What is the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI)?

The Problem Gambling Severity Index is a scoring system used to measure at-risk behaviour in people experiencing problems with gambling. Often shortened to PGSI, the standardised tool can determine common problems associated with gambling.

The severity index includes nine questions about risky behaviours. Each of the person’s answers receives a score of 0 to 3. These scores are then added together to produce the total PGSI score. The lower the PGSI score, the less likely it is that gambling is problematic for the person. On the other hand, a high score indicates that the person is at risk of severe consequences due to gambling.

In this article, we will cover how to interpret your score on the Problem Gambling Severity Index, and what to do if you score highly.

Take your own PGSI quiz

Before you begin, try our in-house PGSI tool to determine your score!

Our gambling behaviour quiz is designed to show you how much of an impact gambling is having on your life.
You will see nine questions about gambling. Select which answer best reflects your own gambling behaviour.
We will then make recommendations for your next steps.

1. When you think of the past 12 months, have you bet more than you could really afford to lose?


2. Still thinking about the last 12 months, have you needed to gamble with larger amounts of money to get the same feeling of excitement?


3. When you gambled, did you go back another day to try to win back the money you lost?


4. Have you borrowed money or sold anything to get money to gamble?


5. Have you felt that you might have a problem with gambling?


6. Has gambling caused you any health problems, including stress or anxiety?


7. Have people criticised your betting or told you that you had a gambling problem, regardless of whether or not you thought it was true?


8. Has your gambling caused any financial problems for you or your household?


9. Have you felt guilty about the way you gamble or what happens when you gamble?


Question 1 of 9

What is gambling severity?

According to the PGSI, gambling severity ranges from a score of zero (low chance of problem gambling) to eight or higher (severe likelihood of problem gambling). But what social and environmental impacts does the tool measure?

The signs of problem gambling can be varied, but there are some top symptoms to look out for. Signs can include:

  • Spending a lot of time gambling
  • Spending less time with friends and family
  • Lying, hiding and stealing, denial
  • Financial difficulties and debts
  • Chasing losses

These symptoms of problem gambling may lead to problems such as:

  • Relationship breakdown
  • Homelessness
  • Loss of employment
  • Mental health crisis

The good news is that there is free, confidential help available for gamblers and their loved ones. Get in touch with us today for free support – the earlier you reach out, the easier it is to fix problems caused by gambling.

Who created the problem gambling severity index?

Ferris and Wynne first created the PGSI in its accessible form in 2001. Their goal was to “develop a new, more meaningful measure of problem gambling for use in general population surveys, one that included more indicators of the social and environmental context of gambling and problem gambling.”

Gradually, organisations around the world began using the PGSI as a way to measure their clients’ gambling severity. More recently, Dr. Rachel Voldberg for the Gambling Commission further developed the PGSI for short-form use (known as the PGSI-mini). The PGSI-mini only has three questions to make it as rapid as possible to score.

How many problem gamblers are there in the UK?

The Gambling Commission reports quarterly on the statistics of gambling prevalence and problem gambling prevalence in the UK. In the 12 months up to September 2022, it found that:

  • 44% of the UK population had gambled in the past four weeks.
  • A total of 3% of the population are estimated to be problem gamblers or at risk of problem gambling.

This amounts to around 2 million people who are experiencing or at risk of problem gambling.
Of course, this is just an estimate and the actual number may be even higher since problem gambling is often a secretive and hidden behaviour and has been historically difficult to study.

How useful is PGSI? Limitations of the Problem Gambler Severity Index

In 2019, a Swedish study on gamblers’ interpretations of the PGSI found that some of the questions contained ambiguities, meaning that answers could be skewed. For example, the question about being critiqued for their gambling was often misinterpreted as referring to mild comments such as their gambling being boring, or being ridiculed for buying lottery tickets (as opposed to people critiquing their massive overspending or isolation due to gambling.)

The risk of self-reporting tools will always be that the answers are only as accurate as the person’s interpretation of the question. There is also the risk that the questions may not be answered entirely truthfully if the person does not feel trust towards the questioner. This can be mitigated slightly by using anonymous online self-assessment tools.

They concluded that low scores on the PGSI should be treated with caution, as they may not reflect the reality of gambling harms for that person.

Alternative problem gambling screens

The main accepted problem gambling screen is the PGSI. However, as mentioned previously, the PGSI-mini screen is now used more widely to get a faster score.

The other screen that we often use at Ara is called the CORE-10. This is a mental wellness measurement tool. CORE stands for “Clinical Outcomes in Routine Evaluation”. It helps us to track clients’ progress before and after they receive treatment for their gambling behaviour. This is useful not just for assessing gambling harms, but also for overall well-being in all aspects of our clients’ lives.

A poker player’s perspective

Sam* approached Ara after taking our free gambling harms quiz. He had scored eight on the quiz, suggesting that he had a serious problem with gambling. After filling in our Get Support form, he received a call from Ara the next day.

Sam discussed his poker playing and how it was spiralling out of control. He had begun just playing once a week but ended up with a habit of playing online poker multiple times throughout the day. Money had become a problem; he had spent so much on poker that he was struggling to pay his rent and couldn’t afford food.

We referred Sam to our free counselling service, which fitted around his job. He attended evening support sessions over the phone and gradually managed to reduce the time spent on gambling. Now he doesn’t gamble at all and keeps on top of his mental well-being with the coping skills he learned from the counselling sessions. In addition, we referred him for financial support to help him cope with the debts he had built up.

Interpreting the results of the PGSI – what does your score mean?

Have you taken our free problem gambling severity quiz? If so, what should you do next? Here’s how to interpret your PGSI score.

you are at low risk of gambling harms

Score of 0

Non-problem gambler – you gamble with no negative consequences.

What should I do next? – Read our 10 Quick Tips to remain in control of your gambling.

Score 1-2

Low-risk gambler – you experience a low level of problems with few or no identified negative consequences. For example, you may very occasionally spend over your limit or feel guilty about your gambling.

What should I do next? – Review our Gambling Resources page to remain in control of your gambling, and if you want more information contact us here.

Score of 3-7

Moderate-risk gambler – You experience a moderate level of problems leading to some negative consequences.

What should I do next? – You’re at risk of developing more severe gambling harms.  You may already sometimes spend more than you can afford, lose track of time while playing, or feel guilty about your gambling.  You could:

Score of 8 or more

Disordered Gambling – You gamble with negative consequences and a possible loss of control. You may often:

  • spend over your limit
  • gamble to win back money
  • feel anxiety, stress, and shame about your gambling.

You are not alone – some 340,000 people in the UK are suffering the most severe gambling harms.  The good news is that you can, like thousands of other people, successfully conquer gambling addiction.

What should I do next?


In conclusion, the Problem Gambling Severity Index is a very useful tool that can be used to find out whether gambling is a problem for you. It does have its limitations, as some problem gamblers may interpret the questions in such a way that they appear lower risk than they truly are. However, it’s great as a rough estimate and can encourage people to seek support for their gambling.

Get in touch with Ara Gambling Service

It’s so important to get help as early as possible if you find yourself struggling with gambling. However, it’s never too late! We can help at any stage in your recovery journey. Get in touch with us in the following ways:

Call us: 0330 1340 286

Fill in our online support form

Six To Ten

Send us an email

Fill in the form below and we’ll get back to you within the next working day.

*Name changed for confidentiality