How does gambling become addictive?

How does gambling become addictive?

Gambling may start off as a leisure activity. However, without proper control, you and your loved ones may experience negative consequences. While some people can stop playing when they want to, others continue to gamble because of the excitement and inability to recognise when to stop. Over time, their brain’s reward systems get altered and habits become hard to break. Before they realise it, they have become addicted to gambling. This can happen to anyone.


The process is like smoking and alcohol addiction.

Learn how problem gambling develops and how it may be experienced at each stage. At different levels of severity, there are actions you can take to help yourself or your loved ones.


PhaseHow it may be likeWhat you can do
WinningPositive experience due to wins. 

Continue to try to win more, or adjust gambling patterns to find a winning strategy 

May take more chances and bet with larger amount of money to experience more wins and larger wins 
Set a time and budget limit and stick to it

Bring limited amount of cash to a gambling venue
Ensure that other financial and life commitments have been taken care of
Keep track of your gambling frequency, duration, and money used to gamble
Consider applying for safeguards such as a Voluntary Visit Limit to the number of visits to local Casinos
LosingStart experiencing consecutive losses
Spending more time gambling than usual
Exceed initial budget and start to use personal and family's savings to gamble
May try to cover up or lie about gambling behaviour to loved ones
The quality of relationships with loved ones and friends, colleagues, etc. starts to decline
Work may be affected
Minimise accessibility to gambling venues by applying for safeguards such as:

Do not borrow money for gambling.
Apply to restrict borrowing from Licensed Moneylender.
[Moneylenders Credit Bureau]

Set daily withdrawal limits and appoint a trusted party to handle your money

Speak to someone early, such as a counsellor, to work on managing the gambling behaviours
Desperation Lose control over gambling behaviour and constantly think about gambling
May feel guilt and ashamed but unable to stop gambling
May think that “one big win will solve all the problems” and chase losses
Engage in behaviours that one would not have considered in the past to get money to gamble
Other aspects of life heavily impacted:
Strained relationships, poor work performance, brushes with the law, etc.
Increasing signs of mental health concerns such as being easily irritable, feeling depressed and thinking about suicide
Speak to someone for emotional support and to work through the situation immediately:

  • Call the National Problem Gambling Helpline or Webchat. The services allow for anonymity. You may ask for counselling offered by NCPG’s appointed agency.
  • Seek counselling and group support from community resources. Some social service agencies also provide assistance with debt management.

Apply for safeguards (e.g. self-exclusion) to restrict access to gambling venues.
Family members may apply for Family Exclusion Order on the gambler.

Feelings of giving up

Feel that it is no longer possible to resolve the gambling debts anymore

Continue to gamble without caring about losses

Suffer significant impact to all aspect of life

Experience significant emotional distress and serious contemplation of suicide