Gamblers Anonymous

Gamblers Anonymous was founded in Los Angeles, California in September of 1957. Since that first meeting of people drawn together with a desire to stop compulsive gambling, the organization has grown to more than 1,000 chapters in the United States alone. Gamblers Anonymous is also offering help and support to people in Canada, Europe, The Middle East, and the Pacific Rim.

Gamblers Anonymous Overview

Gamblers Anonymous is a group of compulsive gamblers helping other members with the same illness to stop gambling. All that someone needs to become a member is the desire to achieve sobriety. In this instance, sobriety is a life free from gambling.


The organization views compulsive gambling as an illness, much like alcoholism is a disease. If you are not sure whether gambling is a problem for you, Gamblers Anonymous publishes a list of 20 questions for you to ask yourself.

Traditions, Steps, and Process

Gamblers Anonymous is a 12-step program. The first step is for the individual to admit that they are powerless over gambling. Members of this program make a conscious choice to turn their lives over to a Higher Power to help them change their lives for the better.

The program involves attending meetings on a regular basis. Members share their experiences and discuss strategies for dealing with legal and financial issues that have come about as a result of the gambling addiction. 

Effectiveness: Does Gamblers Anonymous Work?

Gamblers Anonymous doesn't keep track of members' names or publish statistics for people who have suffered a relapse (started gambling again). The organization claims that the program works for those who are willing to work the 12 steps. 

Controversy and Criticism

Critics of Gamblers Anonymous claim that the group has a low rate of members who are able to stop gambling for at least 12 months. They point out that a person is more likely to stop gambling when participating in the Gamblers Anonymous program is done in conjunction with other forms of therapy.

Getting a Sponsor

New members of Gamblers Anonymous are encouraged to find a sponsor to help them in their recovery. A sponsor is someone who has been in the program for a time and has been able to remain sober. A sponsor should be someone that the new member feels comfortable with and who has what the newcomer wants in recovery. New members ask someone to be their sponsor once they find someone they feel they can work with on their recovery.