Starting the conversation

Family and friends can play an important role in assisting gamblers to seek help. If you are concerned about your friend or family member’s gambling, talking to them about your concerns can be a helpful approach.

Here are some tips to help you get the conversation started.



Select a place where you can talk in privacy and without distraction.


Select a time when you have enough time to discuss your concerns, and you are both feeling calm and relaxed.


Reflect on your goals for the conversation. What would you really like the person to hear?


Reflect on other difficult conversations that you have had with your friend or family member. 
Consider what has helped these conversations to work well? What has prevented these conversations working well? Use this information to inform your plan to talk about your concerns.

Educate yourself about problem gambling and alternatives for help and change. Take some time to look at help and support options.

To learn more visit the thinking about change page.


Getting started can be tricky. Consider a positive start, before moving into more difficult topics.

  • Tell the person that they are important to you.

  • Highlight things you value about them and some of the strengths you have noticed that they use to resolve other problems.

  • If you are uncomfortable having the conversation, mention this. The other person may also feel uncomfortable. Choosing to have this talk despite your discomfort may show your family member or friend that you care.


Tell them what you’ve noticed in relation to the gambling and how you see it impacting your family member or friend. Talk about your experience, use "I" statements, such as "I notice" or "I'm worried", or:

  • “I notice you are spending a long time on betting apps, you seem stressed and anxious when you play and lose and I am worried that betting is creating stress and worry for you”.

  • “I’m worried about the way gambling is affecting our relationship. When you gamble it feels like you get really caught up in the gambling and are distant and distracted in our relationship”.

  • “I feel like gambling is affecting our relationship”.


  • Talk about your own experience of how the other person's gambling is affecting you.

  • Ask the person for their perspective.

  • Give them time to tell their story. Try to listen without arguing or correcting their experience – this can shut the conversation down.

  • Reassure them that you care and want to help.

Gamblers often feel ashamed about their gambling and may feel uncomfortable talking about it. Try not to judge, as this may alienate your family member or friend and invite them to defend their gambling. It is better if they choose to reflect on their gambling and its impacts.


After opening your conversation about gambling you may want to discuss options for change:

  • Don’t tell them to just stop gambling (if it was that simple, they probably would have already made a change).

  • Ask if they would like to explore options for change with you.

  • Change options may be about the gambling itself or about the things that relate to the gambling. 
    Common options for change include:

    • Stopping gambling

    • Limiting gambling

    • Finding new solutions to stress, anxiety, depression or trauma issues

    • Finding new solutions to financial problems.

Some gamblers may not be ready or confident to select a change goal.

They may be open to exploring the reason why they gamble, e.g. as a stress release, or as a form of time out.


If your family member or friend is interested, you may want to consider the following help options:


What if the person does not want to change?

When talking to your family member or friend about your concerns, their response may be one of relief or gratitude. It may also be a less open response.

Your family member or friend may not want to talk, they may become angry or defensive. They may deny, minimise, or justify their gambling. They may blame others for their gambling.

If the person does not want to talk about their gambling, or is not ready to change:

  • Help yourself by understanding and thinking about change.

  • Try to keep open communications to support your family member or friend.


Talking about problems can be difficult. If you or your family member or friend are experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviours, seek help:

  • If you need immediate help call the emergency services on 000.

  • The Suicide Call Back Service offers free counselling 24/7. Call 1300 659 467.

  • Phone the Gambling Helpline 24/7 on freecall 1800 858 858.


Talking about gambling may bring up concerns about safety in your relationship with the gambler.

  • If you need immediate help call the emergency services on 000.

  • The National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service offers information and support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call 1800 737 732.

Contact us

If gambling has become a problem for you, or someone you care about, get some help. It’s free and confidential.

Call the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858 anytime 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Click for face-to-face counselling locations

Click for online counselling and real time chat