Regular players of the pokies find it difficult to identify early warning signs that they are addicted, according to a study published on Monday.
The ANU study of regular gamblers in Canberra also finds they are very reluctant to intervene when they think someone might have a gambling problem.
The report is one of the first pieces of research undertaken that investigates people's knowledge and beliefs about gambling participation and problem gambling.
It was commissioned by the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission and comes as the federal government is moving towards a trial in the territory of limits on poker machine gambling.
The ANU surveyed 25 adults who play electronic gambling machines at least once a week.
It found these regular players find it difficult to describe responsible gambling beyond "not spending more than you can afford" or to identify signs and symptoms of problem gambling outside of gaming venues.
The participants also had very little knowledge about services available for people with gambling problems beyond the telephone number advertised on playing machines.
Knowledge about problem gambling tended to increase among people who had experienced harm as a result of their gambling.
The report author, Dr Annie Carroll from the Centre for Gambling Research in the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences said the study pointed to the need for change.
"Given that people with gambling problems are unlikely to seek help, and family and friends find it so difficult to intervene, a better understanding is needed of how broader social institutions can support and encourage individuals, their families and friends to seek timely help for gambling problems," she said.
Chief executive officer of the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission Greg Jones said the study's findings would help the commission target its messages to people who may need some help or guidance in controlling their level of gambling expenditure.
"We understand from the study that people are reluctant to intervene when they think someone might have a problem with their gambling," he said.
"The commission urges anyone experiencing problems with their gambling, or their family and friends, to seek help.
"Free help is available and we want to foster open conversations on this difficult topic."