Gambling Addiction - What defines it? What drives it? and What the Expected Outcomes Are as a Result of It?

Gambling Addiction - What defines it? What drives it? and What the Expected Outcomes Are as a Result of It?

Everyone knows the premise of gambling. One goes into a casino to have a good time, spend a little money and go home. After all, one game of poker never hurt anyone. The issue is when one game turns into two, three, or four. The problem is, the house will always win and inpiduals addicted to gambling don’t understand this factual statement until it’s too late. They also don’t understand how their addiction can lead to damages not only to relationships but also to the social economy as well.

What is Problem Gambling and Compulsive Gambling?

Criteria have been developed to diagnose an inpidual with a gambling issue. As per the National Council on Gambling Criteria, problem gambling, which includes compulsive or pathological gambling includes: “a progressive addiction characterized by increasing preoccupation with gambling, a need to bet more money more frequently, restlessness or irritability when attempting to stop, "chasing" losses, and loss of control manifested by continuation of the gambling behavior in spite of mounting, serious, negative consequences”.

In addition, the National Council has developed questions one can answer to determine if she or he has a gambling problem. They are as follows:

  1. You have often gambled longer than you had planned.
  2. You have often gambled until your last dollar was gone.
  3. Thoughts of gambling have caused you to lose sleep.
  4. You have used your income or savings to gamble while letting bills go unpaid.
  5. You have made repeated, unsuccessful attempts to stop gambling.
  6. You have broken the law or considered breaking the law to finance your gambling.
  7. You have borrowed money to finance your gambling.
  8. You have felt depressed or suicidal because of your gambling losses.
  9. You have been remorseful after gambling.
  10. You have gambled to get money to meet your financial obligations.

About 1,100,000 Americans in 1976 were addicted to gambling. Today, due to the increased prevalence and acceptance of gambling, the numbers are much higher. As is known, the actual act of gambling is one spending money. Money that will in all likelihood will not be recuperated. When an inpidual meets the criteria for pathological gambling as discussed above, many things are put at stake. Some of the most common areas hit include the following:

  • Family savings are lost
  • College education or retirement funds are spent
  • Home mortgages are foreclosed as inpiduals cannot pay premiums
  • Credit card debts increase
  • Stress levels can rise


The Fear of Losing

As an inpidual becomes more and more engrossed in winning, stress levels continue to rise. In addition to monies being pulled from areas they should not be, this stress leads to a greater chance of domestic violence occurring. An example is the increase of domestic violence to 69% since casinos came to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the mid 1990’s. It was also estimated that approximately 37% of pathological gamblers have at some point or another abused their children.

The backlash of losing to the house is great for the gambler and society in that, as stress rises and a domestic violence incident, for instance occurs, law enforcement and courts can become involved. These are public monies now spent on one inpidual’s problem. In fact, it is estimated that the average Gamblers Anonymous participant has acquired debts ranging from $35,000 to $92,000 before seeking treatment.

Gambler Turned Felon?

The term is white collar crime. If one must continue the thrill of maybe winning, the habit must be supported at any length. Grandmother’s pearls are pawned, loans are begged from friends and family and finally, when all of these resources have spent, the stealing begins. These monies are often stolen from employers. This is a cost to the employment agency as well as leading to eventual firing of the gambler. Now they are not only still losing to the house but are also unemployed which means a further request from societal funding. The result: bankruptcy, unemployment checks, and the possibility of suicide.

What Kind of Crimes Does the Pathological Gambler Commit?

The most popular are the following:

  • Embezzlement
  • Check kiting
  • Tax evasion
  • Insurance fraud- estimated at approximately $1,300,000,000 per year.

Perhaps the most troubling part of this equation is the inpiduals who commit these crimes are usually first time offenders. They’ve never been in any type of trouble. They are white collar workers, type a personalities who aren’t used to losing. What these inpiduals do not realize is their losses end up costing the country about $40 billion dollar per year as of a 2006 statistic.

The Solution?

Many would say stop the gambling before it begins. The other solution is getting these inpiduals into treatment the moment a gambling problem is suspected. That is perhaps the best way to stop a potentially dangerous problem from reeling out of control.

Rachel Hayon, MPH, RN

The National Council on Gambling Accessed 23 November 2008.
10 Questions for Gamblers Accessed 23 November 2008.
Horn, B. Is There a Cure for America's Gambling Addiction? USA Today (Magazine) | Date: May 1, 1997. Accessed 23 November 2008.
Van Riper, Tom. The 5 Most Expensive Addictions. Published 13 October 2006. Accessed 22 November 2008.

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