Gambling Debt

For some, gambling is nothing more than a fun way to predict the outcome of a sporting event on a rare occasion. However, for others, it can become a normal part of daily life that leads to extreme financial stress and strained relationships with loved ones.

In this guide, we’ll explore gambling debt in more detail, from the key signs to look out for to what to do if you think you may have a problem.


It may seem like a cliché but more often than not gambling and debt go hand in hand.

Placing a bet on your favourite football team to win the local derby or having a flutter on the horses may seem like a little fun at first, however, for some, it can quickly become a downward spiral into financial turmoil.

According to charity GamCare, a financial crisis is often what brings a person to address their gambling. It states that it often isn’t until a serious financial consequence arises, such as repossession or bailiff action at home or a court summons for a non-payment of a debt, that family members actually realised a loved one was in the grips of a gambling addiction and can begin to offer support.

From maxing out credit cards to failure to pay bills, there are a host of signs that someone may be struggling with gambling debt, with many gamblers not actually aware of how much they owe.

Falling into this type of debt can be easier than many people think, and can often happen without people realising. Gambling can slowly become part of everyday life – especially when it comes to sport – making it important to be aware of the support available.

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What are the signs of gambling debt?

Are you spending more than you plan to on gambling in a bid to win back what you’ve lost? Are you struggling to cover the cost of essential bills? Have you turned to loans or credit cards to cover the cost of your gambling?

These are signs that your gambling has gone from a pastime to a serious problem.

Additional signs that your gambling has become an issue include:

  • Using gambling as a distraction from other things going on in your life
  • Feeling guilty or ashamed of your gambling habits
  • Trying to repay debts using gambling
  • Noticing a serious impact on your mental health

As stated above, it can be difficult for family and friends to spot the signs that gambling has become a problem – especially if it appears a loved one has control of their habit. However, there are telltale signs that can highlight that a loved one is struggling with their gambling.

Signs include:

  • Struggling or avoiding paying bills
  • Having a lot of credit cards
  • Using credit cards for daily purchases and spending
  • Socialising less with family and friends
  • Hiding their money
  • Having a lack of essentials at home such as food
  • Seeming distracted, short-tempered or worried with no real reason

For those concerned about a loved one’s gambling habits or if you’re concerned about your gambling habits, GamCare has a useful tool which can help highlight the support available.

How we helped Sarah

The process was really clear and the team explained everything that I needed to know in order to make the right decision. They were very understanding and made me feel at ease”

Sarah, London

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How can gambling debt affect my daily life?

Gambling debt can have a serious impact on day-to-day life. When it is no longer an enjoyable hobby it can affect your life in many different ways.

    • Isolation: Many people who suffer from a gambling addiction report losing interest in spending time with friends and family. They find themselves isolated from social interaction and lose interest in hobbies or their career as the addiction takes hold. Sometimes people also isolate themselves due to feeling ashamed about their problem or because they have stolen or borrowed cash to fund their addiction. At this point, it can seem as if there is no way back.
    • Strained relationships: A gambling addiction can have a serious impact on relationships. Whether it’s arguing more with friends, partners or family members, or lying to friends about loses there are a number of signs that gambling is hurting relationships. Emotional distance, breaking promises and isolating yourself can mean those closest to you lose trust and can make the relationship difficult to repair.
    • Mental health: Research from the Royal College of Psychiatrists has shown that problem gamblers are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem and are more likely to develop stress-related disorders. If you are losing sleep at night, experience extreme mood swings, feel depressed or even have suicidal thoughts, this could be a sign that your gambling has become a problem.
    • Personal finances: Unsurprisingly, those struggling with a gambling addiction are often hardest hit in their personal finances. It may not seem like a lot at first, however, the longer the addiction goes on the more likely you are to find yourself struggling financially and likely to cut back on non-essential spending before being left without money to cover essential bills. At this point, it isn’t unusual to turn to loans, overdrafts or credit cards to cover the cost of daily life and the gambling which begins a vicious circle of money problems that can be hard to break.

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What do I do if I have gambling debt?

Gambling isn’t always a problem, however, if you begin experiencing any of the issues above it’s important to begin to take steps to address the situation.

  • Speak out: It isn’t easy but opening-up about your gambling habits to a trusted family member or friend is one of the first steps to addressing the problem and making positive changes.
  • Personal change: Keep track of any patterns in your gambling habits and try to make simple changes.
  • Avoidance: Stay away from betting shops and online gambling sites to avoid temptation. Betting shops can actually allow customers to ‘exclude’ themselves from entering.
  • Speak to an expert: Talking to an expert via a helpline or an online forum can introduce you to counselling to help you break your habits.
  • Get debt help: Speak to expert debt advisors about the debt you have accrued through gambling. They could help you write off unsecured debt you can’t afford.

If you’re struggling with gambling debt, talk to TAD our resident debt expert for confidential help and advice.

Key Takeaways

Gambling is a common pastime in the UK but it's crucial to recognise when it becomes problematic

Gambling may have become a problem if you are using it as a distraction from other things going on in your life or to repay debts

They key signs of a gambling problem are struggling to pay bills, hiding money, and withdrawing socially

Gambling debt can affect your life in many ways and lead to isolation, strained relationships, and poor mental and financial health

Always seek professional help and advice if you're worried about your gambling habits