Gambling overview

Many New Zealanders enjoy buying the odd Lotto ticket, playing the occasional pokies game or having a day out at the races. However, for some people, gambling becomes addictive and causes havoc for their family, whānau, finances, work and friendships. You are particularly at risk if you use pokie machines, gamble online or go to the casino often.

Key points

  1. Gambling is addictive so it can easily get out of hand. It can harm you in many ways – it can lead to ill health, emotional and psychological distress, financial harm, poor performance at work or study, relationship problems and crime.
  2. Because gambling is an addictive behaviour, it’s really hard to stop on your own. Get help before things get worse for you and your family. Don’t wait and think it will get better because it’s very unlikely to do so without help.
  3. Losing face and not wanting to admit to gambling addiction is a common problem. It is important that you seek help with a trained counsellor before it gets out of hand.
  4. Often people who gamble are also affected by other mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, so you may need help with these too. 
  5. Gambling also hurts other people close to you. Every gambler affects between 5 and 10 other people. If you live with someone who gambles, it’s important that you also get help and support for yourself.

Who is most at risk of developing problems with gambling?

Anyone is at risk, but you are more at risk of your gambling getting out of hand if you are:

  • depressed, lonely, or have compulsive disorders
  • use several different gambling products, particularly pokies, casino games and racing/sports betting
  • a Māori or Pasifika, Chinese or Korean man
  • an international student or recent immigrant
  • isolated from New Zealand culture, especially if you have English as a second language
  • gamble $500 or more at a time
  • bet on overseas gambling websites
  • are a substance abuser
  • live in an area of socioeconomic deprivation, where you are exposed to more pokie machines.

What are the signs my gambling might be causing harm?

  • Chasing your losses by trying to win back money you’ve already lost.
  • Finding that when you stop gambling, you’ve run out of money.
  • Trying to win money or borrow money to pay your debts.
  • Hiding your gambling from your partner, family, relatives, friends, teachers and colleagues.
  • Feeling guilty about your gambling.
  • Losing track of time.
  • Spending more on your gambling than you wanted to and needing to gamble with more money to get the same feeling of excitement.
  • Lying how much money you are spending on gambling and how often you are gambling.
  • Gambling because you feel stressed or lonely.
  • Feeling regret after gambling.
  • Feeling depressed or anxious after a gambling session.
  • Borrowing money.
  • Losing interest in other stuff.
  • Receiving criticism in the past for gambling.
  • ambling having negative effects on your health, such as stress, anxiety, headaches or sleep disturbance.

Take a test to see if your gambling is OK or not

Problem Gambling Foundation of NZ online test 
Choice not Chance, NZ Health Promotion Agency online test 
Canadian Problem Gambling Index online test in traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese

Where can I get support with my gambling?

If you think you might have a problem with gambling, getting support can help you understand why you gamble. You can learn new strategies that help you to change your behaviour. You can also get financial counselling and help with any mental health issues if you need that. Support is available for your family, whānau and friends who have been affected by your gambling.

Sometimes people are reluctant to talk to their doctor about their gambling as they don’t see it as a health issue, or because they feel shame, do not want to lose face or the stigma of having a problem with gambling. However, you can safely talk to your GP or another primary healthcare provider such as a counsellor or psychologist. Your GP can also refer you to a counsellor, psychologist, or psychiatrist for specialist assessment and help.

You can also phone one of the helplines in the sidebar. The people there are experts in helping people who have problem gambling. You can speak to them anonymously so that no-one knows who you are.

What other steps can I take to manage my gambling?

While getting help is strongly recommended, you can try the following steps to help you limit the harm your gambling causes you and your loved ones.

  • Limit the amount of money you spend gambling, for example, by taking only cash.
  • Telling the casino to bar you from going in there (self-prohibition).
  • Reduce the number of times and days that you gamble.
  • Don’t view gambling as a way of making money.
  • Spend time doing other activities, such as spending time with your family, working, studying, taking up a hobby and socialising with others.

Learn more

Is your gambling still just for fun? Choice not Chance, NZ
Choice not chance Free brochures in English, Chinese, Tongan, Māori and Samoan
How pokies work Choice not Chance, 2017
How Lotto works Choice not Chance, 2017
Where to get help Problem Gambling Foundation, NZ
Signs of gambling harm Problem Gambling Foundation, NZ


  1. Minimising gambling harm Health Promotion Agency, NZ, 2017
  2. Measuring the burden of gambling harm in New Zealand Ministry of Health, NZ, 2017
  3. Is your gambling still just for fun? Choice not Chance, NZ
  4. Problem gambling Patient Info, UK, 2017
  5. Gambling in Chinese community in Christchurch Salvation Army, NZ, 2009
  6. The impact of gambling and problem gambling on Asian families and communities in New Zealand Uniservices, University of Auckland, NZ, 2012
  7. Wong, J. The face of Chinese migrants' gambling – a perspective from New Zealand . Journal of Gambling Issues, 2003, October, 9
  8. Li, W. Understanding Chinese international students' gambling experiences in New Zealand. Master’s thesis, University of Waikato, NZ, 2007

Reviewed by

Dr Carlos Lam Yang is a GP and Urgent Care Senior Registrar for Botany Junction Medical Centre and Eastcare.
Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Reviewed By: Dr Carlos Lam Yang Last reviewed: 27 Feb 2018