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.