If you gamble in moderation, it can be fun and exciting but if you let your gambling get out of hand it can be very destructive to you and the people around you. When it gets out of hand it can become an addiction, and as with any other addiction, you can come to crave the buzz that gambling gives you.

For people addicted to gambling, the buzz comes from taking a risk. This buzz sees an increase in their heart rate and gets the adrenaline going in the body. When you are gambling it might help you to forget about any other problems that you might have in your life but regardless of whether you win or lose, your problems will still be there once the buzz wears off.

The law on gambling

As long as you are above the required age, gambling is legal. The minimum ages for different forms of gambling are as follows:

  • To play fruit or slot machines for tokens there is no minimum age.
  • To play fruit or slot machines for cash you must be 18.
  • To place a bet in a betting shop you must be 18.
  • To bet on horse or greyhound racing you must be 18.
  • To play bingo you must be 18.
  • To play casino games you must be 18.
  • To play the National Lottery (including scratchcards) or the Football Pools you must be 16.

The risks of gambling

There are risks attached to gambling, especially if you let it get out of control and it is believed that one per cent of all adults have gambling problems – these are mainly men.

The most obvious risk of gambling is the financial one. You can run up enormous debts from gambling money that you cannot afford to lose. If you are on a losing steak you might think that the next big win will make everything all right but this is rarely the case. Even if you do win, you will probably continue to bet because you’ll then think that your luck has changed and you cannot lose.

Gambling can become a vicious circle and the only way to break the cycle is to get help from an expert. See the ‘Who can help’ section below for details of people who can help.

Curing the addiction

As with any addiction, gamblers bet as a way of escaping from the many different emotions that their actions cause. These emotions can range from anxiety and depression to guilt and shame.

Gambling is an addiction and there is lots of help and support available. With treatment, a gambling habit can be cracked and there is also help available to sort out your finances if massive debts have been run up as a result of gambling.

Who can help?

Gamcare are a charity organisation that provides information, advice and support for people who find that gambling is having a bad impact on their life. Find out more by visiting their website at or by calling their helpline on 0845 6000 133.

The NHS Choices Wesbite has more information and links to support services. This can be found at:

Gambling Anonymous is an organisation that supports people dealing with gambling problems. They do this by helping them learn from others who have experienced the same problems. Gamblers Anonymous can be contacted on 020 7384 3040, or visit their website:

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