Gambling Addiction Counselor – Education, Certification & Salary

Counseling and mental health fields feature a wealth of opportunities for professionals seeking to support and assist individuals in creating and sustaining rewarding lives. Knowledge derived from the discipline of psychology can be applied in countless ways in numerous settings, including business, human resources, child development, rehabilitation services, and personal and career counseling.

According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, two million adults in the United States meet the criteria for severe gambling in any given year. Another four to six million American adults are estimated to have mild to moderate problems with gambling behavior. And like many other problematic behaviors, those who develop a gambling problem do not constitute a uniform demographic. A person experiencing a gambling addiction can come from various gender identities, ages, social backgrounds, and socioeconomic circumstances. Adults and adolescents can both suffer from gambling disorders, with some problem gamblers continuing the behavior even after it begins causing obvious and significant problems in multiple parts of their lives.

Gambling disorder is the only behavioral addiction listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The DSM, issued by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), is the preeminent handbook mental health care professionals use to guide practitioners in diagnosing mental disorders. It is considered the authoritative guide in the United States and many other parts of the world. The APA describes gambling disorder as a repeated, problem gambling behavior that leads to problems for the individual, families, and society. The APA classifies gambling disorder as a non-substance-related addictive disorder.

According to the DSM-5, symptoms commonly associated with gambling disorder include, but are not limited to, a preoccupation with gambling, repeated unsuccessful efforts to stop or reduce gambling, gambling when experiencing difficult feelings, and continuing to gamble even as the consequences prove disastrous to a person’s relationships, work life and/or financial wellness.

As is true of many mental health issues, the development of gambling addiction is attributable to both environmental and inborn factors. Factors contributing to gambling and other addictive behaviors may include peer pressure, inherent character traits, early exposure to gambling behavior in the home or other nearby environments, and desperate circumstances that prompt a person to engage in high-risk behavior in the hope of great reward.

Discover how to become a gambling addiction counselor, including the necessary education, training requirements, certifications, common job responsibilities, and professional associations and resources.

How to Become a Gambling Addiction Counselor

People interested in becoming a gambling addiction counselor often come from diverse personal and professional backgrounds. Highly trained, licensed professionals such as psychologists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, psychotherapists, and psychiatric nurses may seek the additional training necessary to obtain the certification needed to treat those struggling with gambling addiction. 

To become a gambling addiction counselor, an individual must complete formal education and training requirements. They may also be required to meet personal background requirements. Details of these different requirements appear in the sections below.

Education of A Gambling Addiction Counselor

The education necessary to become a professional gambling addiction counselor generally consists of two primary elements: formal academic education and training specific to the issue of gambling. People can enter this profession with various formal academic education experiences, from associate to doctoral degrees.

Education specific to the issue of gambling addiction typically consists of several topical areas. As with many other branches of practice within counseling, the standards and regulations that apply to the education of gambling addiction counseling professionals vary from state to state. It is incumbent on individuals interested in this field to do their due diligence in researching their various training and career options.

There are two tracks an individual usually takes to become a gambling addiction counselor. In one track, a person does not already hold a license to practice in behavioral or mental health. In this track, postsecondary education requirements can vary from an associate to a master’s degree. 

In addition to a degree, such counselors must also have knowledge specific to the issue of gambling and its treatment. Such education will customarily consist of many topics, including basic disordered gambling knowledge, intake and assessment of clients, treatment of families, case management, individual and group counseling skills, working with special populations, and understanding and resolution of legal, financial and occupational issues commonly associated with disordered gambling. 

Upon completing such education, a person may need to pass a knowledge-focused test offered by a state-level commission or council focused on the issue of gambling. A person can often obtain a provisional certification upon satisfactory performance on this exam.

The other major track is designed for licensed professionals in behavioral or mental health. The particular license one can hold to qualify for certification via this track can vary by state. Those following this track commonly hold licenses including LMHP, LIMHP, LAC, LCAC, LADC, or LP. Though there are education requirements specific to knowledge and treatment of gambling issues, these requirements are less robust than those in the track for non-licensed professionals. 

This difference is attributable to the extensive training licensed professionals have customarily already completed, making it unnecessary to repeat exposure to certain topics. Individuals who follow this track will thus typically need less time to complete the requirements to become certified to work in gambling addiction counseling.

Depending on a person’s particular certification status, some professionals may also be able to seek reciprocal certification. For example, holding a current International Gambling Counselor Certification Board-issued credential can qualify a person to receive certification in certain states without being required to complete still more education, testing, and practical experience requirements. 

Individuals seeking to establish a career in substance abuse and addiction counseling with an emphasis on gambling addiction counseling can choose from various degree programs. 

Details regarding the education, training, and other requirements needed to secure various certifications can be found in the licensure/certification section further down this page.

Evergreen Council on Problem Gambling

The Evergreen Council on Problem Gambling offers a Gambling Counselor Core Training designed to help professionals in Washington State become certified gambling counselors (WSCGC-I/II) or supervisors. Individuals who complete this training can also seek certification through the International Gambling Counselor Certification Board. This 30 continuing education units (CEU) program consists of a ten-hour self-directed portion (Part 1) and a 20-hour live-learning webinar portion (Part 2). 

This training is only one part of a person’s full requirements to become a certified gambling counselor in Washington State. This training accepts applications from all individuals, but only those assessed as qualified for the program have the potential to be admitted.

The Evergreen Council also offers a two-CEU course to prepare students for the IGCCB gambling counselor exam. This online self-paced training module costs $22 for ECPG members.

  • Location: Olympia, WA
  • Expected Time to Completion: One to two years
  • Estimated Cost: See website for details 

Nevada Council on Problem Gambling

The Nevada Council on Problem Gambling offers a Problem Gambling Intern Readiness Course. This 30-hour self-paced course consists of five modules for individuals seeking to learn about problem gambling disorder and treatment. 

Completing this course satisfies the Nevada State Board of Examiners for Alcohol, Drug, and Gambling Counselors requirement for a certified problem gambling intern application. This course features content from five learning domains. These domains include,

This readiness course is available on the CASAT learning platform. It is open to anyone seeking to apply to become a problem gambling intern. Funding for course development was provided by the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health Bureau of Behavioral Health, Prevention, and Wellness.

  • Location: Las Vegas, NV
  • Expected Time to Completion: 30 hours
  • Estimated Cost: $340.00

University of North Carolina School of Social Work

The University of North Carolina School of Social Work features the Behavioral Health Springboard (BHS) initiative. BHS connects current research to training programs across North Carolina. These programs focus on topics such as substance use prevention and treatment, problem gambling, and other issues in behavioral mental health. In addition to face-to-face educational programming, BHS offers curricula development, technical assistance, and program consultation.

Among its training programs is “Problem Gambling — Sure Bet.” This training consists of a series of workshops for mental health professionals, including psychologists, clinical social workers, therapists, counselors, clergy, school administrators, peer support specialists, and others interested in learning about problem gambling. 

The training features two levels (Sure Bet One and Sure Bet Two). It is offered live via Zoom platform. Sure Bets One and Two can be completed over two consecutive days. Those interested in further education can participate in Sure Bet Three. Sure Bet Three is a workshop focused on mental health, problem gambling, and financial counseling, and the interconnections between these topics.

  • Location: Chapel Hill, NC
  • Expected Time to Completion: 14 hours; 21 hours if completing Sure Bet Three
  • Estimated Cost: $25 registration fee ($35 when including Sure Bet Three)

Supervised Hour Requirements for a Gambling Addiction Counselor

Supervised hands-on training requirements vary according to a person’s formal academic education level. For example, in Nevada, someone with an associate degree must complete 500 hours of supervised practice broken into smaller amounts of hours aligned with the aforementioned different areas of education. Those with a bachelor’s degree must complete 400 such hours. And those with a master’s degree have a 200-hour requirement. The number of hours and content topics a person must complete to fulfill the hands-on training requirement for certification varies significantly between states.

Upon completing training hours, a person will typically have fulfilled the training requirement to become a certified gambling addictions counselor I (CGAC-I). Those who wish to advance their careers may elect to become a CGAC-II. Such individuals must complete 2,000 supervised practice hours. Generally speaking, a person working full-time to complete 1,000 supervised hours will do so in six months. The supervised training requirement to become a CGAC-II thus usually takes approximately a year to fulfill.

Licensure & Certification of a Gambling Addiction Counselor

Two major organizations are primarily responsible for the training and certification of professionals who seek to work with those living with a gambling disorder: the International Gambling Counselor Certification Board and the National Council on Problem Gambling.

The International Gambling Counselor Certification Board (IGCCB) was established in 1984 to offer voluntary national and international certifications to qualified and competent professionals working in the clinical treatment of individuals with at-risk, problematic, and disordered gambling and their families, close friends, and others. IGCCB certification standards are generally regarded as representative of current best practices in disordered gambling and gaming treatment.

Founded in 1972, the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) is the oldest organization focused on gambling issues. NCPG’s vision is to improve health and wellness by reducing the personal, social, and economic costs of problem gambling. NCPG seeks to fulfill this vision by leading a variety of stakeholders in creating policy and programming for all people impacted by problem gambling. Two principles guide its daily work. First, the organization advocates for both problem gamblers and others whose lives are also impacted by the issues of gambling disorder. 

Secondly, as a matter of principle, NCPG takes no position for or against legalized gambling. NCPG thus does not deliberately work to eradicate the phenomenon of gambling. Many state-level gambling councils also do not take a formal position on legalized gambling.

Those who hold an NCPG membership are offered several benefits. These include discounted access to the organization’s annual conference, information on educational opportunities such as training that award students CEUs, other educational resources such as webinars, and advocacy training. 

Membership also provides valuable access to professional networking resources. Particular certification and recertification resources available through NCPG include the four certification programs listed immediately below. Details regarding requirements for each of these certifications are provided below.

International Certified Gambling Counselor-I (ICGC-I) Certification

  • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent license or certification in a recognized behavioral health field such as psychology, addictions, or clinical social work
  • 30 hours (ICGC-I) of IGCCB-approved gambling-specific training and education
  • 100 hours (ICGC-I) clinical experience treating individuals with a gambling disorder and/or family members in a Board approved setting
  • Consent and evaluations from two co-workers
  • Consent and evaluation from the on-site clinical supervisor
  • Consent and evaluation from a board approved clinical consultant (BACC)

International Co-occurring Gambling Specialist Credential (ICOGS)

  • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent in the behavioral health field, such as license or certification in a recognized behavioral health field such as psychology, addictions, or clinical social work
  • An international/state/jurisdiction-recognized certification or licensure in case management, substance use disorder counseling, or mental health counseling or an equivalency derived from work experience
  • 30 hours of training on gambling disorder, gambling as a co-occurring disorder, and the impact of gambling on substance use and mental health
  • 100 direct contact hours addressing the issue of problem gambling/impact of gambling with clients in primary treatment for mental health and/or substance use disorders with a minimum number of consultations with a Board Approved Clinical Consultant (BACC)
  • Consent and evaluations from two co-workers
  • Consent and evaluation from the on-site clinical supervisor
  • Complete application, ethical statement, and directory authorization forms
  • Payment of applicable fees

International Clergy/Lay Ministers Certification

  • Completion of the specialized 12-hour training module
  • Additional requirements may include adherence to the professional code of ethics, completion of readings, quizzes, and an individual class project, attendance at gambling-related support groups, and verification of meeting attendance
  • Payment of certification application fee

Board Approved Clinical Consultant (BACC)

  • Graduate degree or equivalent from an accredited institution in a behavioral health field; the fulfillment of the education requirement is subject to IGCCB approval
  • Maintain both an ICGC-II (Internationally Certified Gambling Counselor, level II) for two years as well as appropriate state licensure or certification as a qualified health professional that allows an individual to practice independently
  • Demonstrated experience of at least three years as a clinical supervisor in a clinical setting
  • Completion of at least twelve hours of coursework designed to train individuals in how to conduct clinical supervision
  • Hold expertise and experience in the area of disordered gambling as demonstrated by the following two criteria:
    • A minimum of 4,000 hours of direct contact clinical work with individuals with a gambling disorder and/or person affected by disordered gambling; this requirement may be fulfilled, in part, by the 2,000 direct contact hours requirement to become an ICGC-II
    • A minimum of one year of work with individuals with a gambling disorder and/or person affected by disordered gambling after the date of ICGC-II certification
  • Two letters of reference that affirm supervisory and clinical competence in gambling disorder treatment; one reference letter must be from a current BACC.
  • IGCCB may also require a written analysis of a case example and/or an oral interview to further assess an applicant’s qualifications before a certification decision

Additional Training, Certifications, and Designations in Gambling Addiction Treatment

In addition to the aforementioned certification options, various other trainings and certifications are available to gambling addiction professionals. Professionals interested in practicing in a particular state should learn more about that state’s substance abuse and gambling resources and treatment programs as part of their due diligence when researching this profession.

Many states have councils or whole government offices dedicated to addressing the issue of gambling and substance abuse issues within their borders. Government offices often are located within state-level departments of public health. Many state-level councils are preferred providers of IGCCB-offered training and other resources. 

These councils may provide free educational resources as well as continuing education. CEUs are often earned via collaboration between professionals, these state councils, and participating professional associations. There is substantial variety in the programs, geographic accessibility, funding, and other aspects of these resources among the states. Below appears a list of additional training specific to the gambling counseling profession. This is not an exhaustive list.

International Gaming Disorder Certificate (IGDC)

  • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent in the behavioral health field, such as license or certification in a recognized behavioral health field such as psychology, addictions, or clinical social work
  • An international/state/jurisdiction recognized certification or licensure in case management, substance use disorder counseling, or mental health counseling, or equivalency in work experience
  • An approved trainer must offer 15 hours of training in problematic and disordered gaming prevention, assessment, and co-occurring issues for individuals and families
  • 50 direct contact hours focused on issues, prevention, and early intervention associated with a gaming disorder
  • Minimum of four consultation hours with a faculty expert and board-approved clinical consultant (BACC); the BACC consultation requires a contractual agreement that may feature a fee
  • Consent and evaluations from two co-workers
  • Consent and evaluation from the on-site clinical supervisor
  • Completed application, ethical statement, and directory authorization forms
  • Payment of certification application fee

30-Hour Training Course in Disordered Gambling

This training may count towards IGCCB requirements. This self-paced course prepares students for the International Co-occurring Gambling Specialist (ICOGS) certification and the ICGC (International Certified Gambling Counselor) exams. This training may be used to fulfill the 30 CEU hours requirement for problem gambling-specific training.

California Gambling Education and Treatment Services Program

California has long been known as a progressive state defined by its diversified economy and innovative, forward-thinking policy solutions to many problems. The California Gambling Education and Treatment Services Program (CalGETS) is a treatment program for individuals with a gambling disorder and those negatively impacted by problem gambling behavior. Licensed health providers can become authorized CalGETS providers and receive fee-for-service reimbursement from the state. Becoming an authorized CalGETS provider thus offers counseling professionals the benefit of an additional revenue source.

To become an authorized provider in the CalGETS, therapists complete online state-funded training on treating problem and pathological gamblers. Training consists of prerequisite self-guided online material and instructor-led live virtual classroom training. The Phase I training provides an opportunity to obtain up to ten continuing education units (CEUs) for MFTs and LCSWs.

Personal Background Requirements for Gambling Addiction Specialists

In addition to educational and training requirements, some states also have personal background requirements a person must fulfill before being eligible to obtain certification. Some of these requirements may include the following:

  • No history of abuse of alcohol or controlled substances or problems with gambling within a set period immediately before submitting an application
  • A Board may not consider applications from those on parole or probation for a set period
  • Certified individuals must observe “Ethical Standards and Requirements”
  • Fingerprint cards created by an approved fingerprinting agency
  • Not less than 21 years of age
  • Individual is a United States citizen or is lawfully entitled to remain and work in the United States  
  • Application featuring information including social security number, resume, copy of a birth certificate, driver’s license or passport, and copy of the completion of a high school education
  • Additional statements may be necessary to provide information about a person’s financial, professional, or other circumstances; for example, those providing child support must provide the Board with a statement regarding this topic

Gambling Addiction Counselor Certification Renewal Requirements

Professionals seeking recertification can typically find information on recertification requirements through state-level gambling councils and institutions of higher education that offer courses for CEUs. The number of CEUs a person must complete to maintain a current certification typically varies by state and the particular certification a person holds.

What Do Gambling Addiction Counselors Do?

Gambling addiction counselors may screen, treat and support clients in various settings. Duties a gambling addiction counselor are often expected to fulfill include the following:

  • Gather and analyze information from prospective clients to determine if a person may have a gambling disorder; such tasks may include intake interviewing, medical information review, and mental health assessment
  • Provide problem gambling treatment, community education, outreach, and interventions using non-judgmental strengths-based services, affirming and encouraging client’s self-determination to make positive changes to their gambling
  • Serve on multidisciplinary teams to provide various education, referral, and other resources
  • Offer training and other resources to other healthcare professionals to enhance service provision and success rates for clients seeking gambling addiction treatment

Because some professionals develop the skills to specialize in treating gambling addiction after they have already completed extensive training to become counselors, these individuals will ultimately hold several skills and areas of specialized knowledge they can apply to treat various client populations. The training and experience highly skilled professionals usually hold may prove especially helpful to treating clients with complex medical histories, long-standing histories of addiction, dysfunctional families of origin, and the like.

It is not uncommon for a gambling disorder to co-occur with other significant health difficulties. Consider, for example, the positive correlation research demonstrates between gambling disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some studies have shown up to one-third of people with gambling disorder also have PTSD. This is relatively unsurprising, considering that problematic gambling may manifest as a relief-seeking behavior for those seeking to alleviate many symptoms commonly associated with PTSD.

One form of treatment for gambling addiction that has been extensively studied is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Studies have suggested CBT can be an effective therapeutic treatment modality for those struggling with gambling. In CBT, patients change their thoughts and behaviors to reduce and eliminate persistent behavioral patterns causing life difficulties. Regarding gambling addiction, CBT aims to identify and change “cognitive distortions and errors” associated with excessive gambling. In gambling-specific treatment, CBT can include at least four components. These are correcting cognitive distortions about gambling, developing problem-solving skills, teaching social skills, and teaching relapse prevention.

How Much Do Gambling Addiction Counselors Make?

Gambling addiction counselors may work in a variety of settings. The salary they may expect will depend on several factors, including experience, educational attainment, specialized knowledge, and the local job market. 

According to ZipRecruiter (July 2023), the average annual pay for a gambling counselor was $59,039. Most such counselors will earn between $35,000 and $66,000:

  • Average annual salary (mean): $59,039
  • 25th percentile: $35,000
  • 75th percentile: $66,000
  • 90th percentile: $110,500

Below is a listing of salary data for job series in which an addiction counselor may work. Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics represents values reported from May 2022—the latest figures available as of July 2023.

Community and Social Service Occupations

  • Number employed in the U.S.: 2,313,620 
  • Average annual salary (mean): $55,760
  • 10th percentile: $32,360
  • 25th percentile: $38,840
  • 50th percentile (median): $49,380
  • 75th percentile: $64,750
  • 90th percentile: $83,600

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

  • Number employed in the U.S.: 344,970
  • Average annual salary (mean): $56,230 
  • 10th percentile: $34,580
  • 25th percentile: $39,810
  • 50th percentile (median): $49,710
  • 75th percentile: $64,400
  • 90th percentile: $82,710

Other Types of Counselors

  • Number employed in the U.S.: 37,270
  • Average annual salary (mean): $49,770
  • 10th percentile: $31,930
  • 25th percentile: $36,730
  • 50th percentile (median): $43,390
  • 75th percentile: $52,770
  • 90th percentile: $75,340

Gambling Addiction Counselor Professional Associations and Resources

As with many other branches of practice within the counseling field, the standards and regulations that apply to gambling addiction counseling professionals vary from state to state. It is incumbent on individuals interested in this field to do their due diligence in researching their various professional options. Below appears a listing of resources for those interested in or already working within the gambling counseling profession.

Bernd Geels

Bernd Geels


Bernd Geels is a Berlin, Germany-based freelance writer and artist. He holds an undergraduate degree in atmospheric science and two graduate degrees. He completed his most recent graduate degree in international environmental studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in 2011. He is interested in healthcare, climate change, marine conservation, indigenous science and refugee issues. You can reach him directly at [email protected].