The problem of gambling addiction used to be confined to casinos, gas station slot machines, and scratcher cards from convenience stores. A physical barrier existed with people needing to travel somewhere in person to gamble. As the internet exploded during the early 2000s, though, gambling expanded into the digital realm as well. You can gamble wherever you want to as long as you have access to an internet connection.
The United States ranks among the top countries around the globe for having the highest number of problem gamblers. An estimated 10 million Americans struggle with a gambling addiction. The US isn’t alone in its high numbers of gamblers, though. Now that you can gamble from almost anywhere in the world at any time of the day, gambling addiction has taken a true hold on millions around the world.
Some Statistics on Gambling Addiction
What comes to mind when you think of someone with a gambling addiction? Many think of middle-aged to older men glued to their stools at the blackjack table, cigarettes hanging from the corners of their mouths. Recent research indicates this might be a norm but these individuals aren’t alone.
For starters, men do experience higher rates of gambling addiction than their female counterparts. 1.2 percent of men have a problem with gambling compared to only 0.1 percent of women. Additionally, below is the age breakdown of those who admitted to struggling with a gambling problem:
- 16 – 24 years old: 1.4 percent
- 25 – 34 years old: 0.8 percent
- 35 – 44 years old: 1.1 percent
- 45 – 55 years old and older: 0.3 percent
While you may see a few older men who seem like they can’t get away from the table, young adult males see the highest rates of gambling addiction. Are you worried you might know someone with a gambling problem? Continue reading to learn the 5 signs of gambling addiction.
5 Signs of a Gambling Addiction
Most gamblers play responsibly and know when to fold their cards. They quit pulling the lever or pushing their chips in when they’re down further than they’re comfortable with. However, there exists a type of gambler who cannot walk away, no matter how far into the negative they fall. They may run through the money in their bank account then move onto credit cards, gambling far beyond their limit.
If someone you know, or maybe even you, shows some of the following signs, there may be the chance of a possible gambling addiction.
1. Making excuses or looking for reasons to gamble.
Maybe you have a friend who wants to hit the tables at the casino every weekend or seems to suggest poker nights whenever they have the chance.. If they gamble online instead of in person, they might spend dozens of hours at their computer betting against people far and wide. Some prefer to try their luck at scratcher cards or lottery tickets from gas stations and convenience stores.
Does it seem like someone you know constantly finds a reason or an excuse to gamble? Despite never seeming to win anything, someone with a gambling addiction will always find some reason to try their luck again. Each time they “hit” (or win some money), no matter how small the sum, they grasp onto that feeling.
2. Experiencing difficulties with controlling their gambling.
This point builds on top of the first. If you notice they seem to have a compulsive “need” to gamble, your loved one likely struggles with a gambling addiction. They may continue gambling despite their spouse, parent, child, or friend suggesting they cut back or stop. For those deep in their gambling addiction, it doesn’t matter who asks them to stop. It seems impossible.
3. Continuing to gamble despite not having enough money for it.
A gambling addiction is an incredibly expensive habit to maintain. No matter how quick or high they seem to stack their chips, the piles tend to drop even faster. Once they run out of their own money, they might borrow from friends or family or take out cash advances on a credit card. Gambling addiction can spiral out of control before the person realizes it when they start betting money they do not have.
4. Trying to be secretive about their gambling or make it sound like it doesn’t happen very often.
Once your loved one begins hiding their gambling or lying to you about it, the problem has truly taken them hostage. The dishonesty begins once they dig themselves into a hole they feel they cannot escape. Whether it’s lying about how much money they spent or about whether they were even gambling in the first place, dishonesty is a massive red flag.
5. Gambling to the point of worrying their friends and family.
When you start to worry about your loved one’s potential gambling addiction, it is difficult to avoid the problem any longer. As denial and dishonesty continue to grow, friends and family like yourself become increasingly worried. Unless you can intervene in the problem gambler’s life, they may gamble themselves into complete and total bankruptcy.
Getting Help For a Gambling Addict
How can you help someone who struggles with a gambling problem? No matter how bad the problem seems, there is still hope for your loved one! The website for the National Council on Problem Gambling contains a database of treatment centers who specialize in working with gambling addicts.