Frequently Asked Questions


These are some of the questions about gambling and youth gambling that lots of people ask. If you need to know something you can’t find the answer to, email your questions to us.

What is gambling?

Gambling is defined as risking money – or something of value – on an activity that has an uncertain outcome. Playing the pokies, buying raffle or lotto tickets, using internet casinos, betting on sports matches, placing bets at the casino, playing cards, pool, or video games, for money – it’s all gambling. Some young people gamble to make games more challenging and events more interesting. Some though, get into trouble.

What is problem gambling?

Problem gambling has a negative effect on the life of the gambler or the people close to them like parents, friends, brothers and sisters, boyfriends or girlfriends, and others in their lives. It might be that someone’s gambling is causing them to be unhappy, to fall behind with schoolwork, underperform at work, stress about money, or have arguments with family members and friends. If someone’s gambling is having these sorts of effects, it is considered to be problem gambling.

What is compulsive gambling?

Pathological or compulsive gambling is a more severe form of problem gambling. Pathological or compulsive gamblers are addicted to gambling. Their addiction is characterised by:

  • An increasing interest in gambling
  • Needing to bet more money than before
  • Betting more and more often
  • Feeling restless or irritable when trying to stop gambling
  • Trying to win back money that’s been lost (“chasing losses”)
    Pathological gamblers lose control of their gambling. They are unable to stop even when the negative effects are extreme. They may continue to gamble despite increasing debt, relationship break ups, or health problems.

Who can have a gambling problem?

Anyone can develop a gambling problem. Two of the factors that seem to put young people at risk of developing a problem are a history of gambling in their family and the age they started gambling. The earlier people start, the more likely they are to experience gambling-related problems later on.

How old do you have to be to gamble?

Some forms of gambling have a legal age restriction on them.

  • In New Zealand, you have to be:
  • 18 to buy an instant kiwi
  • 18 to play the pokies
  • 18 to place a bet at the TAB
  • 20 to enter a casino

Did you know that it’s also illegal for someone aged 18 and over to buy an instant kiwi for someone under 18?

How you can tell if someone has a gambling problem?

People don’t start out as problem gamblers. Somewhere along the way the gambling stops being just for fun and starts causing problems. If something’s making you wonder whether there’s a problem, chances are your concerns do have some basis. Some of the things to look out for are:

  • 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 about gambling
  • Going back to win back money or possessions bet
  • Feeling stink about gambling
  • Missing – or being late for – school or work because of gambling
  • Being criticized 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 gambling
    You can try our self-assessment questions

Where can I go for help?

You are welcome to call the Youth Gambling Helpline on 0800 654 659 or the Gambling Helpline on 0800 654 655. We can talk things through with you. It doesn’t cost you anything and you can remain anonymous if you like. You can call us about your own gambling or someone else’s gambling.

We can connect you with other support services. Or you can find out more about the help that’s available for you in New Zealand on our website. Check out our links page too. You’ll find some good sites from around the world relating to youth gambling and there are links to lots of other sites you might be interested in too.

Why do people gamble?

Every gambler has his or her own reasons. Some say they gamble to escape problems in their everyday life, some to relieve boredom, and some because they thrive on the buzz they get from it. Many people who have developed a gambling problem believe that if they stick at it for long enough, they will win enough to cover their losses. In a strange way, money starts to lose meaning – for them it becomes valueless. They reckon they can use skill or strategies to control the outcome of their bets, but gambling is all about chance and no one can control chance.

Can people be addicted to gambling the same way they can be addicted to smoking or taking drugs?

Yes. People who are addicted to gambling get extremely strong and hard to resist the urge to gamble. This urge can make them do things they wouldn’t usually do like go without food, lie, steal, or miss work or school. Research indicates that during a gambling session, the brain of someone with a gambling problem will produce endorphins. The brain naturally releases endorphins to soothe pain and they result in a feeling of euphoria, or a “high”. When someone with a gambling problem says they have an urge to gamble or feel like they “need to gamble”, it’s partly related to the physical longing for endorphins.