How to Spot the Early Signs of Gambling Harm in Gaming Venues

Gaming venue staff play an important role in monitoring their patrons and helping to minimise the risk of gambling harm. You know your venue, the popular machines, your “regulars”, their behaviour, and their stories.

It can help to keep the common signs of gambling harm in mind when observing your patrons.

We’ve listed some of these signs here, categorised to indicate riskiness of behaviour and potential severity of gambling harm.

Man gambling

There are four different types of signs to look out for:

  • Early warning signs

  • Possible gambling harm

  • Probable gambling harm

  • Highly probable gambling harm.

It’s important to remember that displaying one of these signs doesn’t necessarily mean the patron experiencing gambling harm (unless they display that particular sign to an unreasonable extent).


If you need assistance or advice, you can speak to your venue’s manager or contact the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858.


Early Warning Signs

These behaviours are at least twice as likely to be seen in patrons at higher risk of gambling harm compared to patrons with a low risk. They may be early warning signs that gambling is moving out of control.

  • Rushes from one machine to another

  • Significant increase in spending pattern

  • Tries obsessively to win on one machine

  • Rummages around in purse/wallet for money

  • Asks to change large notes at venue before gambling

Possible Gambling HARM

These behaviours are at least twice as likely to be seen in patrons experiencing gambling harm. Displaying several of these behaviours may indicate gambling harm.

  • Starts gambling when the venue is opening or only stops when venue is closing

  • Uses coin machine at least four times

  • Has run out of all money when they leave the venue

  • Spends $300 or more in a session

  • Bets $2.50 or more per spin most of the time

  • Plays very fast

  • Gambles on two or more machines at once

  • Gambles most days

  • Complains to staff about losing, or blames venue or machines for losing

  • Rituals or superstitious behaviours (e.g. rubs belly of machine or screen, talks to machine, spits on machine, uses luck charms)

  • Stays on to gamble when friends leave venue

  • Brags about winning or about their gambling skills.

Probable gambling HARM

These behaviours are much more likely to be shown by people experiencing gambling harm. If a patron is displaying any of these signs, they should be monitored over time.

  • Gambles right through normal mealtimes

  • Finds it difficult to stop gambling at closing time

  • Gets cash out on two or more occasions through ATM or EFTPOS

  • Avoids cashier and only uses cash facilities

  • Puts large wins back into the machine and keeps playing

  • Leaves venue to find money to continue gambling

  • Often gambles for long periods (3+ hours) without a proper break

  • Gambles continuously

  • Gambles intensely without reacting to what’s going on around them

  • Shows signs of anxiety while gambling (e.g. shakes, sweats, looks nervous/edgy)

  • Shows signs of distress after gambling (e.g. looks sad/depressed, cries, holds head in hands)

  • Gets angry while gambling (e.g. kicks, hits machines, swears, grunts or groans, plays roughly/aggressively)

  • Becomes angry or stands over others if someone takes their favorite machine/spot

  • Avoids contact or conversation with others.

Highly probable gambling HARM

These behaviours are uncommon, but if you observe them in a patron, they are very likely to be experiencing gambling harm.

  • Is rude or impolite to venue staff

  • Generally poor hygiene or significant decline in personal grooming or appearance over several days (body odour, dirty or unchanged clothes, unkempt/dirty hair)

  • Has friends or family members contact or visit the venue asking for them

  • Conceals presence at venue (e.g. doesn’t answer their phone, takes or makes calls outside the venue, asks staff not to let others know they are there)

  • It’s been witnessed or heard that they have tried to borrow money from other people at the venue or asking for credit from the venue.

Thomas, A., Delfabbro, P., & Armstrong, A. R. (2014). Validation Study of In-Venue Problem Gambler Indicators. Report prepared for Gambling Research Australia.

What You can Do

If you’re worried about a patron’s gambling or need help identifying gambling harm behaviours, you can speak to your venue’s manager or contact the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858.

The Gambling Help staff can:

  • Assist in working with a patron with gambling harm

  • Assist when a patron wants to be excluded or banned from your venue

  • Assist in employee’s responsible gambling training

  • Explain the counselling and support services available to individuals, families, and community groups

  • Work with you to promote safe gambling environments in your venue and local community.

Gambling harm doesn’t just impact the person gambling. It can affect friends, family, and even individuals working in gaming venues. Gambling Help Queensland supports anyone impacted by gambling, including gaming venue staff.


You can learn more here: Information for Gambling Providers | Gambling Help QLD


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