What is Problem Gambling?

Any betting or wagering, for self or others, whether for money or not, no matter how slight or insignificant, where the outcome is uncertain or depends upon chance or "skill" constitutes gambling.

Source: Gamblers Anonymous

Problem gambling – or gambling addiction – includes all gambling behavior patterns that compromise, disrupt, or damage personal, family, or vocational pursuits. The essential features are:

  • Increasing preoccupation with gambling
  • A need to bet more money more frequently
  • Restlessness or irritability when attempting to stop
  • "Chasing" losses and loss of control manifested by continuation of the gambling behavior in spite of mounting, serious, and negative consequences

In extreme cases, problem gambling can result in financial ruin, legal problems, loss of career and family, or even suicide.

Source: National Council on Problem Gambling

Gambling addiction affects approximately one percent of the U.S. population. However, we know less about this addictive behavior than we do about alcohol, tobacco, and drug problems. "Pathological gambling" was first recognized as a mental health disorder in 1980. Since that time, researchers have focused on learning why some people cannot gamble without adverse consequences and about how people recover from gambling addiction. Here's what we've learned:

  • Pathological gambling is not a sign of weakness, moral failing, or lack of willpower. It is a treatable mental health disorder.
  • No one gambling activity is more risky than another. People can get into trouble with all types of games, even seemingly harmless ones like Bingo and the lottery.
  • People with a gambling disorder experience a range of problems including financial debt, professional and personal problems, guilt and shame, and withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop or reduce gambling.

Remember the 3 C's of addiction. People with gambling problems:

  • Crave gambling,
  • Continue to gamble in spite of negative Consequences, and
  • Lose Control over their gambling.

People with other psychiatric and addictive disorders are especially vulnerable to developing a problem with gambling. Individuals with family members who have any kind of addictive disorder are also at higher risk.

Roads to recovery include treatment with a professional therapist, Gamblers Anonymous meetings, medication, and self-help resources such as workbooks and websites.

People who gamble responsibly do so for fun, not to make money or escape from problems. They limit the time and money spent on gambling and understand that the odds are always with the House.

Source: Reference National Council for Responsible Gaming

What Causes a Gambling Addiction?

Many things contribute to a gambling addiction, including biological, genetic, and environmental factors. Addicted gamblers may notice they feel desperate for money, get a thrill or “high” from gambling, seek the social status of a successful gambler, and have other mood and behavior disorders that contribute to or result from their gambling addiction.

If you think you have a gambling problem, there are confidential resources that will help you determine if you have a problem and where you can find help.

  • The Brief Biosocial Gambling Screen asks three questions that will help you figure out if you need to seek treatment.
  • Contact PAS at 919-416-1727 to make an appointment with a professional counselor.
  • Seek help on your own with health insurance providers or the department of public or mental health (some states have certification programs for gambling specialists).

For more information and resources to better understand gambling disorders and responsible gaming, visit the National Center for Responsible Gaming's (NCRG) website at www.ncrg.org.


North Carolina Problem Gambling Helpline

  • Call 877-718-5543 or
  • Text morethanagamenc to 53342

Gambler's Anonymous

  • Call 888-846-4427
  • Find meetings near you


  • Call 800-552-0170 or 704-552-4633
  • Find meetings near you
  • Find help and support for friends and families of problem gamblers

National Problem Gambling Helpline

  • Call 800-522-4700
  • Help is available 24/7 and is 100% confidential.

The National Problem Gambling Helpline Network also includes text and chat services. These features enable those who are gambling online or on their mobile phone to access help the same way they play. One call, text, or chat will get you to problem gambling help anywhere in the U.S. 24/7/365.