Gambling and alcohol

Worried that when drinking, gambling gets out of control, or that gambling leads to increased alcohol consumption? Find out more about the relationship between gambling and alcohol.

How is gambling related to drinking? 

"After a few drinks it all seemed good but I felt really bad when I realised that all of my pay was gone. I'm going to have to borrow money again this week" Male, 27.

Gambling and drinking are legal in Australia and, for many people, go together as a way to socialise.  

For some people having a drink and a play on the pokies may be just a part of having a night out with friends, but for many others, both the gambling and the alcohol consumption can become a problem.

Some people find there is a connection between the effects of alcohol and what happens when they gamble. This may mean that when gambling and drinking they:

  •  Tend to drink more
  •  Spend more money gambling
  •  Stay at the venue for longer than intended
  •  Experience other changes in mood and behaviour as a consequence of drinking and gambling

For some, alcohol can play a role in affecting a person's capacity to control their gambling.

Losing track of time and money? 

Many people say that they like to have "a few drinks" when they are gambling, which isn't surprising given that pokies are usually in places that also serve alcohol.

Some gamblers say that, in the case of pokies, when they are on the machine, they are not "really thinking" or that they lose track of time.  They may also be telling themselves that it is okay, even when it isn't.

Research suggests that there is a relationship between alcohol and riskier styles of gambling, particularly among regular or problem gamblers.

It is reported by some people, that they think it is the alcohol that "triggers" them to gamble more than they can afford to lose. It also made it more difficult to stop gambling.

When is it a problem?

When is it not okay? When you find that your control is slipping and that you can no longer just walk away.

Drinking and gambling can both become habits, and some people start to feel it is the drink or the gambling that is in control. 

Both of these activities can make you feel good at first and some people enjoy the feelings of "escape" - but the consequences can be damaging. Some people find it difficult to stop and sometimes the alcohol and the gambling seem to take over.

 Signs of alcohol being a problem may include:

  • Drinking far more than intended
  • Experiencing behavioural changes related to drinking such as getting into arguments with people
  • Experiencing blackouts or memory loss
  • Problems in relationships as a result of drinking
  • Feeling the need to drink on a daily basis
  • Binge drinking
  • Taking time off from work, study or other commitments because of being hung over

Some people drink a lot every day and others can go without a drink for long periods and then binge. Both of these patterns of drinking are considered problematic and put you at risk.

Next steps  

If you think this is a problem for you, you should consider the following:

  • Get a sense of how much you are drinking. How much and how often do you drink and what does that cost you? Write it down.
  • If you think that you are drinking too much, do you want to cut down or stop?
  • Enlist some support. Talking to a counsellor may help you explore some options and work out what you want to do. There are a range of services and different types of help available and it is important to find out what will work best for you.               
  • For information on alcohol and other drugs you can check out this website: Australian Drug Foundation