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What is Gam-Anon?

Gam-Anon is an international organization that offers advice and help for relatives, spouses and friends of compulsive gamblers. It was founded in the 1960s in the USA and its principles are based on the spiritual approach of Gamblers Anonymous. Gam-Anon is an independent organization but it closely cooperates with Gamblers Anonymous. It is not associated with any religious or political group. The only requirement for membership is the gambling problem of a relative, spouse or close friend; members stay anonymous, do not sign any contract and do not pay membership fees.


Meetings and therapy program

The main purpose of the Gam-Anon meetings is to let members release their burdens by talking about their problems with people experiencing the same situation. Members of the Gam-Anon staff are not authorities who give orders; they just offer guidelines, listen with an empathetic ear and try to offer a new approach to what members are going through. Gam-Anon stresses the importance of helping the families and friends of compulsive gamblers. Even if the gambler himself refuses to get professional help, his family and friends should still contact Gam-Anon.

During the Gam-Anon meetings, participants learn...

  • understand and accept the gambling illness
  • rebuild their lives and solve their problems using the Gam-Anon   program and suggestions
  • understand their role as a loved one of a problem gambler
  • think positively and to get rid of feelings of guilt and fear
  • help and support their problem gambler
  • approach the situation according to the 12-step program of Gamblers Anonymous

The main objective of Gam-Anon is not to convice a problem gambler to seek professional help or to cure him or her but to help members live with this difficult situation. So, even if the gambler continues to gamble, members are told to be aware that it is not their fault and to keep attending Gam-Anon meetings.



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How can a problem gambler be helped?

On its website, Gam-Anon lists some advice and suggestions about how to respond to the gambling problem of a loved one. Here are some examples:

  1. Do not question and interrogate the gambler about his or her gambling
  2. Do not nag about past losses, focus on the future
  3. Do not lend the gambler money and also tell friends and relatives not to do so
  4. Do not do extra work or work overtime in order to cover gambling debts
  5. Do not take any responsibility away from the gambler. He should communicate with his creditors himself
  6. Be patient and accept the fact that recovery is a slow process
  7. Encourage the gambler to attend Gamblers Anonymous meetings but do not force him or her to do so

The Gam-Anon website also provides a questionnaire, which helps readers find out if one of your loved ones is or is prone to becoming a compulsive gambler. The website also offers information about compulsive gambling in general, including its psychological background, the most common causes and symptoms of the illness. On the Gam-Anon website, you can also find a list of recommended reading. Books, pamphlets, handouts and CDs are available at the Gam-Anon meetings and through the Gam-Anon International Service Office.

Contact details

Gam-Anon is an international organization with fellowships all over the world. For further information about fellowships and participating groups, please consult the Gam-Anon website or contact the International Service Office:

Gam-Anon® International
Service Office, Inc.
PO Box 157
NY 11357

Phone: (718) 3521 671
Fax: (718) 7462 571

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