Gambling Addiction: Betting Your Life—And Losing Every Time

Posted on December 30, 2012 by VITAL WorkLife

According to the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), approximately 6-9 million (or 2-3%) of Americans have a gambling problem—and there are no winners in this group.

The way problem gamblers gamble puts them and their families at financial and emotional risk. It's often called "the hidden addiction," because by the time friends and families become aware of the problem, the gambler has often created a mountain of debt, is in trouble at work—and may have committed some sort of financial fraud in order to bankroll a last, desperate bet.

Problem gambling can affect men and women of any age, race or religion, regardless of their social status. Problem gamblers are much more likely than other people to have problems with drinking, drugs and smoking, and to suffer from depression.

There is also a strong link between suicide and pathological gambling.

Online Gambling: A New Risk

When gambling only took place in casinos, gambling addiction was already an increasing problem. However, with the rise in online gambling, research is showing a higher risk for developing addiction—a 2007 British study showed that online gamblers were 10 times more likely to be compulsive gamblers than those who went to casinos.

Furthermore, online gambling has opened the door to a broader audience, including teens and adolescents. There is research showing that young males are most likely to engage in online gambling, and that approximately 4% of teens may have a gambling problem. Although online gambling is illegal for those under the age of 18, there is little to stop anyone with a credit card from participating.

According to Dr. Brent Conrad, a psychologist who specializes in the treatment of computer, internet and video game addiction, there are several risk factors for online teen gambling:

  • Private, unlimited access to the internet (i.e., in a bedroom)
  • Having immediate family members who gamble
  • Starting to gamble at an early age
  • Frequent use of "free-to-play" areas on gambling websites
  • Experiencing a big win shortly after starting to play
  • Boredom and loneliness
  • Strong sensation-seeking tendencies
  • Impulsivity

Warning Signs of a Gambling Problem

How do you know if you or someone you care about has a gambling problem? Here are some warning signs, regardless of where the gambling is taking place:

  • Lying about money
  • Unexplained absences from work or family events
  • Cash withdrawn from checking, savings or investment accounts
  • Requests for "short-term" loans that are rarely repaid

We Can Help

Listen to your instincts. If you think there is a problem, chances are there is one. If you are worried about your own or a family member's gambling, simply call 800.383.1908—any time of the day or night—to speak to an EAP consultant.

Helpful Online Resources

Visit your Member Website for access to these articles regarding problem gambling in the "Balancing/Addiction and Recovery" section, under the category "Gambling and Online Gaming":

  • Gambling Addiction: It's Not Whether You Win or Lose, but How You Play the Game
  • Gambling Responsibly

Pathways to Well Being Call VITAL WorkLife at 800.383.1908 or access resources through your VITAL WorkLife App

Tags in this post

Interested in learning more?  

Contact Us

All Entries

Get New Insights Delivered to Your Inbox