Many New Zealanders enjoy buying the odd Lotto ticket, playing the occasional pokies game or enjoying 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 often.

Key points

  • Gambling is addictive so it can easily get out of hand.
  • Gambling 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.
  • Gambling also hurts other people close to you. Every gambler affects between five and 10 other people.
  • Because gambling is an addictive behaviour, it’s really hard to stop on your own. It’s important to 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 problem 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 man
  • 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 a problem?

  • Chasing your losses by trying to win back money you’ve already lost.
  • Hiding your gambling.
  • 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.
  • Borrowing money.
  • Losing interest in other stuff.
  • Gambling having negative effects on 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

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 or the stigma of having a problem with gambling. However, you can safely talk to your GP or another primary healthcare provider. They won’t judge you and they can work alongside you to make sure you get the support you need.

You can also phone one of the helplines in the side bar. 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.
  • Reduce the amount of times and days that you gamble.
  • Don’t view gambling as a way of making money.
  • Spend time doing other activities.

Learn More

Is your gambling still just for fun? Choice not Chance, NZ
Problem gambling and mental health Problem Gambling Foundation, NZ, 2017
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


  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. Gambling in New Zealand Problem Gambling Foundation, NZ, 2017
  4. What is problem gambling? Problem Gambling Foundation, NZ, 2017
  5. Is your gambling still just for fun? Choice not Chance, NZ
  6. Problem gambling and mental health Problem Gambling Foundation, NZ, 2017
  7. Problem gambling Patient Info, UK, 2017
Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Last reviewed: 09 Sep 2017