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Gambling Addiction

Gambling can be a recreational activity that makes people happy. Many people do it moderately, but unfortunately, some are addicted to it. 


In the United States, one to three percent of adults are addicted to gambling. Such an addiction can lead to bankruptcy, divorce, job loss, and even prison time. 


There are many symptoms of gambling addiction. Some people need to gamble with increasing amounts of money to achieve the desired excitement. Most are restless or irritable when trying to stop. They make unsuccessful efforts to quit over and over again. There are also symptoms related to overthinking, such as the inability to suppress thoughts about it or gambling despite feeling depressed. People addicted to gambling also “chase” their losses, meaning they keep gambling, hoping to win their money back. Besides, they lie about their addiction. Some may lose educational or career opportunities because of gambling. Gamblers want other people to provide money to help with financial problems caused by their issue. 


Gambling addiction can look different depending on gender and age. More men than women are addicted to gambling, but women take less time to develop a gambling addiction. On average, men addicted to gambling have between $55,000 and $90,000 in debt, while women, on average, have $15,000. Younger adults are also more likely to be addicted to sports betting, while older adults are more likely to be addicted to bingo and slot machines. 


In 2018, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a law banning sports betting in every state except Nevada was unconstitutional and allowed states to decide whether to make sports betting legal. Sports betting is currently legal in 32 states, and since the ruling, Americans have wagered more than $150 billion


Making gambling legal can also increase addiction. After the Supreme Court ruling, the National Council on Problem Gambling said that legalizing sports betting can increase gambling participation unless steps are taken to minimize harmThe National Council on Problem Gambling does not take a position on whether gambling should be legal


Casinos want people to be addicted because it helps them make money. Gamblers who are addicted account for 40 to 60 percent of revenue from slot machines.


Besides, governments can limit gambling to prevent addiction. For example, casinos are illegal in Japan. Still, the Japanese government is planning to make them legal with restrictions for residents. They can only enter a casino three times a week. Similarly, in Tasmania, there will be money limits for gambling by the end of 2024In the United Kingdom, credit cards are not allowed for gamblingIn the United States, 30 states and the District of Columbia require casinos to have signs about responsible gambling on premises. That can include brochures about gambling addiction or a helpline number. Also, 19 states and the District of Columbia require training for casino employees to identify players who may be addicted to gambling


Casinos can also prevent addiction. Encore Boston Harbor has a voluntary budgeting tool that allows gamblers to set monetary limits and monitor the amount of money they spend to decide whether to continue or stop playing


Caesars Entertainment, for instance, requires training for casino employees to identify players who may be addicted to gambling


In some cases, voters can decide if gambling should be legal. In California, there are two ballot propositions on sports betting in November. Proposition 26 would allow sports betting at tribal casinos and the four horse racing tracksProposition 27 would allow online sports betting


The National Council on Problem Gambling says that people who bet on sports weekly were five times more likely to report frequent risky behavior


There are stories related to gambling addiction. For example, Paul Pettigrew started gambling at the age of 18 and lost £100,000 by the age of 22. His parents were able to get counseling, and he no longer has a gambling problem. 


However, there are stories of people with more severe problems, some ending in tragedy. Viktor Gjonaj used $19 million from defrauding investors to buy tickets from the Michigan Lottery. In 2010, he thought he had found a sure way to win the lottery and bought $1 million worth of tickets. By 2017, his losses were in the millions, and he is likely to go to prison. Jack Richie, a 27-year-old, had £30,000 in debt and ended his life. Unlike financial problems, issues like these are irreversible. 


Another severe difficulty gambling can pose is divorce and the deterioration of other interpersonal relationships. Divorce because of gambling addiction can hurt the friends and family of the addict. It can lead to broken trust between friends and family. Children can notice something is off as they hear their parents argue and see them sleeping separately. Besides, gamblers may sometimes get violent, and the family will have to leave the addict for their safety. 


There are several treatments for people addicted to gambling. The National Council on Problem Gambling has a helpline people can call from all over the United States. There are also residential treatment centers with constant professional supervision, daily individual and group therapy sessions, and life coaching. Outpatient programs do not require the patient to live in the care center. Addicts can also meet a support group where they can share their experiences and learn from other people. 


Friends and family can also help addicted gamblers. It is important that they talk to the person addicted to gambling by showing support and not judgment. Talking about the consequences can help, and being patient with the person addicted to gambling is essential. 


Gambling does not have to involve addiction. Most gamblers are not addicted, with 70 percent not reporting any risky behavior. It is crucial that people gamble moderately and not allow gambling to become an addiction. It is also vital that governments make decisions that prevent addiction. Casinos should do the same. 

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