Is problem gambling a treatable addiction?

Problem gambling is a treatable disease. Like any other addiction, steps can be taken to break the hold gambling has over a person and the lives of their family. The first step is realizing that there is a problem and taking the step to access treatment. This is followed by sticking to the treatment plan and following through with action. The last step is developing a maintenance plan for success. Problem gamblers need to surround themselves with healthy support systems and develop healthy coping mechanisms that can assist them during times of great stress or turmoil.

What help is available for problem gamblers and families?

The NCPGP helpline, texting and chatting online options connect a problem gambler or concerned family member to a trained and licensed clinician.

The clinician will perform a screening and provide options on all free counseling services. NCPGP has more than 80 trained providers throughout the state of North Carolina available to provide face-to-face counseling for up to sessions at no cost.

If someone is not able to see a counselor face-to-face due to barriers such as transportation, the program offers a phone counseling program called Call 2 Change.

What do families need to know?

Gambling is considered a “hidden addiction” and may not be apparent at first. There is help and families can get counseling even if the problem gambler is not ready to admit they have a problem

Research supports that family members of problem gamblers are likely to report mental health problems, emotional disturbances, poorer physical health, risky drinking, lower social support and impaired social life. The children of problem gamblers are also likely to report depression and gambling problems. It is important that families reach out for help for themselves and their children.

It is also important that families receive financial counseling and take charge of the finances during treatment, and in many instances, for the lifespan of the problem gambler. Handling money and bills may not be something the problem gambler will be able to do in recovery.

Families should also be aware there is a high rate of suicide and suicidal thoughts among problem gamblers. Click Here to Access the Suicide Prevention Helpline.

What do parents need to know?

Parents need to be aware that their children are gambling formally and informally with their friends and family on games of chance and skill. Research indicates that there are five different types of gambling simulated games found online and in the app store. It is estimated that 93 percent of youth have access to the internet and 700,000 young adults gamble online monthly on more than 3,000 gambling websites. Even more importantly, the highest rates of problem gamblers are in their teens and 20s.

If the parent chooses to gamble, he or she should model healthy social gambling behaviors. The best step a parent can take is to be actively involved in the child’s life. Make sure the child understands that gambling can become an addictive behavior by finding teachable moments to share information about problem gambling.

Click Here to Access Fact Sheet on Teens and College-Age Students.

Why get financial counseling?

While clinicians can help address the mental and psychological challenges from a gambling addiction, other experts can help gamblers rebuild their financial future.

Financial counselors can help with debt consolidation, assist in obtaining lower interest rates, debt settlement, aid family members whose money may have been stolen, protect spouses by offering separate accounts, create budgets or engage a Power of Attorney (POA) to help a gambler control the disbursement of funds.

Ideally, financial counseling, when necessary, takes place at the same time as treatment for gambling addiction.

What is voluntary self-exclusion?

Self-exclusion (or self-banning) is a voluntary process where a person with a gambling problem excludes themselves from areas of specific gambling venues.

The North Carolina Education Lottery provides self-exclusion for lottery purchases at the pump or online. Contact Teri Riddle at 919-301-3304 or for more information, or visit the links provided.

At Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino and Hotel in western North Carolina, a problem gambler can make a request online to be self-excluded from the casino for periods of 1 year or 5 years. Problem gamblers may also self-exclude themselves permanently. The self-exclusion phone number is 1-800-694-9960 or email for additional information. Also, please visit the link below: