Article role of professionals
Series: How professionals can help

Identifying gambling harm

8 min read

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Want help identifying gambling harm?

People who are experiencing gambling harm may seek help from various settings, such as medical clinics, mental health services, legal services, or community centres, due to a range of issues such as depression, anxiety, substance use, financial problems, housing, relationship issues, domestic or family violence, and legal issues. As a professional, try to educate yourself and be aware of the signs of gambling harm. You can help to identify people with gambling harm by regularly screening for gambling harm, regardless of the reason they are seeking your professional help. This can help you identify gambling harm early and provide timely support and assistance to the people you’re working with.

How can you educate yourself?

As a professional working with someone who may be experiencing gambling harm, it’s important to understand the potential risks and impacts of gambling, as well as the services that are available to support them. If you’re not familiar with these things, it’s a good idea to spend some time educating yourself before you raise the topic with them. This can help you feel more confident and prepared for the discussion and make it easier for them to open up about their experiences with gambling.

Our website contains information that can help you to educate yourself about gambling. Topics that might be helpful include:

If the person you’re working with has already made a start in changing their gambling but is now facing some challenges in their recovery, our website also has information that can help you understand this stage of recovery. Helpful topics may include:

If the person you’re working with needs some additional support, you can help them find the right type of support. Some people prefer to try to manage their own gambling, while others might benefit from one of the available support or counselling options that are provided in our information. Banning themselves from gambling venues or websites is also an option.

For more information about the different types of help available, take a look at:

How can you recognise the signs of gambling harm?

If you suspect that someone in your professional life might be struggling with gambling, the next step is to look out for signs of harm. It can be difficult to tell if someone is struggling with gambling, especially if they're trying to keep it a secret. Recognising the signs can help you identify if someone is at risk, so you can decide on the best course of action to take next.

The person you're concerned about may have mentioned gambling when you were discussing other issues, or they may have talked about changes in their behaviour, mood, relationships, finances, or work that could be linked to gambling. Take a look at Signs of a Problem for information on some of the signs that might indicate that the person you’re concerned about is experiencing gambling harm.

How can you identify gambling harm?

As a professional, you can help by identifying if someone is experiencing gambling harm. While it may not always seem like an immediate priority when your client is presenting with other issues, gambling harm can complicate their clinical presentation and have the potential to compromise their engagement, management plans, and mental health outcomes, especially if they go undetected and untreated.

Identifying gambling harm may be as simple as asking someone about their gambling habits when discussing other issues, such as their lifestyle, stressors, mental health, financial stress, self-care, or family conflict. You could ask questions like "Do you ever gamble?" or "Do you ever gamble more than you can afford to lose?" to open up a conversation about gambling.

It can be challenging to identify gambling harm in someone who is seeking professional support for other problems. Gambling harm may not be easy to identify and may only become apparent after the person has experienced significant harm. To help identify gambling harm, it may be helpful to regularly screen people for gambling harm, regardless of the reason they are seeking support. This can help identify gambling harm early so you can provide timely support and assistance.

We know that some workplaces may not have a lot of time or resources to do long assessments for gambling harm. However, there are some short questionnaires that can help identify people who might be experiencing gambling harm. These questionnaires can identify both people who have a problem with gambling and those who might be at risk of developing a problem. It's important to identify people who are at risk because they make up most of those who experience harm from gambling. Identifying these people also allows for support to be provided to them before the harms from their gambling become severe.

Screening tools for gambling harm


The National Opinion Research Centre Diagnostic Screen for Gambling Disorders – Loss of Control, Lying and Preoccupation (NODS-CLiP) is a 3-item screening tool that has a large volume of diagnostic data indicating it can satisfactorily detect both problem and at-risk gambling. It measures lifetime gambling problems but is often used to ask about gambling problems in the past year. The items are:

  1. Have there ever been periods lasting 2 weeks or longer when you spent a lot of time thinking about your gambling experiences, or planning out future gambling ventures or bets?
  2. Have you ever tried to stop, cut down, or control your gambling?
  3. Have you ever lied to family members, friends, or others about how much you gable or how much money you lost on gambling?

The response options for each item is (0) No and (1) Yes. A positive endorsement of one or more item is indicative of problem gambling.


Some workplaces may have very limited time and resources available to administer a screening tool to identify gambling-related harm. The 2-item Brief Problem Gambling Screen (BPGS-2) is the only very short instrument that can satisfactorily detect both problem and at-risk gambling but there is limited research exploring its diagnostic accuracy. It measures gambling problems across the previous 12 months. The items are:

In the past 12 months:

  1. Would you say you have been preoccupied with gambling?
  2. Have you often gambled longer, with more money or more frequently than you intended to?

The response options for each item is (0) No and (1) Yes. A positive endorsement of one or more item is indicative of problem gambling.

While these tools are not diagnostic, they can help to identify people who may be at risk for developing gambling problems and who could benefit from further assessment or referral to appropriate services. A positive screen on any brief screening instrument should trigger a more comprehensive assessment, such as Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI).

Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI)

The PGSI is a nine-item screening tool that assesses the frequency and severity of gambling-related problems in the past 12 months. It measures gambling problems on a “continuum” from no gambling to problem gambling. It was used in the most recent national gambling study to determine how many people fit into each of these categories. You can ask the person you are worried about to answer the PGSI in our quiz. This will help determine the level of severity of their gambling-related problems. 

No gambling.

People who don’t gamble. This is about 43% of adults in Australia.

Non-problem gambling.

People who gamble but don’t have any negative consequences. This is about 46% of adults in Australia, which is about 8 in 10 people who gamble.

Low-risk gambling.

People who experience a low level of problems with no or few negative consequences. For example, they may occasionally spend over their limit or feel guilty about their gambling. About 6.6% of adults in Australia gamble at this level, which is about 12 in every 100 people who gamble.

Moderate-risk gambling.

People who experience a moderate level of problems leading to some negative consequences. For example, they may sometimes spend more than they can afford, lose track of time or feel guilty about their gambling. About 3.1% of adults in Australia gamble at this level, which is about 6 in every 100 people who gamble.

Problem gambling.

People who gamble with negative consequences and a possible loss of control. For example, they may often spend over their limit, gamble to win back money and feel stressed about their gambling. About 1.2% of adults in Australia gamble at this level, which is about 2 in 100 people who gamble.

Keep in mind that when you’re asking someone about their gambling, they may feel upset or ashamed. Asking for a detailed gambling history may add to those negative feelings. It can help to approach the conversation with empathy and understanding, and let the person know that you’re there to support them without judgement

How can we support you?

Across professions, people will have different levels of expertise or training in gambling harm. Even if you don’t feel well equipped to treat people experiencing gambling harm yourself, you can still provide valuable support by discussing their gambling with them and helping them find appropriate resources and services – see Having the Conversation and Management and Referral. We understand that supporting someone who is experiencing gambling harm can be difficult. If you need more information to effectively support the person you’re working with, our counsellors can help. They are available to assist you with any questions you may have regarding gambling.

In your professional role, you may also come across the family members or friends of people experiencing gambling harm. These people often experience gambling-related harm and may also need help and support too, either in relation to supporting the person who gambles or to take care of themselves. Family members and friends may benefit from our information on Looking After Yourself and Seeking Support.

Do you want more help?

To find out more about how to identify gambling harm, you can start an online chat with us or call the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858 – free, confidential, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These services are available to support anyone affected by gambling harm, including family members, friends, and professionals like you.

Are you looking for information about the signs of a problem? 

This page was designed for professionals who want information about using gambling screening tools. If you're looking for information to help yourself or a loved one identify signs of gambling harm, take a look at this page instead: 

Signs of a problem

If you'd still like to view this page, you can change your personalisation settings in the right-hand side menu. 

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