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For many people, gambling can be a harmless form of entertainment. But when gambling goes from being a recreation to an obsession, it becomes a problem. It can become a devastating addiction, damaging family relationships, ending friendships, jobs and even lives. Whether buying lottery tickets, going to a casino or playing poker with friends, a person may have a gambling problem that causes negative psychological, physical, social and vocational consequences. Problem gambling affects people of all cultures, ethnicities, ages, genders and incomes.

If not addressed, problem gambling can lead to gambling disorder, which is a diagnosable addictive disorder. Gambling disorder is a progressive addiction characterized by:

  • A need to gamble greater amounts to reach the desired excitement
  • Frequent preoccupation with gambling
  • A need to bet more money more frequently
  • Restlessness or irritability when trying to cut down or stop gambling
  • An inability to stop gambling despite serious negative consequences, such as loss of significant relationships, job, educational or career opportunity.

  • Assessment

    If gambling is causing problems in your life, you may have a gambling addiction. To find out if you have a problem or are addicted to gambling, you can:

    • Call Minnesota’s 24-hour, toll-free, confidential help line at 1-800-333-HOPE
    • Call gambling addiction treatment providers to see if they offer assessments to determine the extent of your problem
    • Take a 20-question self-screening test.

    Problem gamblers typically go through four phases as their problem develops.  Every situation is different but you may want to watch for Common Phases of Problem Gambling.

    The gambler isn’t the only one affected by a gambling problem. The following characteristics are often seen in family members, friends and co-workers of a problem gambler.

    • Depression 
    • Low self-esteem and poor self-image 
    • Feelings of inadequacy 
    • Emotional distance from other friends and family members 
    • Anger, resentment and confusion 
    • Tendencies toward drug and alcohol abuse 
    • Verbal, emotional or physical abuse 
    • Feelings of guilt and suspicion
  • Treatment

    State funds are available for treatment for compulsive gamblers, their families and/or concerned significant others. Minnesota residents who meet the clinical diagnosis for compulsive gambling and demonstrate financial need may have all or part of the cost of treatment paid.

    The state will also pay for up to 12 hours of intervention services for a family member or concerned significant other who is a Minnesota resident and is negatively impacted by problem or compulsive gambling. A family member or concerned significant other may be seen even if the gambler is not in treatment.

    Resources are available so everyone can afford treatment. Call 1-800-333-HOPE for free, confidential information and referral to services in your area. You can also look through the list of state-approved gambling treatment providers.


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