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Co-Workers and Gambling

​​​​​​​​If you think one of your co-workers has a gambling problem, you may feel uncomfortable saying something to the person. It’s awkward to bring up personal issues in the workplace—and money is a sensitive subject. However, you can say that you are concerned in a caring way.


Gambling is a popular form of recreation in Alberta. At work, it may mean playing the office pool, buying a raffle ticket, or dropping a few loonies into a video lottery terminal over the lunch hour. Most people who do these activities don’t develop gambling problems.

Signs of problem gambling

For about 5 out of 100 adult Albertans, however, gambling is a problem. It may be spending more than you meant to, even it only was once, or it may be an ongoing problem with you losing money and getting more in debt. There are a few people who can’t control their gambling much as those addicted to alcohol can’t control their drinking.

The negative effects of problem gambling can extend into the workplace. A person with a gambling problem may be too distracted to focus on work. Work and other commitments may be scheduled in a way that doesn’t get in the way of gambling or gives the person more chances to gamble. The gambler may regularly take long lunch hours. He or she may even use money from staff funds to gamble or cover debts.

Signs of a possible gambling problem are:

  • spending a lot of time gambling
  • often borrowing money
  • always boasting about winnings
  • complaining about debts more than usual
  • having a lot of mood swings (highs and lows)
  • spending more and more time gambling during lunch hours and after work
  • making more personal calls than usual
  • work is suffering: being distracted, missing deadlines, having many absences or can’t explain their absences
  • having personality changes: being irritable, secretive, or dishonest

What can I do?

Before you share your concerns, it helps to be clear about your role. As a concerned colleague, you could simply share what you’ve noticed with your co-worker. Don't try to diagnose the problem, give advice, or expect any sign that your co-worker accepts your concern.

These tips may help you:

  • Be clear, don't judge, and speak only for yourself.
    I've been noticing changes in your work, and I am worried about you.
  • Use work-related observations.
    I see you coming in very late from lunch every day, too distracted to work all afternoon.
  • Be positive.
    Your work is usually so good, and you always meet your deadlines.
  • Explain how the problem affects you.
    I have had to finish two of your projects.
    I had to cover up your absence last Monday afternoon.
  • Be clear about your position.
    I won't be covering up for you again, and I won't lend you any more money.
  • Respect personal boundaries.
    I don't want to pry into your life, but I had to let you know I am concerned.
  • Be prepared for them to deny they have a problem or become very angry at you.
    It must be uncomfortable to hear this. It's hard for me to bring it up, too, but I am concerned about you.

Your co-worker's reaction to your remarks could range from thanking you for your concern to denial to being very angry. It’s hard to know how he or she will react. Your co-worker:

  • may get help
  • may get help, but it takes a few talks
  • may not do anything about it

Whatever your co-worker chooses to do, you have given the information and support they need.

AHS Addiction Services has information about problem gambling. It offers confidential counselling to people with gambling problems and those who are concerned about them. You can also get information and support from Gamblers Anonymous (GA) and Gam-Anon. Check your telephone directory for listings or call the 24-hour Help Line to see if there is a group in your area.

If you are worried that you or someone you know may be having problems with gambling we’re here to help. Our addiction treatment services are voluntary and confidential. For more information and to find an addiction services office near you, please call the 24-hour Help Line.

Current as of: April 11, 2019

Author: Addiction and Mental Health, Alberta Health Services