Finances - Compulsive Gambling Printer Friendly
Note: Financial problems caused by gambling are covered under the Financial Considerations adjudicative guideline. Compulsive gambling is discussed here as a separate topic because it is a significant concern and is so different from other financial issues.
Moderate gambling, like moderate alcohol use, is an accepted part of our culture and causes no problems. As with alcohol use, however, gambling to excess is a common weakness that may lead to serious security problems. Compulsive gamblers who lose more than they can afford often become so desperate for a quick source of funds that they resort to illegal behavior, including but not limited to embezzlement, fraud, and espionage.
The National Gambling Impact Study Commission, mandated by Congress to study the social and economic impact of gambling in the United States, found that 2.7% of American adults are pathological or problem gamblers according to the American Psychiatric Association's standards, and another 7.7% are at risk of developing a significant gambling problem.1 Owing to the very rapid growth of gambling opportunities, especially Internet gambling, these percentages may be higher today than when this study was conducted in 1998-99. The demographic data on pathological and problem gamblers suggest that roughly these same percentages are likely to apply to the cleared population. For more information, see Prevalence of Compulsive Gambling.
Compulsive gamblers are driven by the need to be "in action" -- to feel the arousal and euphoria from betting that other addicts get from drugs or alcohol. Winning brings a high; losses result in acute distress and desperate attempts to recoup the losses. Imprudent efforts to recoup the losses through further gambling typically compound the problem and increase the level of desperation. By the time compulsive gamblers get to the point of seeking medical help, they are hugely in debt. About 80% have seriously considered suicide. Thirteen percent to 20% actually attempt suicide or succeed in killing themselves, a suicide rate higher than that for major depression. 2
Compulsive gamblers desperate to recoup their losses often turn to crime. They generally use legal sources of funding for as long as possible. As gambling losses intensify, legal sources of money are gradually used up or closed off. Depending on personal value systems, opportunities for illegal activity, perceptions of risk, and the existence of threats (from loan sharks or bookies, for example), compulsive gamblers may then become involved in progressively more serious illegal activity. In some cases, the amount of money runs into millions of dollars.3 To understand how smart and good people sometimes become compulsive gamblers and then criminals, The Process of Becoming a Compulsive Gambler is must reading.
Among those whose employment and economic status present the opportunity for white-collar crimes, compulsive gamblers are most likely to commit "silent" crimes, such as stealing from their family members or their employer, embezzlement, forgery, and fraud. 5 These crimes can go undetected for some time, and because of this compulsive gamblers often rationalize these types of crime as short-term loans until they can "win big" and repay the money they have stolen. Unfortunately, the "big win" seldom comes before the crime is discovered.
Three studies of Gamblers Anonymous members and persons in treatment for compulsive gambling determined that roughly two-thirds admitted to committing crimes or civil fraud to finance their gambling or to pay gambling-related debts. 4
Another study, shown in the table below, focused on how problem gambling affects the insurance industry. It found that in a group of 241 Gamblers Anonymous members, 47% admitted to having engaged in some form of insurance fraud, embezzlement or arson. Note that these are small samples, and information gained from small samples is not necessarily representative of all compulsive gamblers. For example, compulsive gamblers in treatment tend to be middle-aged, white males while surveys indicate that the population suffering from this affliction is considerably more diverse. 5
|Made a false claim after auto accident||32%|
|Created or staged an accident||8%|
|Took part in or profited from arson||11%|
|Faked business or home burglary or property theft||15%|
|Made false claim other than fire or theft||16%|
|Staged claim other than fire or theft||15%|
|Caused loss to insurance company in which you were bonded and insurance company had to pay||8%|
|Stole something which you knew insurance company had to pay for||21%|
|Engaged in any of the above||47%|
|Engaged in two or more of the above||31%|
|Engaged in four or more of the above||13%|
|Average dollar value involved = $65,468|
Research studies on compulsive gamblers in Australia, Germany, and Scotland have confirmed a similar pattern in those countries.6,7,8 A study of 300 German gamblers in in-patient or out-patient therapy or attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings found that 59.3% admitted to committing at least one crime within the previous 12 months. The most common crimes were fraud 38%, theft at work 23%, embezzlement 22%, and theft from family 21%. 9
In a series of studies conducted in the mid-1980s, individuals who entered one treatment clinic for gambling reported a mean gambling-related debt of $54,662 10, while the figure at another treatment program was $92,000.11 For a sample of female Gamblers Anonymous members, the average level of gambling-related debt was almost $15,000.12 In each study, this was only the current accumulated debt, not the amount of gambling debt that had already been paid off.
Persons calling the compulsive gambling hotline in Hamilton, NJ, in 1998 reported average gambling debts that exceed their average annual income. Of over 25,000 calls made to the 1-800-GAMBLER© Hotline, average gambling debts were $38,030, while average yearly income was $36,134. This was up 20% as compared with two years earlier. 13
A significant increase in crime has been observed in many cities and states after gambling has been legalized or where more casinos have been built. Extensive information on the impact of gambling on crime rates is available on the Internet. 14.
Extract from the Guideline
(i) compulsive or addictive gambling as indicated by an unsuccessful attempt to stop gambling, “chasing losses” (i.e. increasing the bets or returning another day in an effort to get even), concealment of gambling losses, borrowing money to fund gambling or pay gambling debts, family conflict or other problems caused by gambling.
This section provides considerable detail on what compulsive gambling is and how it can be identified.
Compulsive gambling is a layman's term, not a technical medical term. It refers to an uncontrolled preoccupation with gambling, and an inability to stop gambling even when one recognizes that gambling is causing serious financial, family, work, or other problems. For a medical definition, see Criteria for Medical Diagnosis of Pathological Gambling, but note that experts disagree on the best terminology for describing this problem.
Compulsive gambling or addictive gambling parallels alcohol and drug addiction in many ways. Compulsive gamblers lose control over their behavior and commonly lie and cheat in order to continue their gambling. They frequently try, unsuccessfully, to cut down or quit.
Compulsive gambling does not involve use of a psychoactive substance, but the "action" which compulsive gamblers crave is an aroused, euphoric state comparable to the "high" sought by drug users. This aroused state is accompanied by changes in brain chemistry like those caused by psychoactive substances. A "rush" usually characterized by sweaty palms, rapid heart beat, and nausea may be experienced during the period of anticipation just before starting to gamble.
Alcoholics and drug abusers develop "tolerance" for their drug of choice and then must increase their consumption in order to feel the same effects. Similarly, compulsive gamblers develop "tolerance" for the "action" and must increase the size of their bets or the odds against them to create the same amount of excitement. Withdrawal symptoms have also been noted in compulsive gamblers. For additional information, see the Process of Becoming a Compulsive Gambler.
The key difference between moderate gambling and compulsive or pathological gambling is self-control. Moderate gambling typically occurs with friends or colleagues. Each gambling session usually lasts for a set period of time and involves pre-determined spending limits. The player gains satisfaction whether he/she wins or loses.15 Professional gambling, when conducted properly, is characterized by limited risks and strong discipline. It is not unusual, however, for professional gamblers to suffer from compulsive gambling. Compulsive gamblers commonly "chase" their losses. When they lose, they feel an urgent need to continue gambling -- often with larger bets or greater risks -- to undo their loss or series of losses.
Buying and selling stocks, stock options or commodity futures is commonly described as investment rather than gambling. However, these are high-risk and often fast-moving activities. The process of "chasing" losses and becoming hooked on the excitement of the market is the same as for gambling and can have the same adverse consequences. Dr. Robert Custer, a leading specialist in the treatment of compulsive gambling, has testified that 20% of those he has diagnosed are stock market gamblers. One statewide hotline for gamblers seeking help found that 2% of its callers were stock market gamblers. After an unusually sharp decline in the market, stock market gambling accounted for 44% of all hotline calls. 16
Some individuals experience problems as a result of their gambling without meeting the full criteria for a diagnosis of compulsive or pathological gambling. For example, many gamblers may "chase" their losses for short periods, until they learn from bitter experience that this is counterproductive. It is the long-term preoccupation with chasing losses that is characteristic of the compulsive gambler.
Compulsive gamblers tend to be intelligent, outgoing, energetic, competitive, adventuresome individuals. They like to be in control and may excel in leadership positions. In short, they may have the characteristics of an otherwise ideal employee, so compulsive gambling is difficult to detect. Unlike some drug or alcohol abusers, there is no evidence of needle marks on the arm, breath odor, slurred speech, or staggering gait.
Because gambling is a normal and acceptable activity, most gamblers do not try to conceal the fact that they gamble. Like persons suffering from other addictions, however, they do deny or minimize any problems caused by gambling. They typically conceal from their spouse, family, and friends the magnitude of their losses and the financial transactions required to cover them.
The following questions are taken from diagnostic tests and surveys used to identify compulsive gamblers. Answers to these questions can be used by adjudicators, investigators, and security managers to evaluate the severity of a gambling problem. Positive answers to three or four of these questions usually indicates a gambling problem that may be of security concern. Because addicts of all types are prone to deny their problems, honest answers to these questions are more likely to come from a friend, work colleague, or neighbor than directly from the subject of investigation.
Borrowing money to gamble or to pay off gambling debts and trying to conceal one's losses from family and friends are indicators that get to the heart of the security concern -- which is that addicted gamblers often become so desperate that crime seems to be the only way out.
The following sections discuss other indicators for the identification and evaluation of gambling problems:
Extensive gambling can be time-consuming. Doing everything required to gain the information required to gamble intelligently, to place bets, follow the action, borrow money, and make payments often has an impact that can be observed in the workplace. Potential indicators that may be observed at work include:17
If a subject is having financial problems, and the reason for these problems is not obvious, the possibility that they are caused by gambling should always be examined. In other words, when an individual appears to have sufficient income, but nevertheless has financial problems, the financial drain of gambling is one possible explanation.
A combination of poor financial condition and frequent gambling may justify denial of access to classified information. Even if the financial problems alone may not be sufficient for denial, disapproval may be warranted if the financial problems are caused by an ongoing pattern of gambling and the individual is not getting treatment. There is a high probability that the financial problems will get worse.
If investigation reveals extensive gambling but the credit check shows no financial problems, there are at least six possible explanations. The investigation needs to determine which of these explanations applies.
A prominent researcher in this field advises that consistent winning should not necessarily be interpreted to mean there is no security risk. He recommends being "at least as concerned about those who are winning."18 This is because doctors who work with compulsive gamblers undergoing treatment find that many of the embezzlers come from the ranks of those who had been big winners. A severely compulsive gambler must periodically increase the amount bet or the riskiness of the bet in order to continue achieving the same level of excitement and psychological satisfaction. When the bad break inevitably does come, those who had been consistent winners fall farther and harder and may be more prone to desperate actions. For a description of how some social gamblers become compulsive gamblers and then turn into criminals, see the Process of Becoming a Compulsive Gambler.
According to one national survey in 2000, 82% of American adults gambled during the previous year, and 23% played something at least weekly. In states that have lotteries, 66% of adults bought lottery tickets at least occasionally, and 13% were weekly players. Playing cards for money during the previous year had attracted 20%, while the same number had wagered on professional or college sports. About 9% had bet on a horse race. Nationwide, 27% of adults visited a casino during the previous year. 19
Clearly, occasional and even regular gambling is normal. Information on type and extent of gambling is not a direct indicator of security concern. As a general rule, however, the more one gambles, the more likely one is to eventually lose; and as losses pile up, problems become more likely.
One study that compared the gambling practices of compulsive gamblers with social gamblers found six variables that help to distinguish the two. Compulsive gamblers are far more likely than social gamblers to gamble for high stakes, gamble at least weekly, engage in three or more different types of gambling, gamble in ways that place a premium on specialized knowledge or skills (card games, the horses, sports), devote at least one-quarter of their leisure time to gambling or preparation for gambling, visit horse race tracks or off-track betting establishments twice a month or more. 20
In recent years, gambling practices have changed with the advent of Internet gambling and the installation of video gambling machines in many public locations. The most recent development is online poker rooms. Literally thousands of gambling sites of various types are now available on the Internet. For those who are susceptible to addiction, the lure of gambling with cashless credit card transactions from a home computer or laptop while traveling is hard to resist. Harvard Medical School researchers estimate that individuals who frequently gamble on the Internet are "more likely to be pathological gamblers than individuals who did not gamble on the Internet." 21
Nine states now allow video gambling machines with games such as video poker and electronic keeno. In Oregon, for example, machine gambling is allowed in any retail establishment that has a liquor license, which includes many coffee shops, delis, and bowling alleys as well as bars and taverns. Video gambling machines are particularly appealing to women, because they are a lot less intimidating for women to play. As one woman put it, "You don't have to sit at a table and have men making jokes about the 'little woman learning how to gamble.'" 22
The National Council on Problem Gambling reports there has been an increase in compulsive gambling by women in those states with widespread "convenience" gambling. The Oregon state agency that tracks gambling addiction says that in Oregon there are now more female compulsive gamblers than male compulsive gamblers. In Louisiana, where there are 10,000 video gambling terminals at 3,000 locations statewide, 57% of the calls to the state's gambling addition hotline are from women. In contrast, among all forms of gambling nationwide, men make up about two-thirds of the problem gamblers. 22
Video gaming is said to be the most addictive form of gambling. It has been described as the "crack cocaine" of gambling. People using video gaming machines are more likely to become addicted and they become addicted much more quickly than those who favor other forms of gambling such as horses, sports betting, or blackjack. A study of 44 compulsive gamblers seeking treatment found that those using video gaming machines became addicted after about one year, while other types of gamblers became addicted after about three and a half years. 23
Compulsive gamblers frequently also suffer from other addictions such as alcoholism, drug abuse, compulsive shopping, or bulimia, as well as from mental illness. Thus, if compulsive gambling is suspected, it would be wise to evaluate other aspects of the subject's mental health when making security decisions. The relationship among these problems is so close that the National Council on Alcoholism recommends that:
It is important to consider the possibility of compulsive gambling in the assessment of any persons with alcoholism or other drug dependency, or whose chief complaint is financial, legal, or marital problems. Denial and rationalization are as common in compulsive gamblers and their families as in alcoholism. Thus the patient or family may not see their problems as caused by gambling. 24
A summary of several empirical studies reports that 95% of compulsive gamblers in treatment reported using drugs at some point in their lifetime, while 16% of 117 methadone patients were probable pathological gamblers. A study of cocaine users in inpatient treatment found that 14% were pathological gamblers. Additionally, drug users are 5 to 10 times more likely to be pathological gamblers than nondrug users. 25
Pathological gambling is also related to other mental disorders. Pathological gamblers are 16 times more likely than other gamblers to have criminal tendencies, are three times more likely to suffer from a phobic disorder, and are seven times more likely to suffer from alcoholism. Although pathological gamblers are not significantly more likely to experience major depression, they are almost four times more likely to attempt suicide. 26
Extract from the Guideline
(a) the behavior happened so long ago, was so infrequent, or occurred under such circumstances that it is unlikely to recur and does not cast doubt on the individual’s current reliability, trustworthiness, or good judgment;
(c) the person has received or is receiving counseling for the problem and/or there are clear indications that the problem is being resolved or is under control;
If the investigation identifies a potential gambling issue, adjudicators must consider if there are any potential mitigating factors. Potential mitigations include:
Like other addictive behaviors, compulsive gambling is treatable, so successful treatment may be considered a mitigating factor when adjudicating security clearance decisions. However, it is very difficult to get gamblers to admit that they have a problem, and many problem gamblers are reluctant to seek treatment, because they do not understand the nature of the addiction involved. People understand that putting some kind of substance in their body can cause them to become addicted to that substance and lose control. However, they do not understand how they can become addicted to a voluntary behavior like gambling. Their inability to control their gambling is so threatening to their self-esteem that people are extremely reluctant to admit a need for help. 27
Some gamblers hit "rock bottom" and quit gambling on their own. Reasons given for recovery include changes in financial or emotional issues in their lives as well as opportunities to engage in new activities or activities that eventually turn one away from the need to gamble.27 Although some researchers believe natural recovery is common, others believe that more intensive treatment, such as that seen in alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs, is necessary.
Gamblers Anonymous was formed in 1957 and now has many chapters nationwide. It follows the same pattern as Alcoholics Anonymous, including the same 12-step type of treatment program. Several studies have aimed at measuring the effectiveness of these treatment programs, but the number of recovering gamblers in each sample was small, and the criteria for measuring success differed. In general, the success rate appears comparable to that for other addictions. Relapse is a problem, but one or two relapses do not necessarily indicate failure. The more severe the gambling problem prior to treatment, the greater the chance of relapse and eventual treatment failure.
There is some evidence that individuals with multiple addictions are more difficult to treat than those who suffer from a single addiction.28 Doctors at some treatment centers have observed a "switching of addictions," where recovering alcoholics begin to gamble compulsively after several years of abstinence from alcohol. Similarly, women recovering from compulsive gambling have encountered problems with compulsive shopping. 29
Gamblers Anonymous insists that recovered gamblers, like recovered alcoholics, must remain totally abstinent. On the other hand, some research indicates that total abstinence may not be required. Controlled or social gambling that does not cause problems may also be a favorable, long-term outcome of treatment.30,31 The need for total abstinence among recovered gamblers is a subject of controversy.
Diverse theories have been advanced to explain why people become compulsive gamblers.36 Whatever the underlying cause, observation of many compulsive gamblers has shown that they pass through identifiable stages on their way to developing serious problems.
Henry Lesieur and Robert Custer, prominent scholars in the field, have independently traced the process by which many people make the transition from social gambler to compulsive gambler, and often to criminal. This process is believed to apply to most male compulsive gamblers, especially those who play games of skill, and to about half of female compulsive gamblers.32 The following description of the three main phases leading to compulsive gambling is a mixture of quotation and paraphrase from Lesieur's account, together with several points added from Custer and other sources. 33
During the early phase of gambling, the "winning phase," there are usually no serious losses. Those who will eventually have a problem fall in love with the excitement and "action" and, at first, may be quite successful. They have fantasies of further success, and of gambling becoming their personal path to wealth and power. Such fantasies are often fed by a big win early in the gambler's career.
Gamblers who are headed for problems think they are smarter than the average bettor and are bound to win in the long run. "They know that gambling is going to work for them because they, unlike less clever people, really understand how to beat the system.34 As they become more involved in gambling, they derive an increasing portion of their self-esteem from seeing themselves as smart or lucky. Because of this, two things happen when they do incur the inevitable losses: first, they suffer monetary loss; second, and often more important, they suffer a very deflated ego.
In order to salvage their self-esteem, they rationalize losses by blaming other people, such as the jockey or the pitcher, or by blaming "bad luck" in cards, craps or lotteries. If these excuses fail, the gamblers reflect on their handicapping abilities and tell themselves they will not make the same "mistake" the next time. The monetary loss is another matter, however, and this is dealt with differently. In order to recoup the loss, many gamblers move on to the second phase, or the "losing phase," also referred to as the "chase." The main objective during this phase is to continue their betting and increase the amount of their bets in order to get even.
This chasing of losses is the defining characteristic of the compulsive gambler. Instead of saying, "It's lost," compulsive gamblers say, "I'll get even tomorrow." Chasing losses leads the gambler to gamble with more than he or she can afford to lose, and, eventually, to borrow money in an effort to get even. The amount of chasing clearly distinguishes the compulsive gambler from the social gambler.
Chasing is logical to many gamblers, as it means giving oneself a chance to get even, and because it has worked occasionally in the past. It is also logical because friends are doing it, and periodically they, too, get out of jams in this fashion. Gambling is a roller-coaster ride of wins, losses and breaking even. There are usually enough wins to feed the wishful dreams, while the losses are dismissed as just bad luck. The compulsive gambler becomes an expert at denying reality.
If a gambler stops chasing, both money and self-regard are lost; if the gambler continues chasing and wins, both can be regained. There is, therefore, the impetus to borrow in order to recoup losses; when continued gambling leads to still more losses, the compulsive gambler continues to borrow. The more money borrowed, the greater the commitment to more gambling as the only possible means of gaining enough money to pay off the debt. This type of borrowing marks the beginning of the third phase, the "desperation phase," or "rock bottom."
This spiraling commitment to increased gambling often depletes family resources. Many compulsive gamblers cash in joint savings bonds, empty checking accounts, use furniture money, pawn joint property, and take out loans without the spouse's knowledge. In order to preserve or regain respectability in the eyes of parents, spouse and others -- and because their paychecks are insufficient -- desperate gamblers see more gambling as the only alternative.
Fearing loss of respectability, the gambler hides loans. When gamblers default on the loans, the fear that their spouse or family may learn of the problem may drive them to more gambling as a possible quick way out. Commitment to gambling is greater as a result. The behavior that caused the problem is increasingly seen by the gambler as the only solution, as there is no other way to get the needed money quickly.
As loans come due and pressures to pay become more insistent, sometimes involving threats of exposure or of physical harm from loan sharks or bookies, desperate gamblers weigh the risks of "borrowing" (embezzling) money from their employer, making fraudulent loan applications or insurance claims, or stealing the money. Once they succumb to one of these temptations, the threshold to an even greater commitment to gambling has been crossed. This is especially true if they obtain money by loan fraud or embezzlement. These kinds of crimes enable gamblers to rationalize that they are not really criminals; the money is only "borrowed" so no one is being hurt. But there is constant pressure to repay the money, and counting on a big gambling win is seen as the only hope for doing so. This extends the spiral of involvement from more gambling to more and more illegal activities -- until the gambler is caught, seeks professional help, or really does hit the big win.
The nature of the criminal activity often depends upon the opportunities available to the gambler. For lower-income gamblers, burglary, larceny and drug sales have been common. For those in positions of responsibility, white-collar crimes such as fraud, embezzlement, and forgery predominate.
Falling in love with the "action" and then chasing losses is the starting point for most men who become compulsive gamblers, but not necessarily for women. Lesieur found that over half the women he interviewed in Gamblers Anonymous groups had taken a different route. While they also enjoyed the "action" and chased losses, their dominant theme when describing their gambling career was escape -- escape from memories of unhappy childhoods or parental abuse, escape from troubled husbands, and escape from loneliness.
These women often came to gambling later in life than most men, and many never experienced the winning phase that starts many men thinking they can outsmart the odds. Many were closet gamblers who seldom bragged about their wins. Once they became hooked on gambling, however, they followed the same spiral of increasing involvement leading to criminal activity by 68% of the women. 35
There is disagreement about terminology in both the scientific and the popular literature on gambling. Compulsive gambling is a popular term, not a scientific description or medical diagnosis.
The currently accepted medical term is pathological gambling, which is the term used in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a reference work published by the American Psychiatric Association. However, this term implies acceptance of the view that pathological gambling is a mental illness, and this is a controversial finding with significant legal and other implications.
If pathological gambling is a mental illness, medical insurance may pay for its treatment. However, designation as a mental illness also suggests that individuals who suffer from this affliction are unable to exercise control over their own actions and, therefore, should not be held legally responsible for actions caused by their disability.
Another term sometimes used is problem gambling. The National Council on Compulsive Gambling changed its name to the National Council on Problem Gambling in order to draw attention to the wider range of problems implied by that name. Problem gambling is easier to define than compulsive or pathological gambling and more neutral in its implications, but the term is used in two different ways.
As used by the National Council on Problem Gambling, the term problem gambling includes all gambling which causes problems for the gambler. That is, it includes compulsive or pathological gambling as well as less serious gambling practices that cause problems but may not qualify as compulsive or pathological.
Others use the term more narrowly to include only those less serious forms of gambling that do not qualify as compulsive or pathological. In this sense, the distinction between problem gambling and compulsive (or pathological) gambling is similar to the difference between alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. The problem gambler is able to respond to counseling and make a rational decision to limit or stop his or her gambling. The compulsive (pathological) gambler has lost control and requires treatment.
The criteria for diagnosis of pathological gambling are stated as follows in the American Psychiatric Associations Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders:
Persistent or recurrent maladaptive gambling behavior as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
1. Is preoccupied with gambling (e.g., preoccupied with reliving past gambling experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, or thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble).
2. Needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement.
3. Has repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling.
4. Is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling.
5. Gambles as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression).
6. After losing money gambling, often returns another day in order to get even ("chasing" one's losses).
7. Lies to family members or others to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling.
8. Has committed illegal acts such as forgery, fraud, theft, or embezzlement to finance gambling.
9. Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of gambling.
10. Relies on others to provide money to relieve a desperate financial situation caused by gambling.
Legal gambling has been one of the fastest growing industries in the United States for the past three decades. Many forms of gambling that were once condemned as a sin, and later a vice, are now actively promoted by governments, charities, and even churches seeking "painless" sources of new revenue. Most researchers in this field believe that more gambling opportunities lead more people to develop problems as a result of gambling. 36
The following table shows the prevalence of problem and probable compulsive gambling during the past year or during the respondent's lifetime in the seven states where surveys have been conducted since 2000.37
Survey Statistics on Prevalence
of Problem and Probable Compulsive Gambling
The significant difference between states is probably related to how long a state has had legalized gambling, the types of gambling available in the state, and the demographics of the state. States with a higher percentage of non-Caucasians have a higher percentage of gambling problems, as the surveys show that gambling problems are twice as common among non-Caucasians as among Caucasians.
Health professionals and many members of the public have tended to assume that problem gamblers are primarily middle-class, white men in their 40s and 50s. That is the profile of those who join Gamblers Anonymous or seek treatment for compulsive gambling. However, the state surveys that sample the population as a whole identify the demographic category most susceptible to problem gambling as the unmarried, non-Caucasian male under age 30 who has not completed high school.
Of those identified as problem or probable compulsive gamblers by a national study conducted in 2000 using the medical criteria discussed above, 52% were male. Twenty-seven percent of the survey sample was 18-30 years old, but this group accounted for 33% of the problem gamblers. Non-Caucasians made up 30% of the survey sample but accounted for 64% of the problem gamblers. 19
Growing concern about the increase in problem or compulsive gambling among adolescents and college students has prompted a series of studies in the last decade. As a general rule, these studies show that an increasing number of adolescent and college-age gamblers are at risk of having or developing a compulsive gambling problem. As many as 7.4% of persons age 13-20 nationwide have a serious (pathological) gambling problem, while as many as 14.2% are reported to have some problem with gambling. 38
Fortunately, problem and compulsive gambling among adolescents and college students does not appear to be an enduring or chronic problem at the individual level. In fact, at least one study has shown that young persons with gambling problems are likely to "grow out of them" as they mature and as their life situations change and no longer dictate the desire or need to gamble. Although most individuals with adolescent gambling problems will not continue to gamble seriously as adults, it is important to keep in mind that adolescents and college students who do have gambling problems are more likely to continue to have gambling problems as adults compared to those who were not deeply involved in gambling during their adolescent years. 39
Individuals seeking help for a gambling problem can seek help with Gamblers Anonymous. The phone number to reach a local group is in the white pages of most local phone books. The national headquarters can be contacted at Gamblers Anonymous, P. O. Box 17173, Los Angeles CA 90017, telephone (213) 386-8789, fax (213) 386-0030; web site: http://www.gamblersanonymous.org/ .
The National Council on Problem Gambling and the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming are helpful in providing interested persons with bibliographies, addresses for contacting researchers in this field, lists of treatment centers, and other information. Relevant addresses and phone and fax numbers are:
Other gambling-related research information can be found on the Internet at the following:
1. Gerstein, D., Murphy,
S., Toce, M., Hoffmann, J., Palmer, A., Johnson, R., Larison, C., Chuchro, L.,
Bard, A., Engelman, L., Hill, M. A., Buie, T., Volberg, R., Harwood, H., Tucker,
A., Christiansen, E., Cummings, W., & Sinclair, S. (1999). Gambling impact and
behavior study: Report to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission.
Chicago: National Opinion Research Center.
2. Brody, J.E. (1999, May 4). Compulsive gambling: Overlooked addiction. The New York Times, p. D7.
3. Lesieur, H., & Rosenthal, R. (1996). Pathological gambling and criminal behavior. In L. B. Schlesinger (Ed.), Explorations in criminal psychopathology. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.
4. Lesieur, H., & Rosenthal, R. (1991). Pathological gambling: A review of the literature. Journal of Gambling Studies, 7, 5-40.
5. Lesieur, H., & Puig, K. (1987). Insurance problems and pathological gambling. Journal of Gambling Behavior, 3, 123-136.
6. Blaszczynski, A., & McConaghy, N. (1994). Antisocial personality disorder and pathological gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies, 10(2), 129-145.
7. Meyer, G. (1996). Pathological gambling and criminal behavior. In Proceedings of the 1996 National Conference on Problem Gambling, Crime, and Gaming Enforcement. Bloomington, IL: Chestnut Health Systems, Lighthouse Institute.
8. Lesieur, H., & Rosenthal, R. (1996). Pathological gambling and criminal behavior. In L. B. Schlesinger (Ed.), Explorations in criminal psychopathology. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.
9. Meyer, G., & Stadler, M.A. (1999). Criminal behavior associated with pathological gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies, 15(1), 29-43.
10. Blackman, S., Simone, R., & Thoms, D. (1986). Letter to the editor: Treatment of gamblers. Hospital and Community Psychiatry, 37, 404.
11. Politizer, R.M., Morrow, J.S., & Leavey, S.B. (1985). Report on the cost-benefit/effectiveness of treatment at the Johns Hopkins Center for Pathological Gambling. Journal of Gambling Behavior, 1, 119-130.
12. Lesieur, H. (1987). Gambling, pathological gambling, and crime. In T. Galski (Ed.), The handbook of pathological gambling. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.
13. Looney, E.. & O'Neill, K. (1998). Gambling debts are exceeding annual incomes. In Compulsive gambling helpline callers report. Hamilton, NJ: The Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey. Retrieved October 2003 from http://www.800gambler.org but the information is no longer available on this site.
15. Smith, G.J., Volberg, R.A., & Wynne, H.J. (1994). Leisure behavior on the edge: Differences between controlled and uncontrolled gambling practices. Society and Leisure, 17, 1.
16. Looney, E. (n.d.). Stock market gambling. Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey. Retrieved August 27, 2005, from http://www.800gambler.org/ArticleDetails.aspx?ContentID=18
17. Lesieur, H. (1986). Understanding compulsive gambling. Center City, MN: Hazelden Educational Materials.
18. Report of telephone interview with Dr. Louis Lieberman, Director of Research, National Council on Problem Gambling, with R. J. Heuer, PERSEREC, August 11, 1991.
19. Welte, J.W., Barnes, G.M., Wieczorek, W.F., Tidwell, M., & Parker, J. (2002). Gambling participation in the U.S.--Results from a national survey. Journal of Gambling Studies, 18(4), 313-337.
20. Lieberman, L. (1988). A social typology of gambling behavior (pp. 44-49) (New York State Office of Mental Health Contract #C-001361). New York: National Council on Compulsive Gambling.
21. LePlante, D. (2002). Netizens @ risk: Online gambling and addiction. The Wager, 7(15).
23. Breen, R.B., & Zimmerman, M. (2001). Rapid onset of pathological gambling in machine gamblers. Journal of Gambling Studies, 18(1), 31-43.
24. Blume, S., & Lesieur, H. (1987). Compulsive gambling: A concern for families with alcoholism and other drug problems. New York: National Council on Alcoholism.
25. Gowen, D. (1996). Pathological gambling: An obscurity in community corrections? Federal Probation, 60(2), 5-10.
26. Kidman, R. (2003). The relationships among suicide, mental illness, and gambling. The Wager, 25(8).
27. Hodgins, D.C., Wynn, H., & Makarchuk, K. (1999). Pathways to recovery from gambling problems: Follow-up from a general population study. Journal of Gambling Studies, 15(2), 93-104.
28. Ciarrocchi, J. (1987). Severity of impairment in dually addicted gamblers. Journal of Gambling Behavior, 3, 16-26.
29. Lesieur, H. (1988). The female pathological gambler. In W. R. Eadington (Ed.), Gambling studies: Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Gambling and Risk Taking. Reno, NV: Bureau of Business and Economic Research, University of Nevada.
30. Blaszczynski, A., McConaghy, N., & Frankova, A. (1991). Control versus abstinence in the treatment of pathological gambling: A two to nine year follow-up. British Journal of Addiction, 86, 299-306.
31. Ladouceur, R. (2005). Controlled gambling for pathological gamblers. Journal of Gambling Studies, 21(1), 49-57.
32. Lesieur, H. (1979). The compulsive gambler's spiral of options and involvement. Psychiatry: Journal for the Study of Interpersonal Processes, 42, 79-87. Lesieur, H. (1984). The chase: Career of the compulsive gambler. Cambridge, MA: Schenkman.
33. Custer, R.L. (1984). Profile of the pathological gambler. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 45(12), 35-38.
34. Taber, J. I. (1980). The early detection of pathological gambling. Talk to the G.A./Gam-Anon Eastern Regional Conference, New York.
35. Lesieur, H. (1988). The female pathological gambler. In W. R. Eadington (Ed.), Gambling studies: Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Gambling and Risk Taking. Reno, NV: Bureau of Business and Economic Research, University of Nevada.
36. Rosecrance, J. (1988). Gambling without guilt: The legitimation of an American pastime. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
37. Alberta Gaming
Research Institute. (nd). Problem gambling prevalence studies in the United States--By state.
Database retrieved October 2003 from:
38. Harvard Medical School-Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling. (2002). How many adolescents have gambling problems? The Wager, 7(12).
39. Slutske, W.S., Jackson, K.M., & Sher, K.J. (2003). The natural history of problem gambling from age 18 to 29. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 112(2), 263-274.