Frequently Asked Questions
How can you
tell whether you are a compulsive gambler?
Only you can make that decision. Most people turn to
Gamblers Anonymous when they become willing to admit that gambling has
them licked. Also in Gamblers Anonymous, a compulsive gambler is
described as a person whose gambling has caused growing and continuing
problems in any department of his or her life. Many Gamblers Anonymous
members went through terrifying experiences before they were ready to
accept help. Others were faced with a slow, subtle deterioration which
finally brought them to the point of admitting defeat.
Is knowing why we gambled
What is the
dream world of the compulsive gambler?
This is another common characteristic of compulsive
gamblers. A lot of time is spent creating images of the great and
wonderful things they are going to do as soon as they make the big win.
They often see themselves as quite philanthropic and charming people.
They may dream of providing families and friends with new cars, mink
coats and other luxuries. Compulsive gamblers picture themselves leading
a pleasant gracious life, made possible by the huge sums of money they
will accrue from their "system". Servants, penthouses, nice clothes,
charming friends, yachts and world tours are a few of the wonderful
things that are just around the corner after a big win is finally made.
Pathetically, however, there never seems to be a big enough winning to
make even the smallest dream come true. When compulsive gamblers
succeed, they gamble to dream still greater dreams. When failing, they
gamble in reckless desperation and the depths of their misery are
fathomless as their dream world comes crashing down. Sadly, they will
struggle back, dream more dreams and of course suffer more misery. No
one can convince them that their great schemes will not someday come
true. They believe they will, for without this dream world, life for
them would not be tolerable.
Why can't a compulsive gambler simply use willpower to stop gambling?
We believe that most people, if they are honest, will
recognize their lack of power to solve certain problems. When it comes
to gambling, we have known many problem gamblers who could abstain for
long stretches, but caught off guard and under the right set of
circumstances, they started gambling without thought of the
consequences. The defenses they relied upon, through will power alone,
gave way before some trivial reason for placing a bet. We have found
that will power and self-knowledge will not help in those mental blank
spots, but adherence to spiritual principles seems to solve our
problems. Most of us feel that a belief in a power greater than
ourselves is necessary in order for us to sustain a desire to refrain
Does this mean I can't even participate in a little penny ante game or world
It means exactly that. A stand has to be made somewhere and Gamblers
Anonymous members have found the first bet is the one to avoid, even
though it may be as little as matching for a cup of coffee. This
includes Internet Gambling, the stock market, commodities, options,
buying or playing lottery tickets, raffle tickets, flipping a coin or
entering the office sport pool.
Do Gamblers Anonymous members go into gambling places to help former members
who are still gambling?
No. Families and friends of these people have asked us to
intercede but we have never been able to be of any real help. Actually,
sometimes we felt we retarded a member's eventual recovery by giving
them this unsolicited attention. It all goes back to the basic principle
that a gambler ought to want help before he or she is approached by us.
Can a person recover by himself/herself by reading Gamblers Anonymous
literature or medical books on the problem of compulsive gambling?
Sometimes, but not usually. The Gamblers Anonymous program works best
for the individual when it is recognized and accepted as a program
involving other people. Working with other compulsive gamblers in a
Gamblers Anonymous group the individual seems to find the necessary
understanding and support. They are able to talk of their past
experiences and present problems in an area where they are comfortable
and accepted. Instead of feeling alone and misunderstood, they feel
needed and accepted.
Why are Gamblers
Anonymous members anonymous?
Anonymity has great practical value in maintaining unity within our
fellowship. Through its practice at the level of press, radio, films and
television we have eliminated the possibility of fame and recognition
being given to the individual member; hence, we have not been faced with
any great internal struggles for power and prestige which would prove
highly detrimental to our essential unity. Anonymity also has great
value in attracting new members who initially might feel there is a
stigma attached to the problem. Therefore, we guarantee the newcomer as
much anonymity as they choose. More importantly, we are beginning to
realize that anonymity has tremendous spiritual significance. It
represents a powerful reminder that we need always place principles
above personalities. Our survival as individuals demands that we
renounce personal gratification . . . so our Gamblers Anonymous movement
not only advocates but tries to practice true humility and it is through
greater humility that we will be able to live in peace and security for
all the years to come.
Do Gamblers Anonymous members have to attend meetings the rest of their lives?
Compulsive gamblers who have been relieved of their obsession to gamble
with the help of Gamblers Anonymous realize as they continue in the
Fellowship that they are launched on a lifetime program of
self-examination and self- improvement. Gamblers Anonymous members
discover that there is no short cut to building a new future for
themselves. These things take time. Because of this, and the need to
constantly identify their experiences with others with similar problems,
Gamblers Anonymous members soon begin to look forward to a lifetime
association in the Gamblers Anonymous Fellowship. It also help new
members when they can see success by example.
How often do Gamblers Anonymous members have to attend meetings?
Experience has shown that recovering members do not let a
week go by without attending at least one Gamblers Anonymous meeting.
When members start missing meetings, sooner or later they seem to get
into trouble in one area of their life. The phrase "keep coming to
meetings" is heard frequently. It is based on the experience of those
who have found that they jeopardize the recovery that Gamblers Anonymous
offers when they fail to attend weekly meetings.
What is the recovery program?
It is a 12-step program which members use for personal growth. By using
the program in their daily affairs, compulsive gamblers have not only
diminished the desire to gamble but have improved all other aspects of
their lives. When a compulsive gambler applies the 12-step Recovery
Program in their life, their disintegration stops and their recovery
begins. Since these steps are basically spiritual in their concept,
their practice can become a highly rewarding experience.
there any Gamblers Anonymous groups in penal institutions?
Anonymous want to abolish gambling?
What is the first thing a compulsive gambler ought to do in order to stop
The compulsive gambler needs to be willing to accept the fact that he or
she is in the grip of a progressive illness and has a desire to get
well. Our experience has shown that the Gamblers Anonymous program will
always work for any person who has a desire to stop gambling. However,
will never work for the person who will not face squarely the facts
about this illness.
How does someone stop gambling through the Gamblers Anonymous program?
One does this through bringing about a progressive character change
within oneself. This can be accomplished by having faith in - and
following - the basic concepts of the Gamblers Anonymous Recovery and
Unity Programs. There are no short cuts in gaining this faith and
understanding. To recover from one of the most baffling, insidious,
compulsive addictions will require diligent effort. Honesty, open
mindedness and willingness are the key words in our recovery.
What are some characteristics of a person who is a compulsive gambler?
1. Inability and unwillingness to accept reality. Hence the escape into
the dream world of gambling.
2. Emotional insecurity. A compulsive gambler finds he or she is
emotionally comfortable only when "in action". It is not uncommon to
hear a Gamblers Anonymous member say: "The only time I felt like I
belonged was when I was gambling. Then I felt secure and comfortable. No
great demands were made upon me. I knew I was destroying myself, yet at
the same time, I had a certain sense of security."
3. Immaturity. A desire to have all the good things in life without any
great effort on their part seems the common character pattern of problem
gamblers. Many Gamblers Anonymous members accept the fact that they were
unwilling to grow up. Subconsciously they felt they could avoid mature
responsibility by wagering on the spin of a wheel or the turn of a card,
and so the struggle to escape responsibility finally became a
4. Also, a compulsive gambler seems to have a strong inner urge to be a
"big shot" and needs to have a feeling of being all powerful. The
compulsive gambler is willing to do anything (often of an anti-social
nature) to maintain the image he or she wants others to see. Then too,
there is a theory that compulsive gamblers subconsciously want to lose
to punish themselves. There is much evidence to support this theory.
compulsive gambling basically a financial problem?
No. Compulsive gambling is an emotional problem. A person in the grip of
this illness creates mountains of apparently insolvable problems. Of
course, financial problems are created, but they also find themselves
facing marital, employment, or legal problems. Compulsive gamblers find
friends have been lost, and relatives have rejected them. Of the many
serious difficulties created, the financial problems seem the easiest to
solve. When a compulsive gambler enters Gamblers Anonymous and quits
gambling, income is usually increased and there is no longer the
financial drain that was caused by gambling, and very shortly the
financial pressures begin to be relieved. Gamblers Anonymous member have
found that the best road to financial recovery is through hard work and
repayments of our debts. Borrowing and/or lending of money (bailouts) in
Gamblers Anonymous is detrimental to our recovery and should not take
place. The most difficult and time consuming problem with which they
will be faced is that of bringing about a character change within
themselves. Most Gamblers Anonymous members look upon this as their
greatest challenge which should be worked on immediately and continued
throughout their lives.
compulsive gambler ever gamble normally again?
No. The first bet to a problem gambler is like the first small drink to
an alcoholic. Sooner or later he or she falls back into the same old
destructive pattern. Once a person has crossed the invisible line into
irresponsible uncontrolled gambling he or she never seems to regain
control. After abstaining a few months some of our members have tried
some small bet experimentation, always with disastrous results. The old
obsession inevitably returned Our Gamblers Anonymous experience seems to
point to these alternatives: To gamble, risking progressive
deterioration or not to gamble, and develop a better way of life.
I only go on gambling binges periodically. Do I need Gamblers Anonymous?
Yes. Compulsive gamblers who have joined Gamblers Anonymous tell us
that, though their gambling binges were periodic, the intervals between
were not periods of constructive thinking. Symptomatic of these periods
was nervousness, irritability, frustration, indecision and a continued
breakdown in personal relationships. These same people have often found
the Gamblers Anonymous program the answer to the elimination of
character defects and a guide to moral progress in their lives.
Who can join Gamblers Anonymous?
How much does it
cost to join Gamblers Anonymous?
There are no assessments in connection with Gamblers Anonymous
membership. The newcomer signs nothing and pledges nothing. However, we
do have expenses relative to our group meeting and our Gamblers
Anonymous service facilities. Since Gamblers Anonymous has traditionally
been fully self-supporting and declines outside contribution, these
expenses are met through voluntary financial support by the members.
Experience has shown that acceptance of these financial responsibilities
is a vital part of our individual and group growth process.
How does a person join
If I join Gamblers Anonymous, won't everyone know I am a compulsive gambler?
Most people made quite a name for themselves as full-fledged gamblers by
the time they turned to Gamblers Anonymous. Their gambling was not
usually a well kept secret. It would then be unusual if the good news of
their abstinence from gambling did not cause comment. However, no
disclosure of any affiliation with Gamblers Anonymous can rightfully be
made by anyone but the member themselves. Even then, it should be done
in such a way that will work no hardship on the Gamblers Anonymous
If I stop gambling won't it make it difficult for me to keep some desirable
business and social contacts?
We think not. Most of the world's work of any consequence is done
without the benefit of monetary wagering. Many of our leaders in
business, industry and professional life have attained great success
without knowing one card from another or which way the horses run around
the track. In the area of social relationships, the newcomer will soon
find a keen appreciation of the many pleasant and stimulating activities
available - far removed from anything that is remotely associated from
Is Gamblers Anonymous a
No. Gamblers Anonymous is composed of people from many religious faiths
along with agnostics and atheists. Since membership in Gamblers
Anonymous requires no particular religious belief as a condition of
membership, it cannot be described as a religious society. The Gamblers
Anonymous recovery program is based on acceptance of certain spiritual
values but the member is free to interpret these principles as he
What is the meaning of the word "spiritual' as it is used in the Gamblers
The word "spiritual" can be said to describe those
characteristics of the human mind that represent the highest and finest
qualities such as kindness, generosity, honesty and humility. Inasmuch
as the Gamblers Anonymous Fellowship advocates consideration of these
principles as a way of life, it is said that ours is a spiritual
Does Gamblers Anonymous look upon compulsive gambling as a vice?