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Co-workers and gambling

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​If you think a co-worker has a gambling problem, you may feel uncomfortable saying something to them. It's awkward to bring up personal issues in the workplace—and money is a very sensitive subject. However, you can say that you're 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 dollars into a video lottery terminal (VLT) over the lunch break. Most people who do this don't develop gambling problems.

Signs of problem gambling

For about 1 in 20 adult Albertans, gambling is a problem. It may be spending more than you meant to, even if 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 like 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 so they don't get in the way of gambling or so that they have more chances to gamble. The gambler may regularly take longer lunch breaks so they can gamble. They 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
  • borrowing money often
  • 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 breaks 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, keeping secrets, 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 talk to your co-worker about what you've noticed with them. Don't try to diagnose the problem, give advice, or expect any sign that they accept 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'm worried about you.
  • Use work-related observations.
    I see you coming in late from lunch every day, and often too distracted to work all afternoon.
  • Be positive.
    Your work is usually so good, and you used to always meet your deadlines.
  • Explain how the problem affects you.
    I've had to finish 2 of your projects recently.
    I felt that 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 that I'm 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'm concerned about you.

Your co-worker's reaction to your remarks could range from them saying thank you for your concern to denial to being very angry. It's hard to know how they 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.

Alberta Health Services Addiction Services has information about problem gambling. It offers confidential (private) counselling to people with gambling problems. Counselling is also available for 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 Addiction Help Line to see if there is a group in your area.

If you're worried that you or someone you know may be having problems with gambling, there is help available. Addiction treatment services are voluntary and confidential. For more information and to find an addiction services office near you, please call the Addiction Help Line. Help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.​

Current as of: June 15, 2022

Author: Addiction and Mental Health, Alberta Health Services