GA Meetings

Gamblers Anonymous is a 12-step and 12-tradition-based recovery fellowship for people who struggle with compulsive gambling.


Gamblers Anonymous started in 1957 in the US and came to the UK in 1964. Like most 12-step-based recovery programmes, they use the model pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous to facilitate and promote recovery.

What do Gamblers Anonymous provide help for?


Gamblers Anonymous states that there are only two criteria to attend GA – you must be a compulsive gambler, and you must want to change.


Gamblers Anonymous believe that compulsive gambling is a disease – ‘progressive in nature, which can never be cured, but can be arrested’. They state that many people think of themselves as bad people or morally weak before seeking help, but GA believes that they are suffering from a sickness that they must recover from.


Compulsive gambling is classified as a mental disorder in the DSM-5 called Gambling Disorder.

Gamblers Anonymous in the UK


Gamblers Anonymous holds meetings throughout the United Kingdom. In-person meetings can easily be found in England and Northern Ireland on the GA UK website, but their presence in Wales is weak, with meetings only available in the north, Cardiff and Swansea. Gamblers Anonymous Scotland is separate from Gamblers Anonymous UK and operates its own web presence, listing meetings all over Scotland.


Compared to other 12-step-based recovery programmes, GA UK only holds a few remote meetings for people who cannot attend in person, and those that they do hold are regional. GA does operate a chat room and web forum.

How does Gamblers Anonymous work?


Central to GA are the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous, modified to focus on gambling. GA states the 12 Steps are ‘based on ancient spiritual principles and rooted in sound medical therapy’ and that ‘the best recommendation for the programme is the fact that it works’.


The 12 Steps of GA follow a very similar trajectory to other 12-step-based programmes. By admitting your powerlessness over your addiction and turning your will over to a higher power, you can overcome your addiction, understand yourself more deeply and make amends with those you have wronged.


The 12 Traditions from the ground rules for groups to adhere to so the ethos of the organisation can be preserved. They lay out the need for anonymity, autonomy of individual groups, the self-supporting nature of GA, and the requirements for membership – which is only the desire to stop gambling.


Gamblers Anonymous UK call the 12 Steps ‘The Recovery Programme’ and the 12 Traditions ‘The Unity Programme.’


GA also operates using a sponsorship model, where a member with more recovery time helps support a newcomer in remaining abstinent. Sponsors guide the programme by explaining the 12 steps, introducing the newcomer to other members, and making themselves available for counselling and guidance.

Do you need to be religious to join Gamblers Anonymous?


The concept of a higher power – commonly interpreted as God – is central to all 12-step-based recovery programmes, and GA is no exception. A higher power is a key component of the 12 Steps, and following GA’s Recovery Programme will involve acknowledging a higher power.


GA states that they are made up of people from many faiths, as well as agnostics and atheists, and require no religious belief from their members. They say that their programme is based on certain spiritual values, but the individual is free to interpret them as they see fit.

What to Expect from a Typical GA Meeting


12-step and 12 tradition-based programmes have autonomy as one of their central principles, so meetings are not likely to be identical. GA also run many different kinds of meetings.(10) However, the most frequent type, and the one you will attend first, is a main meeting.


Main meetings generally include reading from GA literature, sharing stories, discussions, and listening to others. At some point during the meeting, newcomers will be asked the GA 20 questions. These questions serve to understand the severity of the individual’s gambling problem. Newcomers are told to be reassured if they answer yes to all or most of these questions, as that’s common.


Checking in and sharing is the most structured part of the meeting, with participants introducing themselves by saying ‘’I’m X. I’m a compulsive gambler, and my last bet was Y.” There also may be sections for unstructured sharing and discussion, and for focusing on specific topics.


Meetings typically close with reflection, prayer or a recitation of the Serenity Prayer. The Serenity Prayer is commonly used in 12-step-based recovery programmes. Its themes of acceptance, courage and wisdom serve as a tool of reflection and as a mantra for recovery.

The benefits of GA meetings

GA is a good source of peer support. This can be especially useful for people who have alienated themselves due to the nature of their addiction and have found themselves isolated. Relationships can be built with the larger group, and also with a sponsor who will take a more active role in supporting your recovery.


GA offers a structured way of comprehending and working through addiction and offers fellowship and community with others struggling with the same addiction as you.

While there aren’t many studies on GA in particular, 12-step-based programmes, in general, have demonstrated good outcomes when studied and are positively correlated with a higher likelihood of abstinence after one or two years.

How to get the most out of GA meetings

Putting effort into the programme and attending meetings is crucial for getting the maximum benefit from GA. Remaining distant and not engaging with the literature will not gain significant results, but building relationships with others and trying to understand them will.


Getting the most out of GA meetings is challenging – a level of honesty is needed to engage fully with meetings and with other people in the community, as is examining the root causes of your addiction and taking responsibility. However, these are necessary steps to get the full benefits of attending meetings.

Gamblers Anonymous near me


To find a local meeting, you can visit either GA UK or GA Scotland’s websites.The path to overcoming gambling addiction is one which needs guidance and support. If you feel you would benefit from treatment, contact us today to learn more about the options you have. 

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Are GA meetings free?
GA does not charge for meetings, and all rentals, literature and other expenses are covered by donations.
How long are GA meetings?
An average meeting can be expected to last an hour to an hour and twenty minutes.
Are there online GA meetings?
Gamblers Anonymous does hold meetings online, but like in-person meetings, they are regional, meaning you will struggle to find a meeting if one isn’t held in your area. However, they do operate a chat room and message board.