FAQs – Problem Gamblers

 


 

What is problem gambling?
Problem gambling includes all gambling behavior patterns that
compromise, disrupt or damage personal, family or vocational pursuits.
The essential features are 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 extreme cases, problem
gambling can result in financial ruin, legal problems, loss of career
and family, or even suicide.

 

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Isn’t problem gambling just a financial problem?
No. Problem gambling is an emotional problem that has financial
consequences. If you pay all of a problem gambler’s debts, the person
will still be a problem gambler. The real problem is that they have an
uncontrollable obsession with gambling.

 

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Isn’t problem gambling really the result of irresponsible or weak-willed people?
No. Many people who develop problems have been viewed as responsible
and strong by those who care about them. Precipitating factors often
lead to a change in behavior, such as retirement or job related stress.

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What kind of people become problem gamblers?
Anyone who gambles can develop problems if they are not aware of the
risks and do not gamble responsibly. When gambling behavior interferes
with finances, relationships and the workplace, a serious problem
already exists.

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Do casinos, lotteries and other types of gambling “cause” problem gambling?
The cause of a gambling problem is the individual’s inability to
control the gambling. This may be due in part to a person’s genetic
tendency to develop addiction, their ability to cope with normal life
stress and even their social upbringing and moral attitudes about
gambling. The casino or lottery provides the opportunity for the person
to gamble. It does not, in and of itself, create the problem any more
than a liquor store would create an alcoholic.

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What types of gambling cause the most problem gambling?
Again, the cause of a gambling problem is the individual’s inability to
control the gambling. Therefore, any type of gambling can become
problematic, just as an alcoholic can get drunk on any type of alcohol.
But some types of gambling have different characteristics that may
exacerbate gambling problems. While these factors are still poorly
understood, anecdotal reports indicate that one risk factor may be a
fast speed of play. In other words, the faster the wager to response
time with a game, the more likely players may be to develop problems
with a particular game.

 

 

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What is the responsibility of the gaming industry?
Everyone who provides gambling opportunities has a responsibility to
develop policies and programs to address underage and problem gambling
issues.

 

 

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Can you be a problem gambler if you don’t gamble every day?
The frequency of a person’s gambling does not determine whether or not
they have a gambling problem. Even though the problem gambler may only
go on periodic gambling binges, the emotional and financial
consequences will still be evident in the gambler’s life, including the
effects on the family.

 

 

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How much money do you have to lose before gambling becomes a problem?
The amount of money lost or won does not determine when gambling
becomes a problem. Gambling becomes a problem when it causes a negative
impact on any area of the individual’s life.

 

 

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How can a person be addicted to something that isn’t a substance?
Although no substance is ingested, the problem gambler gets the same
effect from gambling as someone else might get from taking a
tranquilizer or having a drink. The gambling alters the person’s mood
and the gambler keeps repeating the behavior attempting to achieve that
same effect. But just as tolerance develops to drugs or alcohol, the
gambler finds that it takes more and more of the gambling experience to
achieve the same emotional effect as before. This creates an increased
craving for the activity and the gambler finds they have less and less
ability to resist as the craving grows in intensity and frequency.

 

 

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Are problem gamblers usually addicted to other things too?
It is generally accepted that people with one addiction are more at
risk to develop another. Some problem gamblers also find they have a
problem with alcohol or drugs. This does not, however, mean that if you
have a gambling problem you are guaranteed to become addicted to other
things. Some problem gamblers never experience any other addiction
because no other substance or activity gives them the same feeling as
the gambling does. There also appears to be evidence of family patterns
regarding dependency as many problem gamblers report one or both
parents had a drinking and or gambling problem.

 

 

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How widespread is problem gambling in the U.S.?
2 million (1%) of U.S. adults are estimated to meet criteria for
pathological gambling in a given year. Another 4-6 million (2-3%) would
be considered problem gamblers; that is, they do not meet the full
diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling, but meet one of more of
the criteria and are experiencing problems due to their gambling
behavior. Research also indicates that most adults who choose to gamble
are able to do responsibly.

 

 

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How widespread is gambling in the U.S.?
Approximately 85% of U.S. adults have gambled at least once in their
lives; 60% in the past year. Some form of legalized gambling is
available in 48 states plus the District of Columbia. The two without
legalized gambling are Hawaii and Utah.

 

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Can children or teenagers develop gambling problems?
A number of states allow children under 18 to gamble, and youth also
participate in illegal forms of gambling, such as gambling on the internet or betting on sports. Therefore, it is not surprising that research
shows that a vast majority of kids have gambled before their 18th
birthday, and that children may be more likely to develop problems
related to gambling than adults. While debate continues on this issue,
there appears to be a number of factors influencing this finding.
Parental attitudes and behavior play a role. Age of exposure plays a
part, in that adults who seek treatment for problem gambling report
having started gambling at an early age. A number of adolescents
reported a preoccupation with everything related to gambling prior to
developing problems.

 

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