combinations that are close to winning combinations.  This can make you think that you have ‘almost won’ when you haven’t at all.

“Near wins” and other positive enforcements, like light and sound effects, tell our brains the same thing, keep playing you’re almost there, you’ve almost won. Hokey – it’s a loss dressed up as a near win to encourage you to keep playing.

The reel story

While most of us know there are no longer real “reels” inside, we still imagine our favourite pokie has virtual reels with symbols on each reel. We assume if each reel has 100 symbols on it, each symbol has a 1 in 100 chance of stopping on the centre line.

We unconsciously assume the reels are identical and assume that the chance of getting a winning symbol on reel 2, is the same as getting the winning symbol on reels 1 and 3, 4 and 5.

We think the computer spins each “reel” independently and using a random number generator, the computer chooses the centre-line symbol.


There is no standard requiring balanced (symmetrical) reels. There is no requirement that each type of symbol appears the same number of times on each reel.

In most statistical scenarios, if the reels were balanced (symmetrical) the pokies would be paying out double the money put in – instead of taking 10% to 13% of each and every play.

Most gamblers assume the reels on pokies are symmetrical – that they are balanced.


Reeling you in

I’ve never met a problem gambler who knew the reels were asymmetric or understood how this influenced the play.

What! Are you saying the reels aren’t the same?

NO. The reels are NOT the same.

Some in the industry call this reel starving.

Basically, a symbol will appear more times on some reels but fewer on one. This gives the player the expectation that the reels are identical and the impression that their chances are much better than they really are.

As players we see the reels and often imagine what we see as a near miss. We tell ourselves we’ve almost got it and that’s exactly what the machines are designed to encourage us to think.

We keep playing.  Over time we keep losing.

The machine might tell us we’ve won something, the lights and sounds insist we’re winners but make no mistake, in Australia the machines win more than $12billion a year – they get it from players.

Around 80% of people who contact Gambling Help (call 1800 858 858 anytime) have problems with poker machines.

Real help

If you or someone you care about is having trouble controlling how much money or time they spend on poker machines, free, expert help is available, over the phone, online and in services across NSW.

By seeing an experienced gambling counsellor you can learn more about gambling and how to get control.

You can see a video of how poker machines really work here or contact Gambling Help for a free DVD here.

Real help is available. It’s free, confidential and it works.

Posted in Counsellor Sam's Advice, Poker Machines, Tips On Controlling Your Gambling | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How Much Gambling is Too Much?

This is a question that comes up a lot when talking about problem gambling. It’s something counsellors are asked when people are trying to work out if someone they care about has a gambling problem and if they should intervene, and something people ask themselves if they’re starting to think gambling isn’t so much fun anymore.

So how much is too much?

It depends, and it isn’t always just about money.

The amount someone can safely spend on gambling, like how much you can safely spend on other “non-essential items” (to use budget-speak), comes down to your personal  circumstances.

Ask yourself:  what amount of money can I risk losing without it affecting my capacity to manage other set costs like rent, food, transport, bills etc.

For some people, spending a few dollars on gambling may mean they and others will have to go without weekly essentials.  For others it could be hundreds or hundreds of thousands of dollars (if we believe casino owners who talk about the wealthy “whales” they hope to attract).

Recently, a client spoke about how they were spending $300 a week on gambling, they weren’t experiencing any financial problems at this stage but they recognised that gambling was already not as exciting for them as it used to be.

They had read stories people had written on the gambling help website and were worried they would start spending more and more to get the same thrill gambling first offered them. That was something they didn’t want to happen.

For this person, gambling was a social outlet. They saw it as an entertainment expense. But, when we starting looking at value for money, how many hours of entertainment and how much socialising their $300 a week really delivered, things looked a lot different.

What social contact did gambling really bring?

Not much, they played pokies alone and didn’t really talk to anyone or meet anyone new.

What did they get for their money?

A few hours in front of a video screen that promised lots but did nothing but take $300 a week. What worried them more is that they used to think pokies were boring.

Ask yourself what you get out of gambling, if it really gives you what you want or if it’s becoming a problem.

When does gambling become a problem?

Harmful gambling is when your gambling starts to cause problems for you or others. For example, if you are starting to worry about money or have some stress associated with your gambling. Perhaps it’s causing problems in some of your relationships or taking your attention away from work or study. Maybe it’s simply no longer fun.

There could be lots of reasons you’re thinking you don’t want to gamble as much, but you’re finding cutting back is more difficult than you ever thought it would be. You’ve said to yourself I’ll just spend $20 today, but it’s never just $20.

Part of looking at if you’re gambling too much is to work out what gambling is really costing you. It’s not just the money, though financial stress is often a sign that gambling is becoming a problem, think about health, happiness and relationships too.

Some forms of gambling are more harmful than others, especially those that allow you to play continuously and lose track of how much you’re spending.  Get an idea of how much you’re spending on gambling by clicking here.

If you’re spending more time or money gambling than you want to, or someone you care about is, free information and specialist help is available. Call 1800 858 858 or go to www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au

What can I do?

If you’re asking how much gambling is too much, maybe it’s time to have a confidential chat with a Gambling Help expert, click here for free services near you or call 1800 858 858 any time, help is available every day 24 hours a day.

Posted in Counsellor Sam's Advice, Friends and Family, Tips On Controlling Your Gambling | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Take a Pass on Gambling Urges and Triggers

How to Pass on Gambling Urges

Triggers that fire off a gambling urge and what to do when the urge strikes

If you know the triggers that set you off on spending more time or money gambling than you want to, you can take action to avoid them and put in place an action plan so you can go into damage control and minimize the threat to your goal of gambling safe or not gambling at all.

Gambling triggers may include:

  • having money (e.g., on payday)
  • feeling bored, restless, angry, depressed or lonely
  • money worries or rising debts
  • drinking or taking other drugs
  • reading the sports section and daily market figures
  • passing places to gamble, TAB, pubs, clubs, casino
  • spending time with friends who gambling
  • regular gambling times (e.g.Friday after work or weekend football games)

Once you’ve identified your triggers, work out damage control actions for each.  Think about what you can do to avoid the triggers (protection) and how to distract yourself or get help if a trigger has spiked a gambling urge (damage control).

For example if payday is your trigger you might arrange to have your pay split into two accounts including one with no ATM access or one where a trusted friend keeps the ATM card.

Set up automatic transfers on payday so as soon as your pay hits your account the majority is transferred into a savings account.

Set up Bpay to pay set amounts to regular bills like gas and electricity.

Meet your partner or friend straight after work on payday and buy your essentials – food and groceries, petrol, transport tickets. Buy store vouchers/cards where you buy your essential items, so the vouchers can see you through to the next payday.

For each trigger you can identify, think about various activities you can do for at least 20-30 minutes to divert you from gambling thoughts, calling a friend, exercise, watching a film. Call Gambling Help 1800 858 858 anytime, every day for information and help with managing gambling or go to www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au

To instant chat or email with a gambling specialist anytime, go to www.gamblinghelponline.org.au

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Gambling Problems Don’t Just Happen

Is Your Gambling Out of Control?

Are any of these things happening to you?

Gambling problems don’t usually just happen, often they build up overtime as gambling behaviour changes from social gambling to regular gambling and then compulsive or problem gambling. It’s often called the continuum of gambling, behaviours change becoming more intense with people usually gambling more often and for longer, spending more time and money.

It could happen over months or years. Often we try to tell ourselves and anyone who challenges our behaviour that nothing has changed, but we find that we need to gamble more often and place bigger bets to feel the level of excitement we used to.

Sometimes the first signs of a potential problem aren’t about money, it could be that you feel nervous or anxious if you haven’t gambled or that you’ve become obsessed with finding a system. Perhaps it’s feeling a win is due or maybe you find you’re having more arguments with family and friends.

Are any of these things happening to you?

• I can’t sleep, I worry, my health is suffering.

• My partner is threatening to leave me if I don’t stop gambling.

• I fight with people about my gambling.

• I’m tired of sneaking around, lying and hiding my losses.

• Creditors are hassling me. I’ve got lots of debts.

• Gambling is all I ever think about. It has taken over my life.

• I’ve stopped caring about things that should be important to me.

• I’ve borrowed money from so many people. I can’t face them.

• I’m afraid I’ll lose my job.

• I don’t even enjoy gambling most of the time.

• I feel like such a loser. Sometimes I hate myself so much.

If any of these thoughts have crossed your mind, gambling could be the cause. If you’d rather think about how to change your life for the better, call the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858 for free, confidential, expert help that works or go to our website.


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Why Can’t I Just Stop Gambling?

You Can Stop Gambling

How did this happen?

I can’t believe the sh*t I’m in

If I stop now, I’ll be a total loser. There’s no way I can pay back all the money I owe.

If I had the money to invest, I’m sure my luck would change. I just need one more win.

Even when I win, I just lose it again.

I can’t deal with this, but I’m too embarrassed to ask for help.

I never thought it would get this bad.

Do any of these thoughts sound familiar?

Most people who eventually come to Gambling Help (1800 858 858) say they knew they had lost control over how much time and money they were spending gambling but they tried to ignore it.  They knew they were ignoring other responsibilities too.

They knew that they were causing money problems for themselves and their family but only gambling seemed important. They thought gambling, and winning, would help them fix the problems they had created. Things got worse, and they knew they had a problem.

Even though they knew their gambling was causing problems for the people they loved, they become anxious and unhappy, and sometimes aggressive, if they couldn’t gamble. Often they hated themselves, but the urge to gamble seemed too great to resist.

For some people, not stopping gambling is more about feeling they couldn’t give up now, given all the time, money and emotion they’d put into gambling. They didn’t want to accept that they would never win back what they had lost.

Some people know the damage they are doing to themselves and their relationships but they still believe their system will pay off, their luck will change or they are due for a win.

Others believe that continuing to gamble is the only way out of a situation they are ashamed about.

Other people promise to quit, but can’t. Compelled to gamble, they also fear their loved ones will find them out. So often this means more lying about where they’ve been and greater deception over money, maybe hiding credit card bills or not making payments on household bills. This causes more unhappiness, sometimes depression, and often more and more debt.

People stuck in a gambling rut keep hoping a big win will end their problems. A win will let them pay back the people they’ve borrowed money from. A big win will mean they can buy things for themselves and their family and friends. A big win will make their life so much better. The odds are a big win never comes.

Once in a while you may win a small amount. Usually it’s no where near what you’ve put in or what you’ve lost but it’s enough to keep hope alive. My luck is changing, my win is almost here, but usually the losses just add up again.

If you are like most people who gamble too much, you may have tried to cut down or stop many times. It’s hard to change your gambling on your own and easy to fall back into harmful gambling behaviour.

Specialist counselling can help you find long-term solutions to your problems. It’s free, confidential and works.  Gambling experts won’t judge you or make you feel bad, they’re qualified specialists who will help you understand your gambling behaviour and change it. To find a free specialist near you call 1800 858 858 or enter your postcode into the search box on the homepage at www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au

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What Is Gambling Counselling?

Counselling is a place to talk about how gambling has changed your life – the good and the bad. It’s safe and private, and you won’t be judged.

Counselling is free to anyone affected by problem gambling, not just the person who gambles, but partners, family, friends, children. In most areas, you’’ll find at least one agency that offers counselling for problem gambling. Phone (1800 858 858) and online counselling www.gamblinghelponline.org.au is also available using either email or instant chat. These services are available 24 hours a day, every day.

Problem gambling counsellors are specially trained to understand your difficulties. There is no shame in seeking help. It’s the first step to regaining control of gambling and working to solve problems gambling has caused.

Financial counselling or credit and debt counselling services, legal help, family counselling and other resources are also available.

Some centres offer evening and weekend appointments for face-to-face counselling. Counselling can be one-on-one, or with your partner or family. Group counselling may also be available.

Counselling is confidential. Before counselling begins, your counsellor will tell you what you can expect from counselling, and what will be expected of you. You’ll decide with your counsellor how often you want help and what you want to talk about.  You can find details of the Gambling Help centre closest to you clicking here


How Can Counselling Help Me?

People often wonder if they will have to stop gambling to begin counselling. You don’t. You’ll decide if you want to cut down on gambling or quit. Your counsellor will not pressure you to make changes before you are ready.

Gambling affects people in different ways. Problem gambling counsellors give you information about gambling including the odds of winning and how different kinds of gambling works.

They’ll help you look at various options so you can decide what will work best for you.

With a counsellor you might decide to take a break from gambling. Starting by setting a goal to be gambling free for a week. It might include setting a gambling budget and managing money to prioritise essentials, bills and debt repayments.

Some people know what changes they want to make through counselling and what action they want to take. Others aren’t sure. Either way, counselling will help you think about how gambling affects you, and support you until you are back in control.

Gambling counselling is a learning process

Gambling is easily misunderstood and many people have misconceptions about gambling, how easy it is to win, things you can do to improve your chances of winning, how with a win our life will change etc. Many of these ideas are not based on fact. They’re beliefs we’ve developed around systems or superstitions that lead to spending more to win more or chasing losses. In most cases, the end result doesn’t support our beliefs around gambling – we just lose more and losses can lead to debt, financial stress and a lot of other problems.

With new information, counselling can help you make good decisions – informed decisions – about the likely outcome of gambling.

Counsellors can also help you better manage some of the things that might have led you to problem gambling like boredom or stress.

Learning different ways to handle stress, healthy relaxation techniques, extending your social network, finding other things to do with your time are some of the areas counselling can help with.

Financial counselling can also help you put your finances in order. Financial counsellors can advocate on you behalf with creditors, help with debt consolidation and budgeting.

Counselling generally helps with getting your life back in balance, dealing with your urges to gamble and supporting you so you don’t slip back into problem gambling behaviours.  In supporting you to take control of you life, counselling can also help heal relationships damaged by the mistrust and feelings of betrayal often associated with gambling.

Give counselling a try, it’s about specialist support, no one will judge you. All Gambling Help services are free and confidential. Counsellors are experienced and understand gambling, call 1800 858 858 to speak with a counsellor and for referral to free face-to-face counselling services near you or enter your postcode into the search box on the homepage at www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au for service details.

Perhaps begin with emailing or instant chatting with a counsellor click here to start talking to an expert www.gamblinghelponline.org.au

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It’s not just the money, headaches and other signs of gambling stress…

Hi All,

Recently I heard from Chris who was having trouble with gambling. A uni student, Chris had lost $2,000 to gambling and was not only angry over losing money he really couldn’t afford but was experiencing headaches, anxiety and other signs of gambling stress.

We all find different ways to cope with what’s happening in our lives. There are lots of coping strategies we all use, and some are helpful but some, like gambling, can be harmful. Because it’s so easily available, gambling is one way people deal with life if they feel bored, lonely, stressed or depressed. What may be helpful is to look for other coping strategies that have other benefits like exercise and increasing positive social interaction away from gambling.

Coping strategies

Feeling stressed, think about other solutions rather than gambling. Exercise can be as easy as meeting a friend for a walk or taking a four-legged friend for a walk (maybe there’s a neighbour who could use help with walking their dog)  Look into alternative ways to relax, like walking, swimming (may be more comfortable an indoor pool this time of year), yoga or meditation.

If you’re studying, many student services include social groups and advisors who may be able to put you in touch with someone or a group that you could join for any of those activities. A number of workplaces also have social clubs with activities including sports or training for events like the City to Surf, yoga, film groups and outings for foodies etc.

Managing money

Often it is money that causes us stress. For people trying to manage their gambling, it is important to put measures in place that will help you reduce financial worries and minimize opportunities to use money for gambling.

A key to managing your money is to pay for all essential items and bills first. Having a portion of your pay put into a separate account which is only accessible online is another way to limit your access to cash via an ATM.

You can also speak with your financial institution and reduce your ATM daily limit or look at options including having a trusted friend or family member hold your ATM and credit cards.

These arrangements won’t make it impossible to get at the money, but it will make it more difficult and give you more time to think about what you’re doing before you actually withdraw the money.


Another thing to thing about is self-exclusion. Basically it’s a signed agreement with a venue to ban yourself from the gaming area, or even from the whole venue. Then the staff have permission to make you leave if you’re spotted on the premises. Of course you could get around that by trying to sneak in, or by driving to somewhere further away, but by the time you’ve done that, you might have given yourself enough time to stop and think about what you’re going to do before you get there.

Self exclusions can be arranges at your venue or in some instances online. For pub exclusions refer to AHAhttp://www.ahansw.com.au/index.php/industry-information/gaming/help-for-problem-gamblers

Clubs NSW also offer exclusion from single or multiple Clubs. Gambling Help counsellors can also assist you with self exclusion.

See http://www.betsafe.com.au/self_exclusion/  You can also exclude from casinos (see casino individual websites) and TABhttp://nettab.custhelp.com/ci/fattach/get/13231/

Extra support

Remember there are people who can support you with what you are going through. Specialists who can give you ideas on managing your cash and getting your gambling under control.

If you find that you need a bit more help, you might want to look at face-to-face or online counselling. Both are free and completely confidential and are really good when you are stuck and just need someone to point you in the right direction.

If you would like to find a local gambling counsellor either call the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858 and they can hook you up, or have a look at www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au where you can put your postcode in at the bottom of the homepage and find the details of a counsellor near you (or any area).

You can also go to Gambling Help Online and chat to a counsellor via email or live chat.

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How does your gambling problem affect your child?

Most parents want the best for their children and hope that when times are tough or when there are problems within the family children are protected or don’t even notice there is a problem. Unfortunately this is rarely the case.

There is no doubt that children whose parents are problem gamblers are affected in many ways by their parent’s gambling. The saddest part is perhaps that the parent who is a problem gambler is sometimes unaware of the harm that their problem gambling is causing their child or teenager.

As a gambling counsellor, it is not unusual to hear that a client’s son or daughter is working with a counsellor on depression or anxiety issues. In this situation, the parent with problem gambling and the non-gambling parent, usually believe that their child is unaware of any gambling problem and is simply depressed because of the pressures of school, relationships and so on. Rarely does the parent with the problem gambling think that their son or daughter’s depression or anxiety could be due in part or full to their own problem gambling.

It is very important to say at this point that children may know far more than what their parents give them credit for.

A child or teenager who is thought to be asleep often hears a fight between parents about gambling such as ‘now there is no money to pay bills’.  Alternatively, they may hear a phone conversation about their parent’s gambling behaviour or have simply put all the pieces together for themselves.

Clues your child may be affected by your gambling

Some of the emotional, physical and behavioural clues that your child may be affected by your problem gambling could include the following:

  • Emotional: hopelessness, anxiety, depression, confusion, hurt, guilt, loneliness, insecurity and or inadequacy and anger
  • Physical: Exhibit stress-related illnesses such as asthma, allergies, chronic headaches and or chronic gastrointestinal problems
  • Behavioural: running away, alcohol abuse, drug use, smoking, over-eating, lower academic school performance, criminal activity and/or attempted suicide.

Research ‘tells’ us that families where the mother is the parent with the problem gambling are more likely to be engaged in constant family arguments.  In this scenario, children may not be properly organized for school and other activities and may arrive at school without breakfast.

Children whose fathers have a problem with gambling often experience financial deprivation particularly around food, school and accommodation.

Family life suffers as a result of problem gambling. Parental neglect and withdrawal, loss of trust, loss of security and stability are common. Inconsistent discipline, emotional deprivation, physical isolation, and a strong emphasis on money or material possessions are also negative outcomes of life affected by problem gambling.

Children whose parents are problem gamblers experience feelings of pervasive loss, including the loss of the parent in both the physical and emotional sense, the loss of a relationship with their extended family, loss of savings and other assets and sometimes the loss of the family home.

Children who grow up in families with problem gambling also may experience high rates of parental violence, abuse and separation and are twice as likely to attempt suicide themselves.

Finally, research indicates that children growing up in families affected by problem gambling were more likely to develop gambling problems themselves than children raised in non problem gambling families even after controlling for other factors.

Some young people have told me that they first started gambling because they simply wanted to understand what was in gambling for their mother or their father, who were absent from their lives in many different ways.

If you’re concerned that gambling is affecting your family, remember that it is not too late to stop gambling and rebuild your relationships with your son and or daughter. Phone the Gambling Help Line on 1800 858 858 or go online now and talk to a gambling counselor at Gambling Help Online.

The Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 is a source of support for young people.

More information about the impact of your problem gambling on your child is available by clicking on this link. 

This blog is based on studies undertaken by the Problem Gambling Research & Treatment Centre for Gambling Research Australia in the Children at Risk of Developing Problem Gambling Project. For more information click here.

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Yellow Submarines & Blue Cars

Yellow SubmarineIf I said that I want you not to think about yellow submarines for the next five minutes. Do you think you could do it? Have you got that? You are not to think about yellow submarines, don’t think about yellow submarines for five minutes.

If you think about a yellow submarine, I want you to record each time, with a tick on a piece of paper or by counting the number of times you think about a yellow submarine on your fingers. Ok?

Start now, remember no yellow submarines for five minutes…

SO how did you go?

For most people, just the act of trying not to think about something, let alone the repetition of the words and the action of recording failures, dooms them to fail.

By striving not to think of something, all of sudden it’s all we can think about. We obsess about it. This especially seems the case for people trying to address problem gambling.

For many of us, by obsessing about not gambling we are more likely to hit the triggers that lead to urges and possibly a lapse or relapse. It can be very demoralising and makes the task of behaviour change ie to be without gambling, even harder.

Trade in your yellow submarine for a blue car

Now I want you to try another exercise. I want you to think about blue cars for the next five minutes. Got that? Blue cars. Imagine driving a shiny blue convertible with the wind in your hair. Blue cars zipping down a freeway. Any blue car will do.

Every time you think of a blue car in the next five minutes I want you to count on your fingers, or  keep score.  Can you do that? Start now…

So how did you go? It’s certainly much easier to think of “something” than it is to “not think about something”, isn’t it?

When we are looking to give up gambling, the challenge is to turn yellow submarines into blue cars.

Change your thoughts change your behaviour

In helping clients put in place strategies to achieve a successful change of behaviour we look at the four areas of time, money, venue and desire. Because these are the four elements that are needed to gamble. You have to have the time to gamble. You have to have money. A place to gamble and most importantly you have to want to gamble.

Tackle time

When we look at the element of time, we look at what are the danger times (when are you most likely to gamble) and then we look at the things that you can do at those times. Not just to keep busy, but we look at the things that are enjoyable, activities that will engage you. By engagement we mean you’re so absorbed time just passes. Those are the Blue Cars we want!

We also look at things that you may have enjoyed doing in the past but stopped doing. Those activities could also be your blue cars! If we focus our attention on the things that we can do other than gambling and you really throw yourself into those activities, you’ll find your enjoyment in those activities will help you spend less time thinking about gambling.

Make a map of where you want to go

As you identify your “blue cars” create reminders of what you want to achieve and record your success – a photo of you doing your blue car activity, pictures, a movie ticket stub or other momentos.

Keep your reminders around you, maybe on a notice board, by your bed, stick them on the bathroom mirror or the fridge or keep a file on your phone. Change and update them regularly so that they don’t become stale or just part of the same old scene.

You want your reminders, symbols and successes to pop back into your mind when you least expect them to get you thinking about them again and to refresh your resolve and intentions.

Money, venue, and desire

Take the same “blue car” approach to money, venue and desire.  What else can you spend your money on, where else can you go for entertainment or to meet up with friends, what else would you like to do? Write lists and create or find pictures that will help you think about activities that you will enjoy, things that will engage you instead of that old regular, familiar and persistent behaviour of gambling.

When you’re looking to get rid of a gambling behaviour don’t get sunk by yellow submarines. Instead, focus on new goals and keep to your plans that will help you drive your blue car to success.

Counsellor Sam

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I’m not the person with the problem but problem gambling is making my life hell…

Problem gambling not only affects the person gambling but the behaviours and actions associated with gambling addiction commonly affect the life of 10 or more family and friends close to the person with a gambling problem.

One of the great tragedies of gambling problems is that it is often the families of a person with a  problem gambling who suffer the most. Partners are often confused, angry and feel helpless as the household budget is pressured and money worries escalate – but they may not know that gambling is the issue. Children can feel neglected or fearful when arguments break out.

It is not uncommon for a problem gambler to be spending so much time and money on gambling that financial stress (inability to pay bills, increasing debt) and relationship problems (arguments about missing money and time spent away, lying, feelings of betrayal) start to add to the difficulties problem gambling causes.

It is not uncommon for the family, especially spouses and kids, to feel that it’s their fault. Sometimes because of the arguments that get used when the problem gambler is desperate to deflect guilt or justify actions their actions, partners or family may feel they are to blame. The reality is it’s not your fault!

As a partner or family member what can you do?

When in contact with a problem gambler, life can become incredibly difficult and confusing. Amongst the financial pressure and feelings of hurt and desperation, all we want is for the gambling to stop, but it can be hard to know the right things to say or to know what to do.

Get professional help and support

Seek help for yourself and your family. Family and friends of problem gamblers often don’t think to get help for themselves, but this is very important to ensure YOU receive the support you need. The information and skills you learn by seeing a problem gambling specialist may help your partner/family member to stop gambling, but is not the primary goal. By seeing an experienced gambling counsellor you can address the suffering and problems that gambling is causing you and get help to address the situation. FREE counselling for partners, friends and family members can be easily arranged by calling Gambling Help on 1800 858 858.

Limit your exposure to financial difficulties

Set up separate accounts, keep credit cards and cash safe. You might need to consider transferring assets into your own name. If you need financial assistance, financial counsellors can help you organise things and are available free through Gambling Help on 1800 858 858. Specialised free legal help is also available.

Don’t make excuses, bail out or enable

It is very important that family and friends don’t lend the problem gambler money or help them access loans or credit.

Not only can lending money expose family members to financial difficulties (rarely will the money be returned), bailing out a problem gambler also maintains the situation – nothing will change.

Giving the gambler more money or credit increases the problems and prevents the problem gambler from admitting there is a problem and learning to take responsibility for their own actions.

Similarly, don’t help a problem gambler negotiate with creditors, employers or banks.  You can let them know a financial counsellor can assist them and that free help is available (through Gambling Help on 1800 858 858) but don’t jump in and fix things.

Offer support without judgement

It’s very difficult not to be judgmental or make ultimatums when dealing with a problem gambler, but generally speaking, the bigger the issue you make of the gambling problem, the harder it can be for the gambler to stop.

People with gambling problems often do not enjoy gambling and know that they should stop, but may find it very difficult to know how. Try not to harass them or demand they stop immediately. Instead, encourage them to be open and honest with you about their gambling problems, and if you feel safe, let them know in a calm way, how the gambling has affected you/your children/family etc, let them know free, expert help is available.


Unfortunately domestic violence is an issue that occurs regularly in conjunction with gambling problems. If you or your family are at risk of violence, you need to leave urgently and phone Lifeline on 131114 or if you are in imminent danger phone the Police 000.

Legal advice

You may need legal advice to secure assets, deal with debtors, make separation arrangements, arrange divorce proceedings or help with criminal charges that have arisen from stealing to support gambling. It is important to organize legal advice before things get out of control. Through Gambling Help free legal advice is available via the Wesley Community Legal Service 02 9263 5577

It can help to get a different and fresh perspective.

For more information, visit the family and friends section on  www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au

You can also download a free family help guide or request a free copy to be sent to you by clicking here http://www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au/GamblingHelp/SelfGuide.aspx

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Recovering from a Gambling Relapse

Recover from a relapse with these tips

Revisiting your game plan after a relapse, giving gambling the boot and getting back where you want to be

You’ve probably seen the ads on TV talking about quitting smoking. The one that shows the bloke has given up four times, each time he was able to be free of cigarettes a little longer, and finally he got free, he quit for good and made his life what he wanted it to be.

Just like people have been able to quit smoking, taking back control of your gambling is no different. There will be stuff ups and set backs, but every time you quit, you learn more and it prepares you for quitting for good.

You probably know the basics of getting your gambling under control, but here’s a quick review and then on to the set-back fix.

Cash and credit

Limit your access to cash – lower the daily ATM withdrawal amount on your bank account, give your ATM and credit cards to someone you trust, consider having your pay put in an account without ATM access. Have all your bills paid by Bpay on payday. Buy all your groceries, and pay for petrol or transport costs on pay day – have someone go with you.

Limit your exposure

Think about when and where you would previously gamble and avoid putting yourself at risk. Organise things to do at lunch and after work/study. Travel to and from work a different way to avoid venues.

Unsubscribe to all newsletters, websites and emails relating to gambling. Consider software to block access to gaming sites. Take the step and exclude yourself from the TAB, casino or the pubs and clubs where you used to gamble. Clubs NSW now offers multiple venue exclusion in one easy step.

Plan and occupy

Gambling takes up a lot of time and energy, removing gambling from your life means you need to fill in the gap it leaves, so plan to become more physically active and more social. Book in times and dates with friends to do things or catch up, join a class or team sport, take up a hobby. Be extra careful to book in activities for your vulnerable times – times when you would previously be gambling.

Get a coach

Whether it’s a friend or partner, your doctor or a professional gambling counsellor, have a go-to person to do things with or call when you need to. Consider GA meetings and have the Gambling Help number 1800 858 858 on speed dial – someone who understands gambling is available every day, any time of the day.

What to do when you slip-up

Set-backs are normal, you could have done well for a few days or a couple of weeks, but if you fell back into old habits don’t despair, look at what happened and learn.

Get a clear picture

List writing helps our minds process information and when we can work out what happened we can put measures in place to avoid making the same mistakes. Take a look at what was going on the first day you slipped up.

What made you gamble this time?

Where did the urge come from? Were you bored? Perhaps not filling in your free time enough?

What made you decide to do it?

Take stock – make lists

Get back to the real issues, keep track of your money and make a note about every dollar you spend. Keeping a budget can help you stay focused on the real value of money.

Write down a list of the good and bad things about playing the pokies or poker whatever gambling activity you have trouble controlling.

Write down another list detailing how you feel when you play the pokies or gamble (the good and bad feelings).

For the third list, write down how you would like your life to be, what your goals are

As the last list, write down step by step what you need to do to make these goals come to life. It might include things like starting a new hobby or a sport, joining a club like a book club, or some other way of finding friends that don’t gamble so you can have fun without gambling being a part of your life. Starting a budget is another good idea!

You can get a better understanding of your gambling and keep your mind on your goal to stay gambling free by reviewing your lists everyday. Anytime you need extra help call Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 or chat to a counsellor online at gamblinghelponline.org.au

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Managing Gambling Worry

Managing Worrying Thoughts

Are you constantly thinking about gambling?

The difference between thinking about things you really like and thinking about something you used to like, say your gambling, is that it is likely that your gambling thoughts are now unpleasant and make you feel bad.

Heavy and even moderate gamblers sometimes worry about their losses, think about the reasons they didn’t stop when they were in front, and worry about how much debt they owe and how to re-pay or how they will  pay their bills and even buy food.

Gambling tends to be all consuming.  Many gamblers find much of their time is spent planning the next time they will gamble, trying to work out where will they get more money to gamble and what excuses they need to tell at home or at work so they can go and gamble.

People dealing with worrying thoughts about their gambling might feel depressed, anxious and this emotional upset may even further fuel their need to gamble. (If you are having suicidal thoughts call Gambling Help 1800 858 858 or Lifeline immediately).

If problem gamblers fall into the trap of gambling again, unfortunately rather than recouping losses as they hoped, they end up losing even more money and the worrying thoughts start all over again – perhaps even worse.

Binge gambling can result in very heavy losses. This can happen when heavy drinking gets mixed in with the gambling or you are really desperate and lose control.

If you are going out, stick to some basic rules like only taking small amounts of cash with you and not taking ATM or credit cards. If you are going to drink, drink responsibly to avoid fuelling a gambling binge and the inevitable gambling hangover.

 Managing worrying thoughts on gambling

Sometimes gamblers think they have had enough of these worrying thoughts and try to stop them ‘head on’ only to find this actually makes them worse.

Let the thoughts be and focus on what you are actually doing when the thoughts strike. Distract yourself, call up a friend, start watching a movie, do some work about the house, focus on your work, perhaps make yourself lunch or dinner, go for a walk, head to the gym or meet up with friends to play a game or go for a run. Plan a list of things you can do and then when the gambling urge strikes, do something off that list

When battling gambling urges, you need to stay “present in the moment’. You need to do something physical as well as distract your mind so you do not feed the gambling cycle by worrying about past gambling or planning future gambling.

If you are aware that you are worrying about gambling and want to stop distract yourself by doing something you enjoy.

Some gamblers keep a diary of their thoughts and then when thinking clearly, sit down and try to question the accuracy of them.

Other people find that by allocating specific worrying time of around half an hour per day, that their worrying gambling thoughts do not intrude into other areas of their life such as their work and relationships.

Many people find meditation, yoga and relaxation very helpful in keeping their intrusive gambling thoughts under control. These kind of activities also help people sleep more restfully.

Remember by sometimes giving your worrying thoughts “a voice” (by talking to a trusted person’ a counsellor, doctor, good friend or family member) you can keep your gambling worries under control and work on staying away from gambling.

Need more information on managing your gambling problems? Call Gambling Help 1800 858 858 or talk to an online counsellor here www.gamblinghelponline.org.au or visit www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au for information and to find free Gambling Help services near you.

Take the first step now. Get some FREE, confidential, expert help, get your gambling under control and cut those gambling worries in half.

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20 things/20 minutes – Surfing your way through change

Urge Surfing

Often we do things simply because we get the urge to do it. No thinking, we just want to, we just feel like it, so we do it. Sometimes this urge is so powerful that no matter what we think we just have to do it. Urges are what makes changing a behaviour a pretty hard thing to do. Also urges aren’t constant. The come in waves like the sea. So fighting an urge is like a soldier facing one battle after another. Like the sea hitting the shore in the end an urge can wear you down or crush you.

Urges come in waves and they also vary in intensity. If you resist an urge then eventually the intensity and duration of the wave decreases. If you stop a behaviour, eventually it becomes pretty hard to remember why you did it and the urge is gone. On the other hand feed the urge and its back next time just as intense and just as hungry. So hungry that you can’t beat it back with a stick.

A way to beat an urge is to treat it like the sea and surf it.

This is called “urge surfing” and how you do it is when you feel an urge, do something that you enjoy and that engages you for 20 minutes (the maximum time an urge lasts for). That’s right, watch a movie, read a book, doodle, walk, draw, work out, shop, have sex, anything just so long as it engages you and you enjoy it. So think about the things that give you joy (other than the thing you have the urge for, obviously) and write a list of at least 20 things that you can do for 20 minutes. A 20/20 list! Carry the list with you, stick it on your fridge or somewhere where you will see and read it every day …then review and update it regularly – keep what works and get rid of what doesn’t.

Make urge surfing a part of your plan to beat problem gambling and you will be on your way to a successful change. Another part of a successful plan is to get a good support team on your side, to help you on your list, review how things are going and help you put into place all the other steps that help make changing a behaviour you don’t want and don’t need a successful change. You can call Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 and they can give all the right contacts in your area.

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Self Exclusion – The Facts

Self ExclusionThere is some debate around whether self exclusion is a sufficient tool for those with a gambling issue. So let’s look at the facts first.

The Facts:

Venues are required to offer a self-exclusion scheme to patrons, on request, and a venue cannot refuse a patrons request for self-exclusion. Any self-exclusion scheme ran by a venue must meet the requirements of the Gaming Machines Regulation.

The Venue must:

  • Publicise the availability of the scheme and information on how it operates to patrons of the venue
  • Prevent the venue from refusing a participants request
  • Allow the participant to specify the part, or parts, of the venue from which they are to be excluded (the participant may choose to be excluded from the entire venue, or just the gaming machine areas or even a total gambling ban)
  • Give the participant a written and signed undertaking that he or she will not be allowed to gamble at the venue for a period specified e.g. 6 months to 4 years, and this can be renewed at the end of the period
  • Give the participant the opportunity to seek independent legal or other professional advice at his or her own expense as to the meaning and effect of the undertaking before it is given
  • Give the participant written information outlining the name and contact details of the gambling-related counselling service the venue has entered into an arrangement with
  • Ensure that responsible persons for the venue can readily identify the participant- by means of access to a recent photograph of the participant
  • Prevent a participant from withdrawing from the scheme within three months after requesting participation in the scheme

Ok, so they are the facts, what about the process?

If you are looking to self-exclude you will go through a legal process and sign legal deeds stating that YOU will not enter the area of the venue YOU chose to exclude from. It is a promise you are make by YOURSELF to YOURSELF. You are not formally setting out to involve anyone else in this process. The onus is on you to keep your promise to yourself. You can self-exclude at the venue or go to a gambling counsellor.

What about the venues?

Well the venue will ask you to leave if, despite your promise to stay out you enter the gaming area (or area you specified). But the venue is under no legal obligation to help you, more to the point it is VOLUNTEERING to help you. The ability for the venue staff to immediately and accurately identify your whereabouts in the venue is open to human error, and, considering the size of some of the venues, this can be a difficult task! But most venues are vigilant about helping patrons stick with their decision to self-exclude and will ask you to leave if you are found in there. If you refuse to leave when asked the venue may physically escort you out. If you still refuse to leave the police may be called and you could be charge with ‘Failure to leave premises’ which attracts a $550 fine.

For most people that self-exclude, the fear of the embarrassment by being asked to leave is reason enough to not enter that gaming area, but for others the temptation to gamble is just too strong, and they will test the system time and time again. If this continues to happen the venue can elect to exclude you from the entire venue without your permission.

A new Multi Venue Self Exclusion tool is currently being rolled out across the state. This tool allows you to exclude from up to 25 venues in one easy step. This will make self-excluding easier for patrons.

But does it work??

In smaller venues self-exclusion works extremely well, everyone knows everyone and it is easier for staff to identify a self-excluded patron. This can be a little trickier in larger venues, but most are on the ball and will not let you enter once you have self-excluded.

But are we missing the point?

As stated earlier, self-exclusion is a promise you are making to yourself! YOU are responsible to not breech your promise. YOU are responsible for yourself! The venue and the self-exclusion are just there to make it a little easier.

A final note:

Self-exclusion is just one tool problem gamblers can use to help control their gambling. The most proven method to help problem gamblers is counselling. Combine the two….. And your chances of beating your problem increase tenfold. So why not give it a try?

Counsellor Sam

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