Gambling and How to Build Better Habits

26 Apr 2023

We all have habits we’ve created in our lives – good or bad – and changing our habits can feel overwhelming.

Have you ever tried to change your gambling habits when you felt motivated, but it didn’t seem to work in the long run?

Maybe you’re worried you spend too much time and money on gambling, and you’ve reached a point where you’re ready to take control of your gambling habits.

If this sounds like you, understanding how habits are formed and how to build healthy habits can help guide you on the right track towards safer gambling.

We explore how gambling habits are formed and ways to create healthy habits with some help from Gambling Help Community Educator, Amy. We hope this helps provide strategies for positive change in your life.


What are habits?

A habit is something that is done repeatedly until it becomes automatic. Our habits can feel so normal for us that we don’t even think about them.

The good news is habits can be changed, and bad habits can effectively be removed when replaced with good habits.

The Impacts of Gambling Habits

Unhealthy gambling habits can cause problems in many areas of our lives:

  • Financial stress
  • Relationship issues
  • Emotional wellbeing
  • Performance in work or study.

You don’t have to be totally out of control or in overwhelming debt for these problems to show up for you. Any gambling behaviour can disrupt your life and the lives of the people around you.

Maybe you’ve developed small habits of gambling rather than spending time with loved ones.

Maybe you’re spending money more regularly on sports betting than you’d like.

Or perhaps you’ve formed a habit of checking daily on gambling apps during your work hours.

If gambling is negatively impacting your life or relationships, it's defined as gambling harm.

Understanding the Habit Loop

There are four stages that build habits in what’s called the Habit Loop:

  • Cue
  • Craving
  • Response
  • Reward

Our environmental cue triggers a craving, which motivates a response and ultimately a reward.

By figuring out your own habit loop and breaking it down into these patterns, you can identify what your own habits are and how to build better habits.


The trigger that starts the process.


The trigger in your brain that initiates a behaviour.


The actual habit that you performed in thought or action.


The end goal of every habit that satisfies and teaches you.

Your friend calls you asking you to join them at the pub after a long day of work.

You want to de-stress and connect with friends.

You spend money on the pokies.


You satisfy your craving of winding down and reducing stress. Gambling becomes associated with finishing work.

You see a sports betting ad on TV as you start your weekend with Friday footy.

You begin to crave the thrill and excitement of placing bets on sports you’re watching.

You place bets on the teams you’re backing in sports.

You satisfy your craving of getting a thrill and excitement from watching sports and associate weekend sports with placing bets.


There are lots of reasons people gamble. One might be that it’s something you’ve always done, and a habit you associate with good memories and fun times.

But if it’s not an enjoyable recreational activity anymore, or worse, its causing negative side effects, you might be ready to rethink your gambling and form healthier habits.


Forming Healthy Habits

A big step in building healthy habits is asking yourself the ‘why’ behind these habits.

Explore what’s driving the habit by asking yourself:

  • Do I gamble for enjoyment or as a distraction?
  • Do my habits help me meet my desired outcomes?
  • Does this activity fill me with energy or drain me of energy?
  • Does the amount of attention I’m giving gambling match its true importance?
  • How can I create an environment that will naturally bring out my desired change?

You might also like to get to know your own habit loop to develop awareness on what kind of desired change you’re looking for, and what obstacles might be standing in your way.

1. Identify and Avoid the Cue

One of the most practical ways to eliminate bad habits is to reduce the exposure to the cue that causes it.

Take the example of your friend inviting you to the pub.

In this situation, you might suggest other ways and locations to connect with friends that don’t put you in an environment that makes you want to gamble.

2. Be Aware of Your Triggers

Triggers are places, people, things, or sounds that create an emotional response.

Learning about your triggers can help you become aware about when gambling happens for you and monitor how thoughts, feelings and people relate to your triggers.

3. Get to Know Your Habits

Think about your habits – particularly the ones you’d like the change. You might even like to write these down as a reminder.

4. Reward Healthier Habits

Rewards are what the behaviour or habit does for you. For example, going to the movies with your friend instead of gambling rewards you with a relaxing night out with your friend without overspending.

Find a reward that’s healthy, and you’ll end up making a new routine that is good for you, ultimately becoming your new habit.


Some Important Reminders

  • Not all habits are easy to break. It can take some trial, error, and support to find a way that works for you.
  • If you have had certain habits for a while, they are not going to be changed overnight. Committing to your new habits can take time and consistency, so go easy on yourself.
  • You don’t have to do it alone. Having a supportive network around you can make it easier and more enjoyable. Share your goals with people you trust so they can be part of the journey.
  • Understanding and changing habits is not the only way to address unwanted behaviours around gambling. Professional counselling is available for advice and support. You can talk to a counsellor by calling the 24/7 helpline on 1800 858 858.

“Habits are a double-edged sword. They can work for you or against you, which is why understanding the details is essential.”                                                                                                                                             - James Clear, Atomic Habits


Thinking about changing your gambling can be scary, especially if it has been a big part of your life for a long time. But it is possible to change your gambling and get help if gambling has become harmful.                                                                                                                                                 

If gambling is impacting you or someone you know, free, confidential, and culturally appropriate help is available. We’re here for you and will work with you at your own pace.

You can talk to a counsellor by calling the 24/7 helpline on 1800 858 858.

Contact us

If gambling is impacting your life or a loved one's life, it's okay to reach out for help. It’s free and confidential.

Call the 24/7 Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858

Face-to-face counselling locations