Myths & Facts

Like all addictions, problem gambling can negatively impact a person’s family, job, and friendships. Below are common myths about problem gambling that may help you recognize if either you or a loved one have a problem.

MYTH: You have to gamble every day to be a problem gambler.
FACT: A problem gambler may gamble frequently or infrequently. The frequency is not as important as the impact of the gambling. If a person’s gambling is causing psychological, physiological, financial, emotional, marital, legal, or other difficulties either for the person gambling or the people around him or her, then he or she has a gambling problem.


MYTH: Problem gamblers gamble at every opportunity and on any form of gambling.
FACT: Most problem gamblers have a favorite form of gambling that triggers their problematic behavior. Some may also engage in secondary forms of gambling – ones that are not usually as problematic for them — but the slowness of the secondary forms often leave them unsatisfied and end up pushing them back to the primary type of gambling in which they prefer to engage. When a patient is using one form of gambling to attempt to fund the second form, like a sports bettor who is trying to earn money to play cards, it is widely held that their addictive behavior has progressed to a problem or pathological degree.


MYTH: Problem gambling is not really a problem if the gambler can afford it.
FACT: Issues caused by excessive gambling are not always financial. If a person’s gambling is interfering with his or her ability to act in accordance with his or her values, then that person has a problem. Too much time spent on gambling means less time spent with family, friends, and business associates. Problem gambling can lead to the breakdown of committed relationships, the loss of important friendships, and an impaired professional life.


MYTH: Problem gamblers are irresponsible people.
FACT: Many problem gamblers hold, or have held, positions of responsibility in their communities. Even people with a long history of responsible behavior are vulnerable to developing a gambling problem. Problem gamblers may come across as irresponsible people – even when they are not – due to the fact that during episodes of problem gambling, they enter into a compromised and out-of-control state of mind that may lead them take to actions or risks they would not normally take.


MYTH: Children are not affected by problem gambling.
FACT: Surveys show that about 10% to 15% of American and Canadian youth have experienced gambling-related problems and that 1% to 6% of these individuals may satisfy diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling. Additionally, children of problem gamblers have been shown to be at a higher risk of developing health-threatening behaviors. This includes alcohol and drug use, problem gambling, eating disorders, depression, and suicidal impulses. In short, gambling affects people of all ages.


MYTH: Partners of problem gamblers often drive them to engage in problematic gambling behavior.
FACT: Problem gamblers are very skilled in finding ways to rationalize their gambling. Blaming others, particularly one’s partners, is one way for problem gamblers to avoid taking the responsibility for their actions – including actions needed to overcome their gambling problems.


MYTH: Financial problems are the main reason that problem gamblers’ relationships break down.
FACT: It is true that money problems can play an important part in ending relationships. However, many partners of people with gambling problems say that lies and lack of trust are what actually cause their relationship breakdowns.


MYTH: Parents of problem gamblers are to blame for their children’s behavior.
FACT: Many parents of problem gamblers may feel hurt and guilty about their son’s or daughter’s gambling behavior, but they are not to blame.


MYTH: If a problem gambler builds up a debt, the important thing to do is to help them resolve their financial problems as soon as possible.
FACT: Quick-fix solutions are often attractive to everyone involved and may indeed appear to be the right thing to do. However, “bailing” a problem gambler out of debt may actually make matters worse by enabling gambling problems to continue further.


MYTH: Problem gambling is easy to recognize.
FACT: Problem gambling has been called the “hidden addiction.” It is very easy to hide as it has few recognizable symptoms, unlike alcohol and drug use. Many problem gamblers themselves do not recognize they have a gambling problem or engage in self-denial.