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For some people gambling can change from being an entertaining and pleasurable activity and become a big problem.

When that happens, gambling can become too important in a person’s life and hurt them, their family and their friends.

If your gambling is causing issues in your life, you can take steps to change this. Talking to somebody can reduce the stress that is caused by your gambling.

Do you or your loved ones have a gambling problem?
Take our brief self check quiz (link)


Call 0800 006 008 for confidential, free, professional help – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

How does the NRGP help?

Our 24-hour counselling line provides support, information, an assessment and referral for face- to- face counselling. Our treatment network of mental health professionals in all the big centres and various other towns provide tailored therapeutic interventions specifically for problem gamblers.

Our psychiatrist assists with appropriate referrals and interventions through clinical assessments.
Under very specific circumstances we will refer a problem gambler for inpatient treatment and where indicated will subsidise such treatment.

What to expect from the NRGP counselling line?

  • Professional confidential and free service for problem gamblers
  • A thorough assessment of your gambling and other related issues
  • Information
  • Referral for face-to-face counselling with a mental health professional

What is counselling?

Counselling is an opportunity to discuss issues and concerns with a mental health professional in a safe, confidential, non-threatening and accepting environment.

Our treatment programme is based on international best practice and tailored around your needs and circumstances. Counselling can be individual and/ or couple-based.

Taking control and reducing harm

Strategies for change
If your gambling is causing problems in your life, there are things you can do to stop it being an issue. You can take steps to change your life.

Set some goals
Setting short-term and long-term goals may help you to stay focussed and clear about cutting down or giving up your gambling.

Avoid high-risk situations
High-risk situations, such as the use of credit cards, taking out loans, carrying large amounts of money with you, using gaming venues for socialising or gambling as a reaction to emotions, will weaken your resolve to control or stop your gambling.

Talk about it
Talking about gambling problems with somebody you trust who is not judgmental can ease the pain of bottling it up. It can also reduce the stress that causes you to continue gambling.

Ask for help
If you are finding it difficult, you do not have to handle your gambling problems on your own. Many people seek professional help. The National Responsible Gambling Programme offers free, confidential help, advice and support services.

Face the feelings
Becoming aware that you could be a problem gambler may cause feelings of shame and guilt. Self-blame and self-harm can increase stress and may cause you to gamble more. However, acknowledging the problem and taking steps to seek help can help you change your life for the better.

Be kind to yourself
Stop beating yourself up over your gambling problem and focus on the steps you are taking to overcome it. Acknowledge your positive achievements; write them down to remind yourself of your strengths and attributes.

Try to find an alternative to gambling
Many people gamble because they do not know what else to do. Try to find an alternative recreational activity or hobby.

Prepare for a lapse
A lapse occurs when you gamble again after deciding to stop. If this happens to you, you do not have to continue gambling. You can use this to learn more about what triggers your gambling. When a lapse occurs, examine what worked and what didn't work with your plan.

Money management

  • Arrange to have some trustworthy person help you with money management.
  • Consider short and long-term arrangements according to what your needs may be.
  • Have wages paid directly into an account.
  • It may be possible for a support person to collect wages.
  • Cancel credit and ATM cards or give them to the support person.
  • Only carry a limited amount of money.
  • Arrange with the bank to only provide small daily amounts from ATMs.
  • Tell family and friends what you are doing and not to lend you money.
  • Consider having two people as signatories on your accounts.
  • Eliminate the cash withdrawal facility on your credit cards.
  • Pay bills by direct debit or cheque.
  • If dealing with other people's money is too much temptation, avoid jobs where you handle cash.
  • Avoid keeping large sums of money in the house.
  • Pay as many essential bills on payday as possible.
  • Consider paying some bills in advance.
  • Think of something you would really enjoy having or doing and regularly save money towards it.

Voluntary self-exclusion

If you have a gambling problem and would like to stop yourself from gambling at a venue, you can take part in a programme called "voluntary self-exclusion".

You select the venues that you want to be excluded from and sign an agreement not to enter or use the gambling areas in those venues. The agreement gives those venues the legal authority to remove you if you do enter and identify you as a person participating in a "self-exclusion" programme.

There are three of these programmes available - one for licensed hotels and clubs, one for Crown Casino and one for TABs. All of these programmes are free.

You cannot force someone to acknowledge that they have an issue with gambling, but you can encourage them to seek professional help. If you are not sure how to approach the situation, we can help you.

Frequently asked questions

1. How do you know if someone close to you has an issue with gambling?

Money related signs

  • Unaccountable debt or borrowing
  • Money/assets disappearing
  • Numerous loans
  • Unpaid bills/disconnection notices
  • Lack of food in the house
  • Losing wallet/purse/money regularly
  • Missing financial statements
  • Secret bank accounts/loans/credit cards

Interpersonal issues

  • Moodiness, inexplicable anger
  • Depression
  • Decreased contact with friends
  • Family complaints about being emotionally shut out
  • Avoidance of social events
  • Control and/or manipulation
  • Secretiveness about activities
  • Manipulation by threat, lies or charm

Time related signs

  • Disappearing for lengths of time that they cannot account for
  • No time for everyday activities
  • Taking sick days and days off often
  • Using increasing periods of time to study gambling
  • Tasks taking an unusual amount of time (two hours to fetch milk from the corner store)

Control and/or manipulation issues

  • Secretiveness about activities
  • Secret bank accounts/loans/ credit cards
  • Manipulation by threat, lies or charm
2. What do I say to someone whose gambling is causing a problem?

It is not easy to raise the topic of problem gambling. A problem gambler needs to understand how their actions are affecting you. It may also be an opportunity to demonstrate the support you can offer. Discuss what you have seen, and encourage the person to see the consequences of their behaviour and its effect on you.

3. Why do they gamble?

Many people are unable to explain why someone close to them continues to gamble despite the problems it causes them and those around them. Money may attract someone to gambling initially, but most problem gamblers use gambling to escape from other problems or pressures in their lives - problems at home or at work, boredom, loneliness or anxiety. Gambling helps to make the outside world and its problems "fade away". Some problem gamblers say that the thrill or buzz of gambling becomes addictive and they want to experience that feeling again and again.

4. What can I do to help them?
  • Look after yourself. Get support - this might be family or friends, a NRGP Counsellor or a support group. Keeping the gambler's problem a secret does not allow you to get help and support and it can help the gambler avoid taking responsibility for his or her actions.
  • Limit the financial impact that gambling has on you. If you can, separate your bank accounts and protect your own money.
  • It takes time: You may want to help the person immediately but the motivation and willingness to change may not be there. It won't help to rush them or push them to change.
  • Try and steer clear of ultimatums. They are rarely effective and can increase the sense of guilt and shame a person feels about their behaviour. This may encourage greater secrecy. Encourage them and work with them to establish firm boundaries.
  • Think carefully before doing anything that enables the gambler to continue gambling. Giving or lending money or lying about their gambling helps problem gamblers avoid the consequences of their actions. They should take responsibility for their own behaviour.
  • Don't do everything for the gambler: Seeking help can be daunting - if you take these steps for the gambler, you could interfere with their motivation and readiness to change.
  • What should I do if they are depressed: Try to talk to them and encourage them to call the NRGP Counselling line. If you believe they may be thinking about harming themselves, they should get professional help by discussing their feelings with their doctor or the NRGP Counsellor.
5. How can the NRGP help you?

Gambling and the loss of trust it often brings can put enormous strain on a relationship. If you find that you feel overwhelmed or are losing hope, it is important to seek professional help. The NRGP can help you by referring you for support to a mental health professional - free of charge. Call us on 0800 006 008.

6. Strategies for the non-gambling family member or friend
  • Protect and care for yourself. Find someone to talk to, for example a friend, counsellor or help service.
  • It is normal to feel betrayed by your friend, family member or partner. You have a right to your feelings.
  • It is normal to be angry. Acknowledge your anger, talk to someone and learn appropriate ways to express your anger.
  • Don't try to take control of the gambler's life - it won't work and will make you unhappy.
  • Relate to the gambler as an equal person. Avoid trying to protect them.
  • Use your energy to help change your own situation rather than the gambler's.
  • Allow the gambler to take responsibility for their behaviour.
  • Be honest and let the gambler deal with the consequences of their behaviour.
  • Let them deal with creditors and their employer. You do not need to help them with lies and deceit.
  • Decide if you can manage the gambler's money. If you do not want to, you may need to maintain separate bank accounts and credit cards.
  • Do not lend the gambler money!
  • Do not pay the gambler's debts!
  • Seek legal, financial and other advice to explore your options.
  • Communicate your feelings to the person who is gambling. Do this carefully and openly.
  • Let the gambler know you want to help. They may be feeling out of control, embarrassed or ashamed. You can convey a willingness to support them.
  • It is important for you to support them in their struggle, not to take their burden on yourself. You may choose to say "I can't do this for you, but I will be with you while you do it."

You cannot change a gambler's behaviour . Gamblers must be willing to change themselves. As a person without a problem, it is difficult to understand why people with gambling problems don't just stop gambling.

You need to shift the focus away from the gambler's behaviour and deal with your own feelings. This will help you to see a gambler for what he (or she) is - a person in crisis and out of control. This will then allow you to be supportive and to understand their feelings, and yet not apply pressure about their behaviour.

For the overwhelming majority of people gambling is recreational fun. However, for a small proportion of people - one out of ten -, gambling is a problem, and may even result in compulsive addictive behaviour. The following twenty questions may help you to determine if you or someone you know has a compulsive gambling addiction. Most people who suffer from this disease will answer yes to at least seven of these questions.

1. Do you miss work to go gambling? yes
2. Is gambling making your home life unhappy? yes
3. Is gambling giving you a bad reputation? yes
4. Have you ever felt remorse after gambling? yes
5. Do you ever gamble to get money to pay debts or resolve financial difficulties? yes
6. Does gambling reduce your ambition or efficiency? yes
7. After losing, do you feel you must return as soon as possible to win back your losses? yes
8. After a win, do you have a strong urge to return and win more? yes
9. Do you often gamble until your last Rand has gone? yes
10. Do you ever borrow money to finance your gambling? yes
11. Have you ever sold anything to finance your gambling? yes
12. Are you reluctant to use 'gambling money' for other expenses? yes
13. Does gambling make you neglect yourself or your family? yes
14. Do you ever gamble for longer than planned? yes
15. Do you ever gamble to escape worry or trouble? yes
16. Have you ever committed, or considered committing, an illegal act to finance gambling? yes
17. Does gambling cause you to have difficulty in sleeping? yes
18. Do arguments, disappointments or frustrations make you want to gamble? yes
19. Do you ever have the desire to celebrate any good fortune by gambling for a few hours? yes
20. Has your gambling ever led you to contemplate suicide? yes

Frequently asked questions

  • What is problem gambling?

A problem gambler, as understood by the NRGP, is anyone who spends so much money and/or time gambling that they do significant harm to themselves or to others.

Typically excessive gambling causes them problems at home or at work and threatens their financial security. To finance their gambling they borrow money which they cannot easily pay back and they spend money which should be spent on personal and household necessities on gambling.

The NRGP believes that, with appropriate education, people can be prevented from developing these kinds of problems with gambling and that appropriate counselling will enable those who do develop such problems to overcome them.

In addition to these excessive gamblers, there are a very small number of gamblers who become gambling addicts or pathological gamblers. They behave like other addicts and think about gambling obsessively in the same way as people addicted to drink, drugs or food think about the object of their addiction. They also constantly try to control their addiction and fail.

Pathological gamblers are rarer than the other sorts of addicts, but the NRGP treatment programme caters for such people, as well as for those who are simply gambling significantly more than they can afford.

  • Is someone who gambles a lot a compulsive or pathological gambler?

Not necessarily. Many of those who gamble frequently are simply people who enjoy gambling as entertainment. Generally these people set aside a predetermined sum of money for gambling, gamble for 'fun', rather than for the 'certainty' of winning, recognise that they are likely to lose, and don't bet more money that they can afford to lose.

  • Can someone have a gambling problem, without being a compulsive gambler?

Yes. Just as it is possible to abuse alcohol without being an alcoholic, someone can go out and lose a lot of money gambling, without being addicted. Often this sort of problem resolves itself without professional intervention. Whether or not someone is a compulsive gambler, depends on both the severity and frequency of the problem.

  • Is it very shameful to admit to having a gambling problem?

No. Problem gambling is like a disease. It is not your fault if you contract it, but it is your responsibility to do something sensible about it. What is shameful, is to continue doing serious damage to yourself and your loved ones, and doing nothing about it.

Obviously, it is best if people can avoid the situation in which their gambling becomes uncontrollable. To do this, people need to be aware of the danger signals that can give them an early warning. They may then be able to take appropriate action without seeking help. One way of doing this is to approach a casino manager and ask that you be prevented from gambling at the casino. This is called self-exclusion. Casinos managers can help you with this.

  • Because I am quite well-off financially, educated and mature, does it mean that I can control my gambling?

Not necessarily. Anyone can become a problem gambler, regardless of age, race, religion, education, economic status and moral character. Problem gambling is like a disease that can affect anyone. Some people just seem to be unlucky in that they have an in-built tendency to develop problems with gambling, just as some people have a tendency to develop addictive problems with alcohol and other drugs.

  • Is there a link between problem gambling and chemical dependency?

Yes. In several studies approximately 40% of problem gamblers were found also to have drug or alcohol problems, while studies of people in treatment for substance abuse have found that between 10% and 30% also have a gambling problem. People may have both addictions simultaneously, or can switch from one addiction to another.

  • Can problem gamblers get help?

Yes. The National Responsible Gambling Programme offers a Problem Gambling Counselling Line backed by professional counselling and treatment services in more than 50 cities and towns in southern Africa.

  • What are the odds of winning the Lotto?

One in 14 million. Every drawing of the winning numbers is an independent chance event. Past outcomes have no influence over the next outcome. It doesn't matter if you play the same or different numbers each time. The odds of winning are always the same. The odds of winning are not influenced by the number of tickets sold. So you do not increase your chances of winning by buying more than one lottery ticket!

  • Is it true that the longer a slot machine is played without a big win, the more likely it is to pay out next time?

Each spin of a slot machine produces a random number. While these may pay out a jackpot at apparently regular intervals, random numbers have no connection whatsoever with any previous sequence of numbers. The player has no better chance of winning the jackpot on a 'hot' machine - one that hasn't paid out for three weeks - than on a machine that paid out an hour ago. This means that nobody else can win 'your jackpot'.

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