The expansion of the gaming industry in the last two decades has captured the imagination of players from around the world. More and more jurisdictions are allowing for legal brick-and-mortar casinos in areas that did not previously allow gambling. State and national lotteries promise millions in winnings while creating a new funding source for governments. The advent of the internet has given rise to a wave of online casinos, poker rooms and sports books.
As the growth in gambling outlets has grown, so has the problem of gambling addiction. With so many more avenues for players to access their favorite games, as well as ways for them to fulfill their dreams of winning big jackpots, the fun and excitement of gaming quickly becomes an obsession with chasing losses. Problem gamblers will often deplete their savings, sell their belongings and exceed their credit limits, all in pursuit of the “high” that comes with winning.
Gambling Addiction Symptoms
Millions of players, both in casinos and online, enjoy the experience of playing their favorite games, win or lose. However, many others purse gambling as a compulsion, rather than as entertainment. Problem gamblers will play regardless of the time, expense or logistics involved, as long as the play satisfies their insatiable craving. Some symptoms of gambling addiction include:
· Lack of control. Problem gamblers play until their funds are depleted
· Keeping secrets. Problem gamblers often hide their gambling activities from friends, family and co-workers.
· Desperate for money. Problem gamblers will sell belongings or ask close friends for more money to fuel their addiction.
· Increasing debt. Problem gamblers go into debt with friends, increase their credit card spending, or borrow money from illicit sources to continue playing.
Gambling Addiction Statistics
The statistics surrounding problem gamblers are both disturbing and frightening. Poverty, debt, crime, divorce and suicide are other issues that often follow in the wake of the problem gambler.
· Poverty. Most players who take part in state or national lotteries have incomes below the national poverty level.
· Debt. Male problem gamblers in the US have an average debt of $75,000, most of which comes from high-interest credit cards.
· Crime. Nearly two-thirds of all problem gamblers commit crimes – including robbery, burglary and assault – to fund their gambling addiction
· Divorce. The divorce rate among problem gamblers is more than double that of non-gamblers.
· Suicide. Half of all problem gamblers consider suicide; twenty percent of problem gamblers attempt suicide.
Gambling Addiction Among Young People
With the spread of internet gaming sites and the growing popularity of online poker, the prevalence of problem gambling among youngsters is a growing concern. On average, young people use and understand the internet more than their parents, thus they frequently access online gaming sites. They may use their parents’ credit cards – often without their parents’ knowledge or permission – to start an online gaming account.
From 2001 to 2005, according to research study conducted by Family First Aid, the use of internet gambling sites by high school and college-age youngsters increased sevenfold. Psychologists and other experts cite the youngsters’ familiarity with video games and the technology that allows the online gaming sites to translate the traditional casino experience into a video-game format.
How to Determine if You are a Gambling Addict
Gamblers Anonymous, the support group designed to help problem gamblers, has designed a questionnaire for players to determine if they are problem gamblers.
1. Did you ever lose time from work or school due to gambling?
2. Has gambling ever made your home life unhappy?
3. Did gambling affect your reputation?
4. Have you ever felt remorse after gambling?
5. Did you ever gamble to get money to pay debts or solve financial difficulties?
6. Did gambling cause a decrease in your ambition or efficiency?
7. After losing, were you compelled to win back your losses immediately?
8. After a win did you have a strong urge to return and win more?
9. Did you often gamble until your last dollar was gone?
10. Did you ever borrow to finance your gambling?
11. Have you ever sold anything to finance gambling?
12. Were you reluctant to use “gambling money” for normal expenditures?
13. Did gambling make you careless of the welfare of yourself or your family?
14. Did you ever gamble longer than you had planned?
15. Have you ever gambled to escape worry or trouble?
16. Have you ever done or considered doing something illegal in order to finance gambling?
17. Did gambling cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?
18. Do arguments, disappointments or frustrations make you want to gamble?
19. Did you ever have the urge to celebrate any good fortune by gambling?
20. Have you ever considered suicide as a result of your gambling?
If you have answered “Yes” to seven or more of these questions, you may want to consider getting help for your gambling problem.
How to Get Help for a Gambling Addict
Along with the growth in the gambling industry, the avenues for problem gamblers to get help with their addictions have also expanded. The most established source for help is Gamblers Anonymous.
Gamblers Anonymous is a twelve-step program, similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, where problem gamblers can get help from other people who have faced the same problem. GA is also one of the most successful recovery programs for problem gamblers.
Psychotherapy is also a useful tool to help problem gamblers deal with their addiction. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help the patient deal with the underlying issues behind the gambling addiction in an effort to stave off the cravings for action.
If you feel that you may have a gambling problem, you can visit the Gamblers Anonymous web site at www.gamblersanonymous.org.