What to Do If Your Loved One Has Gambling Problems

Last updated on December 19, 2023


Advice from private investigator James Loh:

Problem gambling refers to the behaviour of persons who are addicted to gambling. Like any addiction, symptoms can range from the mild to the severe. The most serious form of gambling is called “Pathological” or “Compulsive” Gambling.

The establishment of integrated resorts and casinos in Singapore has contributed to the cases of problem gambling locally. After all, casino games and casino environments are deliberately designed to induce players to gamble more. Occasionally, people look to private investigators like me to check up on the gambling activities of their family members so they can do something about it.

Identifying the gambling habit

The victims could be our loved ones. It is best to identify problem gambling early on so that something can be done. The following are some tell-tale signs of a gambling habit:

  • Lying about the small things: People who have gambling problems generally try to hide such problems from the people around them. They may start lying to their spouses, families, co-workers and friends. They may also hide bills, past-due notices, winnings or losses from partners/family members
  • Retirees leaving home for long hours at a stretch: Suspicion should be aroused when these trips are made to venues which host a casino/gambling facility – e.g. country clubs and the integrated resorts. However, the subject may also be unwilling to reveal the nature of their movements when asked. In that case, it may be unwise to press the issue as it could lead to arguments/conflict and cause the subject to become more guarded about his or her activities
  • Financial troubles: Constantly not having enough cash for daily expenses and/or having increased debt and/or unpaid bills. This may happen because the gambler is spending more money on gambling than he can afford.
  • Mood changes: The subject may become constantly distressed, frustrated and irritable and/or demonstrate less patience when dealing with normal, everyday activities with no overtly identifiable reason
  • Borrowing money: Pathological gamblers inevitably find themselves in a financial hole and may resort to borrowing from family, friends, co-workers or even strangers, without always admitting the real reason behind their need for cash. They may also max out their credit cards, sell things for quick cash and/or take out a second mortgage
  • Strained relationships and declining work performance/loss of job: Problem gambling causes harm to both the gambler and his or her family. It could lead to increased conflict with friends or family over money or the subject’s gambling habits and/or increasing isolation from family and friends

The above are guidelines to allow you to either confirm or deny your suspicions about whether a relative has a gambling problem. However, they are not meant to be conclusive nor exhaustive and should not be regarded in isolation.

How much gambling is too much?

Should the subject’s gambling habits be known, the following are tell-tale signs that an innocuous habit may be pathological:

  • Chasing losses: This happens when gamblers attempt to win back the money they have lost. They may claim that they will quit gambling once they “strike it big” or blame the loss on (lack of) luck or wrong strategies used. However, when they chase their losses, they end up incurring more losses and often land themselves in severe debt
  • Increase in betting amounts: Like someone who has drug or alcohol problems, problem gamblers have to up their “dose” of gambling to enjoy it. In other words, they have to bet more and more money to get the kind of rush they want
  • Obsession over gambling: When a subject is constantly thinking or talking about gambling, it may be a sign of addiction. The subject may also start to neglect social life and family time in order to spend more money and time on gambling

Actions you can take

Confronting the subject head-on may cause the subject to become defensive and lead to unpleasant arguments. Instead, you can take the following measures, especially if you know that the subject has a weakness for gambling:

  • Find the identities of the subject’s gambling partners (if any): They may turn out to be part of an illegal syndicate. If so, it is advisable to report your findings to the relevant authorities
  • Employ a trained Private Investigator to conduct discreet physical surveillance: The PI will be able to conduct surveillance in casinos and provide you with accurate information about the subject’s movements and activities
  • Apply for a Family Exclusion Order: This will exclude your loved one from Casinos, jackpot machine rooms at private clubs and Singapore Pools online betting
  • Monitor the well-being of the subject: If the subject is facing financial troubles as a result of his/her gambling problem, he/she may become increasingly depressed and may resort to borrowing from illegal moneylenders or even contemplate suicide
  • Seek professional help: Encourage the subject to go for counselling services and/or call the National Problem Gambling Helpline 1800-6-668-668 for help and advice
  • Take control of finances: Where the problem is severe, guard savings accounts and make them inaccessible to the gambler and/or close all joint checking and savings accounts and create new accounts in your name only
  • Get financial help: If the subject has landed himself in debt as a result of gambling, you may wish to direct the subject to the various debt repayment options

This article is written by James Loh, managing director of International Investigators Pte Ltd