Support with gambling addiction


Westminster City Council has partnered with Big Deal, created by GamCare to provide information and support around problem gambling for young people within Westminster.  

The Big Deal website provides information for young people, their friends and relatives on:

  • gambling
  • problem gambling
  • types of support

1. General information on gambling

What is gambling?

Gambling is taking part in a game where you risk losing something, usually money, in order to win a prize. You won’t always end up with a prize – that wouldn’t be gambling, it would be buying a product or service. Gambling is all down to chance, so you might leave with more or less than you started with, and sometimes nothing at all.

There are many forms of gambling, from card games like poker and blackjack, to sports betting, slot machines, bets with friends and even bingo.

Young people take part in many forms of gambling. The most common types for young people between 11 and 16 are lotteries, scratch cards and slot machines, and making bets or playing cards with friends, with either cash or other items at stake.

Find out more about different types of gambling

Find out more about how gambling works

Legal ages

As a general rule, the minimum legal age for gambling in the UK is 18 years old. This applies to adult gaming centres, betting shops, bingo halls, casinos, racetracks and online gambling. The exceptions to this are the National Lottery and scratch cards – you’re allowed to buy and take part in these from age 16.

Any venue that provides gambling activities with a minimum legal age must stick to rules designed to prevent underage gambling.

However, some gaming machines, such as coin pushers, teddy grabbers and some lower stakes fruit machines in family entertainment centres and amusement arcades don’t have a minimum legal age at all.

These might not seem risky because usually you'll only lose between 2p and £1 in a single game, but it’s easy to keep spending money on change machines. Before you know it you’ve spend twenty pounds on a keyring or cheap toy car. Is it worth it?


2. When it becomes a problem

Problem gambling

Problem gambling has a negative effect on the life of the gambler or the people close to them, like family, friends, and boyfriends and girlfriends. It might be that someone’s gambling is causing them to be unhappy, have less energy, fall behind at school, underperform at work, worry about money, or have more arguments. If someone’s gambling is causing any of these effects it is considered problem gambling.

Anyone can develop a gambling problem and young people can be particularly vulnerable. This depends on the age they started gambling and whether there is a history of gambling in their family. 

3. Signs and symptoms

People don’t start out as problem gamblers. It starts as a fun activity, but somewhere along the way it begins to cause problems. If you think it's a problem, it probably is.

Look out for these warning signs:

  • a significant interest in gambling and gambling-related activities
  • problems in school, such as a loss of interest or unexplained absences
  • changes in personality or behaviour
  • changes in relationships (new friends and acquaintances whilst ignoring old friends)
  • changes in mood
  • explosive bouts of anger
  • displays of anxiety and stress
  • spending more time and/or money gambling than intended
  • wanting to stop gambling or betting but thinking it’s too hard
  • telling lies about winnings
  • having arguments with family or friends
  • returning to win back money or possessions you’ve already lost
  • feeling bad about gambling
  • regularly missing or being late for school or work
  • being criticised for gambling or identified by others as someone with a problem
  • borrowing money from people and not being able to pay them back because it’s been lost to gambling


Think that you or someone you know might have a problem?Check out GamCare’s self-assessment quiz

4. Types of support

Asking for help

If you know that your gambling is causing you difficulty but you’re not sure how to talk about it, GamCare advisers are available to listen. When the people in your life know about your gambling, and, more importantly, know you want to do something about it, it makes it easier for you to make changes.

Help your friends and family find out more

The more the people in your life know about gambling, the better they’ll understand the situation and what they can do to support you. You can:

  • direct them to the Big Deal or GamCare websites
  • encourage them to call the National Gambling helpline


If you are concerned about the amount of time or money that you or someone you know is spending gambling, you can talk in confidence to a GamCare adviser, one to one, by phone or online.

Call 0808 8020 133 or visit

The helpline is available 8am to midnight, seven days a week. Calls are free from landlines and most mobiles. 




Last updated 11 March 2016

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