AO Gambling Stigma

What someone harmed by gambling looks like

People explain gambling is addictive and all around us so anyone can be harmed by gambling. Someone suffering gambling harm looks just like everyone else and could be any person and someone you know.

People have said that many people have an image of a ‘typical problem gambler’ in their mind. The person is white, male and working class. He is ‘someone who goes into a bookies and gambles away the week’s wage packet’, leaving the wife and children without support. Or they might think of a man gambling large amounts of money and trying to live a ‘lavish lifestyle’.

People experiencing harm do not see themselves in this image and so may not recognise they are experiencing gambling harm. They are also afraid to tell others about their gambling because they do not want to be seen as the stereotype.

I know I’ve opened up quite a lot today and spoken to you about it, but I can’t see a day where I can sit down with my dad and talk to him about what I’ve done. I just, I can’t because he’s of a generation as well where gamblers are thought of even worse. The sort of stereotypical gambler from his generation is kind of the guy that spends all day in a smoky bookie, just getting his salary in an envelope, taking it straight down there and losing it all.

But GA, even before I did it, I thought I’m going to walk in that room there’s just going to be little old blokes sitting there. There’s just going to be loads of old men that go to the bookies and that’s it, but it’s not like that at all. It’s really not. I think it’s because it’s something that’s not talked about very often and you do just have that perception that it’s just going to be old blokes there about 70, that go in the bookies too much and their wives have made them go.

People say that when gambling difficulties are made visible (e.g., in the news, documentaries, or dramas) they depict the extreme end of harm, often with large amounts of money involved. News items highlight court proceedings and families left with nothing. The phrase ‘lavish lifestyle’ is often used. Because of this people do not recognise when they are starting to experience harm in the earlier stages and they do not get help early.

Generally, people are in crisis when they actually want some support. That’s another thing of people don’t recognize where they’re up to. They’re probably comparing themselves to the newspaper articles, aren’t they? Of person loses £230,000 and they’re going, “Well, I don’t do that.” I’m not a professional footballer and people are not identifying with that.

The idea of a ‘typical gambler’ being ‘white and male’ results in some people experiencing additional stigma and barriers to seeking help. This is particularly true for people from religious and cultural backgrounds where gambling is taboo. It is also for groups were gambling is seen as not socially acceptable and against the conventions of how they are supposed to be – like women.

There’s people in trusted positions that get into gambling addiction. It’s that kind of thing of what people look like to others this but actually what’s going on for them or that reliance or that social construct that a woman should be this, this and this and be sensible, be caring, be responsible, which pushes down that feeling of, “I can ask for help because I should have been all of these things and I’ve broken the rules.”

I have known women that I’ve spoken to where they’ve talked about their gambling addiction and a male relative or somebody else is going, “You’re a mother. You shouldn’t behave like that.” Which just pushes everybody down all of the time of– People have choices. We go into gambling not going today I’m going to be a gambling addict. It’s today I’m just going to put the lottery on or today I’m going to play these games for an hour whilst everybody


Many people who do experience gambling harm are ‘white and male’. They may come from a social circle where gambling is more acceptable. However, they can still experience strong feelings of shame, guilt and stigma. These stereotypes of ‘gamblers’ as ‘greedy, weak and irresponsible’ made them feel like it was their fault for losing control. It was made even worse for them because men are not supposed to be weak.

I do sometimes feel as sort of a middle-aged bloke that you know, I don’t want to sound like a chip on my shoulder, but it does sometimes feel a little bit like your middle-aged guy is the one that has the least ability to sort of go, yeah, I feel shame. I feel stigma because it might not be anything to do with my, you know, my gender, my beliefs, my culture, my background. I’m just your average bloke without anything that I can attribute that shame and stigma to other than the fact that I’m a gambling addict, and I am a recovering gambling addict. That is enough for me. We all, everybody should be able to feel like they can speak up.

And that’s one of the most important things is I want the world to know that it’s all right to ask for help. You know, if an industry develops products that are addictive, don’t feel like you shouldn’t get addicted to them because it makes a lot of sense that you are, so ask for some help. And don’t feel like I did. The thing that gets me as well is I’m kind of from a demographic where I’m expected to gamble. I mean, I’m a middle-aged white man from a Catholic background, we drink, we bet on the horses, and this kind of thing, and I couldn’t say anything. I still couldn’t say anything. So, I think about those people out there who are from different cultures, different backgrounds, who actually it’s far more difficult for them even than it was for me.

People emphasise the addictive nature of gambling. Gambling has many new forms and is all around us. This makes it easy to fall victim to gambling harm. It can happen to anyone.

In terms of stigma is it doesn’t matter like. I would say, really, it doesn’t matter how much money is the win or lose. It’s like that, when, when it’s like an illness for you, it doesn’t discriminate against anyone. Like the addiction, the addiction doesn’t discriminate at all, at all.

Everyone is gambling, I know that. Doesn’t matter they are religious. People are gambling from all community. It doesn’t matter their religion, occupation. More or less, everyone is affected. Yeah, this is the system, everyone is affected. Because it’s not the money matter. Well, if it’s money matter, when I’m winning, so I can quit, I can go out, I’m not going out because I am waiting for the moment I will be empty, for that moment. So it’s not money.

Things happen. Life happens, doesn’t it? People get ill, people die, people have jobs, people lose jobs. You can’t predict what’s going to happen, so you could be a social gambler. You could just be out with your friends and you can enjoy that. Something can happen and it becomes your go to, to cope with that, and it’s about people having healthy coping mechanisms and feeling resilient.

Get Support

If you feel like you need support or someone to talk to about your own or someone else’s gambling, there are several organisations who can offer help, support and answer any questions you may have.

Take Part

We are inviting people to share their experiences of any kind of difficulties due to gambling.