Is It a Gambling “Problem” if You Keep Winning?

hand holding cash in front of gambling machine

Problem gambling can ruin your life. But is your gambling disorder still a problem if you always seem to come out on top? Even if you’re a “winning” gambler, the simple reality is that pathological gambling is always pathological, no matter how much money you win — and plus, you’re probably not even really making money. Read on to find out why even “positive” gambling activities and outcomes can be problematic if they’re feeding problematic behavior.

The House Always Wins

“The house always wins” is a phrase you’ve probably heard a hundred times by now, and it’s especially true for those with a gambling problem. While it’s a bummer to lose a few bucks at the casino with your family and friends once in a while, the more you gamble, the more money you’re statistically likely to lose.

Even if you feel like you win more often than the average gambler, you’re only going to sink yourself further into financial trouble as you spend more and more money that is difficult or even impossible to get back. Problem gambling can lead to credit card debt that follows you around for the rest of your life — and a bad credit score can disqualify you from taking out loans, finding affordable housing, and more. 

The Danger of “Guesstimating”

Rather than deciding to stop spending money for the night, problem gamblers often end up chasing losses until they feel justified that they’ve won back their money — but have they really? Many pathological gamblers don’t calculate exactly how much they’ve spent on playing casino games or engaging in sports betting, but chances are pretty good that they know how much they’ve won. When you win the big jackpot prize on the slot machines, the excitement you feel as you cash in your huge reward can be difficult to forget. But because you aren’t keeping track of the amount of lost money, you might not realize that your “winning streak” doesn’t even result in you breaking even, let alone coming out on top. 

Beware False Positives

So now we’ve established that if you have a gambling problem, you’re almost certainly not making money, even if you feel like you are. But why do some gamblers still feel the high when they lose? It’s the effect of “false positives.” Your brain rewards you with positive chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin for performing a high-risk activity, which is part of what makes gambling so enticing for some people. 

Denial Is a Red Flag

Problem gamblers that frequently win often deny that their gambling habits are pathological or claim that their activity is aboveboard because they make money gambling. However, this is often little more than an advanced type of denial that people use to subconsciously convince themselves that their problem gambling is acceptable. If you can’t stop gambling but frequently tell yourself that it’s okay because you make some of the money back, take some time now to read about the role denial plays in gamblers’ lives.

The Hidden Extra Costs of Gambling

If you’re still convinced that your gambling activities are making you a profit rather than threatening your financial and mental health, don’t forget that there are other costs you probably haven’t factored into the equation. Here are just a few “hidden costs” to consider:

  • Money spent on travel to and from gambling locations.
  • Money spent on lodging, food, and drinks at or near gambling locations.
  • Time spent engaging in online or mobile gambling at work, harming your productivity.
  • Time spent engaging in online or mobile gambling at home, reducing your free time.

If your gambling problem begins to affect more than just yourself, you can also run into these costs due to money spent on:

  • Paying off interest on gambling-related credit card debt.
  • Late payment and overdraft fees charged by banks, landlords, utility providers, and more. 
  • Professional treatment through private programs.
  • Individual or family therapy for gambling.
  • Attorney fees related to divorce or child custody challenges.

Gambling Problem? Contact Our Free, Confidential Helpline Anytime

When you have a gambling problem, it affects every part of your life. Even if you think you’re winning, you truly aren’t. Find the courage to ask for help and contact our free 24/7 confidential hotline at 800-GAMBLER. We know that you can overcome your gambling problem if you take the steps to change your life, and calling is the first step. Pick up the phone today!


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