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.