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Compulsive/Problem Gambling


Approximately 80–90% of American adults engage in some form of gambling. For most, these games are a recreational outlet. However, there are people who become preoccupied with winning, spending much of their waking time focused on their next win. Compulsive gambling has many of the same devastating effects as alcohol or drugs, including disruption of relationships, problems at work, job loss, marital discord, separation or divorce, financial ruin and social ostracism. Depression, suicidal behavior and anxiety are often the end results of compulsive gambling.

Here are a few facts and figures on gambling:

• Problem gambling is insidious and develops over an average of 5 to 15 years.
• 1 to 3% of the population cannot regulate their gambling.
• 2/3 of compulsive gamblers are employed full–time.
• 11% of alcoholics are problem gamblers.
• 20% of problem gamblers have attempted suicide.
• 75% of compulsive women gamblers do it to escape from stress.
• Women tend to be ”closet gamblers” and generally do not brag about their wins.
• Four times more money is wagered illegally than legally in the United States.

The Demographics of Gambling:

• Most problem gamblers are between the ages of 20 and 50. The average gambler is age 35 to 40 years old.
• Most problem gamblers are married.
• Most have completed high school.
• 75% of problem gamblers are male.
• Two to four percent of female problem gamblers seek help before it reaches crisis stage.

Traits of Problem Gamblers:

• Males usually begin gambling in high school, females not until adulthood.
• Often have similar characteristics of ”high achievers” – hardworking, driven, energetic, competitive, craves stimulation, change, easily bored.
• Gambling gives them a sense of power.
• They are often moody, irritable, anxious, impatient, withdrawn, depressed and have poor impulse control and strong needs for approval.

Indications of Problem Gambling:

• Excessive overdrafts.
• Changes in personality and behavior.
• Kiting of checks – cashing a worthless check to cover another worthless check.
• Withdrawal from family activities.
• Frequent unexplained absences from work or home.
• Exaggerated display of money or other possessions.
• Siphoning off or diverting money from the intended project or need.
• Charge cards with extended credit limits or new cards from different banks.
• Incomplete checkbook notations.
• Drawdowns in savings, checking, retirement funds or discontinuance of deposits into IRA's or 401K's.

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, the Employee Assistance Program can help. The EAP can provide face–to–face problem–solving sessions and can help you access local community resources, including support groups and treatment programs. Call 1–800–433–2320 today.