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Where to Turn When Gambling Debt Gets Out of Hand

Updated on April 20, 2011
gambling problems
gambling problems

Where to Turn When Gambling Debt Gets Out of Hand

For most people who gamble, it’s an occasional hobby or pastime for entertainment purposes only. For other people, however, gambling can quickly spiral out of control and result in increased debt, financial distress, and other problems.

If your gambling debt is getting out of hand or you fear it is starting to, your best bet is to pay down your debt as soon as possible and stop incurring gambling debt altogether. You can do this on your own by developing a debt reduction plan, or you can turn to professional help with your debts.

Signs Your Gambling Debt is Out of Hand

How can you tell if your gambling debt is getting out of hand? The following are sure-fire signs your gambling debt is spiraling out of control:

Your debt is increasing as a result of gambling.

Most people have a credit card or two for emergencies or to help build their credit. However, if your cards are maxed out due to gambling or if you are opening up new lines of credit to fund your gambling activities, you could be in financial trouble.

Your savings is gone or almost gone.

Oftentimes, compulsive gamblers will gamble away their last dollar. Depleting your savings or retirement accounts to pay for gambling activities signifies out of control spending and gambling.

You can’t pay your bills each month.

The money for gambling has to come from somewhere. More often than not, it becomes the priority over paying bills. In extreme cases, problem gamblers use money that should be going towards food or utility bills.

You look for ways to pay for gambling rather than bills

A clear sign your gambling is out of hand is when your bills are piling up, creditors are calling, and rather than looking for ways to pay your bills, your main concern is coming up with money to fund gambling activities.

Bottom line, if you can trace the majority of your debt and financial problems back to gambling activities, it’s time to get help.

Getting Your Gambling Debt Under Control

Your gambling debt may not be as bad as you think. That’s why the first thing you need to do is sit down and get a clear picture of your finances. This way, you can tell whether you can handle paying down your debt yourself or seek professional help.

First, list all of your gambling debts (including credit card debt if you are charging gambling to your credit cards), interest rates, and minimum payments required each month. Then list your other monthly expenses, including mortgage, insurance, car payments, and so forth.

Next, look for ways to cut expenses in order to pay down your debts. This could be canceling services like gym memberships or cable, or cutting back on entertainment or eating out. Establish a plan to pay more than minimum payments where possible.

gambling issue photo credit: michaelaw
gambling issue photo credit: michaelaw

Professional Help for Gambling Debt

If you are experiencing a number of financial warning signs, or if you no longer have money left over each month to pay the bills, your debt may truly be out of hand. In this case, a number of resources exist to help you handle your gambling debt:

Credit Counseling

Credit counseling organizations, such as Credit Counseling Canada, work with people who are in debt to help educate them in paying down their debts and managing their finances. If you opt for credit counseling, make sure you go with an organization that is accredited and non-for-profit. Steer clear of any organization that requires large fees or asks you to make your debt payments to them.

Support group

There are many gambling support groups, including Gamblers Anonymous and Recoveries Anonymous. Not only do these groups help support their members through gambling recovery, but they also provide counseling and tips for getting debt under control. In addition, support groups can also guide you to reputable outside sources, including debt consolidation or debt counseling companies, which can also help you with your financial planning.

Debt consolidation

Debt consolidation is a way to combine your debt into one monthly payment as opposed to multiple payments each month. With this method, you take out one loan, which is used to pay off your debts. From there, you make one payment each month.

A debt consolidation company can also work on your behalf to negotiate lower rates with creditors or to freeze interest rates. They then arrange for you to pay them one monthly payment and distribute it to your debtors accordingly. This is different from a debt consolidation loan because the debt consolidation company does not loan you money.  It’s important to weigh the pros and cons of debt consolidation before opting for it.


This should be the very last resort. When you file bankruptcy, you agree to give up the majority of your assets to a trustee assigned to your case, who is turn sells them to settle your gambling debts. While you don’t lose everything in a bankruptcy, you could potentially lose your home (or at least a significant portion of the equity), your vehicles, and other possessions, depending on the Province in which you reside. Most Medicine Hat bankruptcy lawyers will provide free consultations and let you know whether or not bankruptcy is a good option for you or not.

It’s also important to note that some gamblers incur gambling debts from disreputable lenders or loan sharks. Often, under-the-table lending is not covered under bankruptcy laws and is frequently coupled with very high interest rates. If you are threatened by a loan shark or other lender or otherwise feel harassed, it’s important to call the police.

Regardless of where you turn to help you with your gambling debt, whether you opt to manage it yourself or go to a professional organization for assistance, it’s important to get help for the root cause of the problem—the gambling itself. Once you overcome your compulsive gambling, you will be better prepared to take control of your finances.

About Krista McDonald

Learn how Bankruptcy Trustee can help you today with filing bankruptcy in Calgary. Stop by Bromwich & Smith, Inc.’s site where you can explore their educational resources.


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