A dangerous combination: When drinking and gambling come together

Gambling and Alcohol counsellors often hear people admit: “I only gamble when I’ve had a couple.”

Here are some activities you can try instead while social-distancing at home.

man playing on his laptop phot by jsnbrsc @ unsplash.com


Poker machines are almost always located alongside alcohol — for a reason. Gambling and Alcohol counsellors often hear people admit: “I only gamble when I’ve had a couple.” Research confirms that problem gambling is more common amongst people whose alcohol use is problematic compared with people who drink more moderately.

Businesses know that mixing gambling and alcohol will increase their profits. That’s why TAB’s are increasingly found in clubs and hotels and online gambling businesses try to market themselves as an activity to do while you ‘have a few’ with your mates. They know that a few drinks will loosen people up and they’ll spend (lose) more.

The effects of even a couple of drinks can be dramatic, lowering inhibitions and increasing impulsivity. The changes in behaviour and thinking can result in:

  • finding it harder to stick to limits
  • losing track of time
  • added confidence to keep gambling
  • reduced feelings about losing
  • Impulsively chasing losses.

People who drink to excess can struggle to stay in control and often continue to gamble until all their money is lost.

It’s hardly surprising that increased gambling is a common side-effect of drinking. Many people turn to alcohol to cope with boredom, stress, and unwanted negative emotions such as anxiety. Many people turn to gambling for the same reasons.

As we struggle with the emotional and economic effects of the current pandemic, alcohol consumption and online gambling have increased alongside the stress we feel. It’s an important time to take note of how much you’re drinking, especially if you’re also gambling online.

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Things to try

If you’re still social-distancing at home but finding yourself drinking or gambling more than you’re comfortable with, here are some activities you can try instead:

Take up a new fitness activity.

There are a million tutorials on YouTube. Here are ten ideas to get you started.

Play board games online with your friends.

Not all games involve gambling! Whether you love solving problems, trivia, or elaborate role-playing games, there’s an online board game for you.

Make something!

It feels really good to put something together, whether it’s a big renovation project or something small just for fun. DIY will give you a sense of achievement.

Get your house in order.

Fix up that creaking door, winterise the garden, or paint the shed. There’s no better time than now.


Begin with something small like a cake and enjoy the praise that comes with producing something edible. Here are some recipes to get you started!

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Invest in your future with a free TAFE short course.

Invest in your future with a free TAFE short course.

Until July 31 2020, Victoria and NSW are offering free enrolment in selected short-courses to some state residents, Australian citizens or permanent residents. You could find a new career!

Across the country, venues are gradually reopening. As they do, the danger of combining alcohol with access to pokie machines is also reappearing. Heading to a gambling venue can make drinking feel almost automatic, which in turn makes gambling automatic. As one person on the podcast Not a Dollar More explained:

“I was using alcohol, going for a drink with friends as an excuse to go to a venue. The more I drank the more I lost. It just numbed out all that was going on in my life.”

Limiting your drinking will help you limit your gambling and vice versa. If you do drink, stick to the guidelines recommended by the Australian government — no more than 10 standard drinks per week, and no more than 4 standard drinks per day. Drinking in moderation should help you identify and stick to a gambling budget you can actually afford — only the money that is available after you have already provided for your daily needs and responsibilities.

If you’ve been drinking and gambling more than you’re comfortable with, or if you’re concerned about a family member or friend, we’re here to talk, 24/7.

This blog has also been posted on Gambling Help Online, free confidential gambling counselling 24/7.