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A Close Relative of Mine Needs Help With Gambling Debts. – George

“Dear Steve,

Hi Steve, A close relative of mine owes over $30,000 in credit cards debts due to his gambling problem. He asks me for help, and so I am trying to help him settle these debts with the CC companies for as much as 50%. He does not own any house or car or has any savings, and he is currently unemployed. Bankruptcy is unthinkable for us. We force him to attend Gambling Anonymous meetings.

Should I let these credit card companies know that the reason he owes so much cc debts is because of his gambling issue; and that also because of his gambling issues, he does not have any house, car, savings or job; and that I am willing help him pay the debts if they are settled for 50% of the original amount? Or should I just let these cc companies know about his pathetic situation minus the gambling part?


Dear George,

The story is of minor importance with the credit card companies. Acceptance is based on the corporate policy and the status of his accounts at the time you approach them. Typically the person needs to be at least 90 days past due on their debts to get to the best deals offered by the banks. Falling behind will hurt their credit.

Make sure that if you do approach them that you get agreements from all of them before you start settling debts. Your relative won’t be out of debt unless all agree.

I find your statement to be interesting and I’m concerned that the decision to take bankruptcy off of the table may not be the most prudent.

Your relative has found themselves in gambling debts and has a gambling problem. If you are “forcing him” to attend Gambler Anonymous meetings that tells me he is not ready for change yet. Change is tough enough, even when the person is willing to seek assistance them self for a problem they self-identify.

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Bailing out this person that you love seems more like enabling them than making them responsible for their bad behavior. As part of a 12 step program it is beneficial for the individual to accept responsibility for their actions and make amends. It is part of the healing process.

The 12 Steps of Gamblers Anonymous
  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.

By you bailing them out it only makes it easier for that person to reoffend and get back into gambling. You are sending them the message that they don’t have to be responsible for their actions since you are bailing them out.

Since you asked me for advice, I’ll give you my honest opinion based on experience in helping others since 1994. I think settling the debt for them is a complete mistake. Settling will result in bad credit for them, so will bankruptcy, so will not paying. But by settling this debt with your money, or family money, you are simply helping the person to discharge their responsibility for their actions in a way that will most likely lead to a repeat of their pattern of abuse.

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I think you believe that GA can be a helpful tool in the recovery of this gambling addiction but I think that you should contact the GA sponsor of your family member and ask for their opinion on this course of action. Let the sponsor give you feedback if they think that your enabling the person to escape the consequences of their gambling assists or hinders their recovery.

Do that first, and then come back and give me an update in the comments section of this question and let’s then take it to the next step.

I think you’d agree with me that the ultimate goal here is to help this person you love to break free from their addiction to gambling. I’m not convinced that the forcing them to attend meetings and bailing out of debts will result in achieving the goal. It usually doesn’t and I’ve seen the situation before.

I’m here for you, I care, and I’m offering you my help for free. Just because I don’t agree with your initial plan of action, does not mean I am not on your side here.


You are not alone. I'm here to help. There is no need to suffer in silence. We can get through this. Tomorrow can be better than today. Don't give up.

About the author

Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.


  • I find it very interesting that they think it’s OK to lose everything and have nothing and pay because of gambling, yet bankruptcy is the wrong thing to do. Also interesting that being an enabler is acceptable. Good luck with settlements!

  • I am no mental health expert, but I have seen clients gambling problems and help them in bankruptcy. From what you describe, it does not appear that your relative hasn’t dealt with his gambling issues because he hasn’t hit the proverbial brick wall. He isn’t ready for help yet.

    I’ve filed bankruptcy cases for people with gambling problems before. One couple dealt with their problems and got a clean start with Chapter 7. Another person insisted that he no longer had a problem. His failure to cooperate with me resulted in the dismissal of his case and he eventually lost his home to foreclosure.

    If someone has diabetes, all the medication in the world won’t help them if they don’t change their diet as required. So it goes with gambling.

    If you must provide support, don’t enable the habit. Don’t give him cash to pay the rent. Right the rent check to the landlord. Don’t give him cash for food…buy the food. Don’t give him money for the electric bill…write the check to the electric company.

    The world will not end if he does not pay his bills. Once he gets the treatment that he needs, he’ll be a good candidate for a Chapter 7. Treat the addiction first, and then focus on curing the financial ills. Bankruptcy can only remedy past money problems, not prevent future ones.
    .-= Carl H. Starrett II´s last blog ..California’s 90-Day Foreclosure Moratorium Really Isn’t =-.

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