Environmental factors that influence relapse for those trying to abstain from gambling often include being inside a hotel where the exciting gaming room atmosphere, winning jackpots and easy wins become triggers to gamble. For example, a gaming environment is often described by gamblers as tempting with excitement that stimulates the anticipation of winning money making a gambling relapse impossible to resist.
Jim described how he had to gamble and that nothing could hold him back:
When I am in the gambling room all I see is the machines spinning and hear the music ringing, as people are winning over and over again. Nothing will stop me, I cant resist it I have to try and win too.
Jim admits how horrible he feels each time he has to leave having lost his money:
When the money is gone its not fun anymore I have to go home again with no money and think of excuses time and time again.
Carol loved the social interactions of being with people:
It was not really about the money. I did not want to go home alone. For me playing the pokies is an escape from feeling lonely. I tell my self not to go and I managed for a while but eventually I give in and convince my self its ok. I think about the warm drinks and how good I feel and I go again and gamble.
From speaking to many people who have the gaming environment as a trigger to gamble, we can say definitively – putting yourself in that environment is very risky if you are trying not to gamble! It is like putting a very hungry person in front of a buffet and telling them to try and not eat anything. If you have become used to gambling on the pokies when you are in the venue, chances are you will do so again when you are in that environment. There are just so many triggers, including the sounds of the machine, seeing other people gambling, and even things like smells and lighting. The very best idea is to stay as far away from the venue as possible. There are several ways to put this into place, including Self Exclusion (which is a program which allows you to ban yourself from being allowed to enter a venue).
Many people describe the difficulties resisting the temptation of the pokies despite their good intentions not to gamble. If you identify similar behaviours and want to talk to a trained counsellor to about what is going on for you call the Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 to speak confidentially about your gambling. If you like the idea of Self Exclusion you can also talk to a counsellor about joining the program and banning yourself from a venue.
We also have some Self Help Strategies to help you that are freely available on:
In future blogs we will continue to focus on the other ‘push factors” and then look at the ‘pull’ factors (aka protective factors).
Oakes, J.E., Pols, R.G., Battersby, M.W., Lawn, S.J., Pulvirenti, M., & Smith, D.P., 2011. A focus group study of predictors of relapse in electronic gaming machine problem gambling, part 1:factors that ‘push’ towards relapse. Journal of Gambling Studies
Oakes, J.E., Pols, R.G., Battersby, M.W., Lawn, S.J., Pulvirenti, M., & Smith, D.P., 2011. A focus group study of predictors of relapse in electronic gaming machine problem gambling, part 2:factors that ‘pull’ the gambler away from relapse. Journal of Gambling Studies.