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Gamblers Anonymous (GA) – 12 Step Program

What is Gamblers Anonymous?

Gamblers Anonymous is a 12-step fellowship for individuals who suffer from gambling addiction. In the United States, approximately 1% of the population suffer from the disease of gambling addiction. The fellowship provides a safe place for individuals whose lives have become unmanageable due to their gambling. Defined as compulsive gambling instead of a gambling disorder, individuals who suffer from this addiction understand that it is an illness that will progressively worsen if not treated.

Many individuals who first enter the program see themselves as weak or “no good,” but accepting the addiction, especially as an illness, is the only way to get better and begin the recovery process. Although anonymity is maintained in the program, for many gamblers, their addiction is no secret to their friends and loved ones. It doesn’t matter why, how much was gambled, or what has been lost; anyone who wants to recover from their gambling addiction is welcome.

When did Gamblers Anonymous begin?

The fellowship of Gamblers Anonymous began in January 1957 by two men, one of which was an alcoholic and had been attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. As the men continued to regularly meet and discuss their gambling problems, they realized that with continuous discussion, neither of them had gambled in months. After some publicity through the media, the first official Gamblers Anonymous meeting was held in September 1957 in Los Angeles, California.

Although there were only 13 people in attendance of the first meeting, as of 2005, there were over 1,000 groups in the United States. In November 1961, Australia held its first meeting and was the 2nd country to officially establish the program of Gamblers Anonymous. Since then, the fellowship has continued to grow and flourish with availability in over 12 countries worldwide. An abundance of literature has been published for the group, including the big book, “Sharing Recovery Through Gamblers Anonymous,” the red book, “A New Beginning,” and much more.

How does Gamblers Anonymous work?

The fellowship of Gamblers Anonymous provides a safe place for individuals to discuss their problems, past experiences and gain support through other members. In order to gain success through the program, members must let go of the idea that they are like other people and control their gambling. Finding hope through others in the program gives newcomers the strength to see that attaining a normal way of life is possible and relief can be found from their illness.

Before entering the program, some individuals may not think their gambling is a problem because they have the ability to abstain for long periods of time, but if triggered, relapse into gambling once again. Willpower alone is not enough for compulsive gamblers to stop their gambling. The other symptoms that reside with gambling addiction need to be addressed before recovery is successful. Because compulsive gambling is more than just financial problems, it is crucial for members to address the emotional problems that come with it, which can include isolation and loss of relationships. After beginning the program, many members often do find financial relief through hard work and repayment of debts. Members are also reminded that bankruptcy, loaning and borrowing money is not recommended because it can be detrimental to the recovery process.

Why does Gamblers Anonymous work?

Practicing the steps, utilizing the suggestions and information that other members can give and obtaining a sponsor helps lead to successful recovery in the program of Gamblers Anonymous. In the program, individuals are successful because they are forced to look at their own character defects and change themselves. Instead of focusing on curing themselves or stopping gambling only, members have the opportunity to eliminate character defects and increase moral progress.

Addressing the negative characteristics that many gamblers have when entering the program, including emotional insecurity, immaturity and unwillingness to accept reality can help these individuals improve their happiness. Many compulsive gamblers only feel like themselves when they are gambling, so addressing these character flaws can help increase happiness. Along with attending meetings, members are encouraged to obtain a sponsor in the program. A sponsor can help newcomers work the steps of the program, share their tools of recovery and help others succeed in maintaining their recovery.

It is important for individuals entering the program to understand that they are not alone in their gambling addiction. In meetings, they will find others’ experiences, strength and hope and see that recovery is possible for those who work the program diligently. If individuals are struggling as to whether or not they feel they may be a compulsive gambler, there is a 20-point questionnaire available on the official Gamblers Anonymous website to decide whether or not the program is a good fit.

Common Questions about Gamblers Anonymous

Where can I find a Gamblers Anonymous meeting?

There is a directory available on the official website to find meetings, including open and closed meetings. There are no formal virtual meetings on the website, but for individuals who cannot physically attend a meeting and need to speak to someone immediately, there are phone numbers available for the Gamblers Anonymous hotline in many states.

Does it cost money to join?

Gamblers Anonymous is absolutely free for individuals who want to join. The only requirement for membership to the program is the desire to stop gambling. There are never any dues, fees or costs for members. Like many other self-help groups, Gamblers Anonymous is self-supporting through their own contributions and never requires monetary donations from members or external sources. Members are encouraged to contribute when they can and what they can but are never required to.

What is a higher power required for in the program?

Although Gamblers Anonymous is not a religious organization, it is important for members to obtain a higher power, as stated in the 2nd step of the recovery program. Members in the fellowship come from many different areas of faith. A higher power helps individuals look at a power greater than themselves to help them abstain from gambling, which they are encouraged to interpret however they like.

How do I know if I need Gamblers Anonymous?

There is a questionnaire available on the official website for individuals who want to decide for themselves whether or not they are a compulsive gambler. Aside from the questionnaire, many gamblers suffer from issues including continuous problems in many aspects of their life, a feeling of defeat when it comes to gambling, severe financial problems, avoiding maturity by continuing to gamble, feeling secure only when betting or gambling and the urge to be a “big shot.”

What are the 12 steps in Gamblers Anonymous?

Following the same format as many other 12-step programs, the 12 steps of Gamblers Anonymous are as follows:

1. We admitted we were powerless over gambling – that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to a normal way of thinking and living.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of this Power of our own understanding.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral and financial inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have these defects of character removed.

7. Humbly asked God (of our understanding) to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having made an effort to practice these principles in all our affairs, we tried to carry this message to other compulsive gamblers.


What are the 12 steps in Gamblers Anonymous?

1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon group unity.

2. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.

3. The only requirement for Gamblers Anonymous membership is a desire to stop gambling.

4. Each group should be self-governing except in matters affecting other groups or Gamblers Anonymous as a whole.

5. Gamblers Anonymous has but one primary purpose – to carry its message to the compulsive gambler who still suffers.

6. Gamblers Anonymous ought never endorse, finance or lend the Gamblers Anonymous name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.

7. Every Gamblers Anonymous Group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.

8. Gamblers Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.

9. Gamblers Anonymous, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.

10. Gamblers Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the Gamblers Anonymous name ought never be drawn into public controversy.

11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, films, television and Internet.

12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of the Gamblers Anonymous program, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

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