How to help an employee with a gambling addiction

Twenty-five percent of gamblers admit their addiction has impacted their ability to work

How to help an employee with a gambling addiction

The global gambling market is expecting to reach revenues of over $525 billion by 2023, as more and more people flock to casinos and bingo halls.

And whilst gambling can be a fun pastime when practiced in moderation, gambling addiction has the propensity to ruin careers and lives. Dealing with any kind of addiction in the workplace can be a minefield for HR leaders. How do you approach the issue? How do you respond to colleague complaints? How exactly can you ensure that you don’t offend the employee in question or wind up with a lawsuit at your door?

Fret not – HRD has some helpful tips on how to help any workers you suspect may be suffering from a gambling addiction.

An estimated 0.6 percent of the adult population has, or has had, a pathological gambling addiction in their lifetime – with a further 2.3% having lived through a less severe addiction. What’s more, a report from the NSW Government found that 25% gamblers admit that their addiction has impacted their ability to work.

This problem can manifest itself in many ways, from using workplace technology to access slot sites to skipping work in favor of the casino. Whilst it can be difficult to diagnose a gambling problem in an employee, there are a red flags you should watch out for:

  • Increased absenteeism
  • Disheveled appearance
  • Taking large blocks of vacation at short notice
  • Excessive use of company telephones
  • Mood swings
  • Theft of company property
  • Arguments with colleagues

Whilst any of these signs may be symptomatic of another problem – or no problem at all – when there’s two or more of them thrown into the mix, employers may want to start looking a little deeper.

So, how exactly do you go about discussing it? Bringing up personal issues in a professional context is a tricky art to master, even for the more distinguished HR practitioner – but that’s no excuse to ignore the problem.

Dr Patrick Smith – CEO of Toronto-based addiction treatment centre Renascent - told HRD how addictions have the ability to irreparably damage an organization.

“Employees with a substance abuse problem and/or addiction are 30% less productive than employees without addiction,” he explained. “They are also late to work three times more often than their peers and are absent from work five times more than their peers. The rate of presenteeism, where the employee is present, but not as productive, is also much higher. They are also more likely to be involved in a workplace accident.

“Remember that addiction affects the entire family, so an employee may be affected by their son's or daughter's, husband's or wife's, or parent's addiction. They are also more likely to be away from work and to suffer from distraction and loss of productivity.”

So, bearing that in mind, what steps should an employer take if they suspect an employee is suffering with an addiction? Try approaching the situation with care – don’t go in guns blazing making unfounded accusataions. Call a one-on-one meeting with the employee and discuss any concerns you may have. Such as:

HRD: “I’ve noticed a drop in the standard of your work lately, which is not like you. Is there anything you’d like to discuss?”


HRD: “I’ve been reviewing your absence levels lately, and it seems you’ve been out of the office rather a lot. Is everything okay?”

From there, it’s much easier to engage in an open dialogue with the employee and form a plan of action. Employers should look into providing education tool and training to help employees understand how gambling addiction can impact their work life. Counselling is also a great option for organizations with a larger budget – as are peer interventions.

However you chose to approach gambling addictions in the workplace, the key is to do so without judgement or preconceptions.

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