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National Gambling Board

South African Responsible Gambling Foundation

Problem Gambling - Types of Gamblers

In the text above there have been references to different types of gamblers, ranging from unproblematic to pathological. There are many different ways to classify the many people who gamble, some for fun, others in a pathologically compulsive manner.

We are going to look briefly at one example of classifying gamblers, before moving on to discuss treatment options. This classification is taken from a website on the internet that has been created to help individuals dealing with problem gamblers identify different types of gambling. This website identifies seven different types of gamblers but we are going to limit our list to four different types.

1) Social (recreational) Gamblers:

Most gamblers are social gamblers.
Gambling is one of many forms of entertainment they engage in; it is not their main recreational activity.
Gambling episodes are usually infrequent, but there may be some regular activity as well (e.g., a monthly poker game, a weekly or even daily lottery.
Gambling does not result in any negative life-consequences.
There are no lasting negative financial consequences as a result of the gambling.
Other people do not see their gambling as excessive.

2) Frequent Gamblers (also called "heavy" or "serious" gamblers):

Gambling is an important part of their lives and would be missed if they could not engage in it.
There is no loss of control over wager amount or frequency.
No progressive increase in wager size over time.
Money is not borrowed from any source (including credit cards).
Gambling is generally not viewed as a way to pay for basic life necessities or luxuries.
No relationship arguments or relationship problems occur due to gambling.
Gambling does not diminish their work performance or focus.
The gambler remains interested in non-gambling activities and engages in them frequently.
A frequent gambler may eventually advance into problem or pathological gambling

3) Problem Gamblers:

Gambling results in at least one negative consequence to the gambler or some person in their life, this would include relationship problems.
Money used to gamble with should be otherwise allocated to other things.
There might be family disagreements regarding the time or amount spent gambling.
The gambling may lessen work performance or ability to focus on work fully.
Long term goals and ambitions are sometimes replaced by gambling.
Problem gamblers may deny that any problem is occurring despite the observations of others.
There may be attempts to hide or minimise gambling behaviour.
Often thinks of gambling as a second job or a reasonable source of revenue.
May try to earn money needed for daily living by gambling, and in the process get into financial problems.
Time spent gambling exceeds what an outsider would think is reasonable.
Unless the gambler is financially well-off, money may be occasionally borrowed from other people or credit cards.

4) Pathological Gamblers (also called Compulsive Gamblers):

This is the only "type" of gambler that has been fully defined by the American Psychiatric Association as suffering from a mental disorder.
Usually has had at least one financial bailout from a friend, family member, cleaned out all available out credit cards or taken out loans from financial institution,  unless they are financially well-off, although some pathological gamblers never have had a bailout.
May blame others for stress they are creating.
May try to win money needed for basic living expenses.
Winning means more time to gamble, wins are usually "re-invested" into more gambling.
Usually thinks that they are only hurting themselves, unaware of the impact of their gambling on others.
Wager size increases over time (measured usually in years).
Uses money to gamble that should be spent on other things.
May have destroyed relationships due to gambling and borrowing.
Unable to easily quit gambling for long periods of time.
May feel urges and cravings to go gambling.
Frequent fights with spouse/partner, blames them for the problems.
A Pathological gambler meets the criteria for the disorder as listed in, DSM-IV™

Adapted from:


Video This video shows how young gamblers easily develop serious problems  


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By now you should have a clear idea of how problem and pathological gamblers are identified and of different types of gamblers.  Now let us see what can be done for problem and pathological gamblers.