• Gambling takes a huge toll on families and household budgets.  A gambling addiction, left untreated, may lead to domestic quarreling, child neglect, destroyed marriages and families, loss of financial resources, poverty, and unemployment.  Ironically, and sadly, governments tend to push to expand gambling when economies go bad.  That is because they prefer it to more legitimate forms of taxation; however, it lures money from people at a time when they particularly need it.

  • Gambling leads people to believe they can acquire something through no effort of their own.  It holds out the promise of riches without ever disclosing that the overwhelming majority of people will receive nothing for their money.  Responsible leaders do not promote or advertise gambling; but instead, believe and profess that hard work is the best way to get ahead in life. 

  • Gambling is becoming a socially acceptable practice. The official stamp of government approval for things such as lotteries, combined with easy access to Internet gambling sites and glamorized poker tournaments on television networks, have erased much of the moral stigma that once was attached to games of chance.  Now, many Americans believe there is nothing morally objectionable about gambling. 

  • Gambling often becomes an addiction, complete with the symptoms of addiction commonly associated with other compulsive or destructive behaviors.
  • Gamblers can have a problem, however, without being totally out of control. Long before an addiction has fully developed, gambling can have a negative impact.
  • Gambling addiction, also known as compulsive gambling, is a type of impulse-control disorder. Compulsive gamblers can not control the impulse to gamble, even when they know their gambling is hurting themselves or their loved ones.
  • Problem gambling is any gambling behavior that disrupts your life.  If you’re preoccupied with gambling, spending more and more time and money on it, chasing losses, or gambling despite serious consequences, you have a gambling problem.
  • There are two types of compulsive or problem gamblers. While their behaviors are similar, they gamble for very different reasons:
1.  Action gamblers are addicted to the thrill of risk-taking. Gambling itself is their “drug.” They usually gamble with others, since part of the rush is beating the house or other gamblers. Action gamblers usually prefer games of skill, such as card games, craps, and sports betting. They may also play the stock market.

2.  Escape gamblers gamble to escape emotional pain, worries, and loneliness. Rather than gambling to feel a rush, they gamble to feel numb. Escape gamblers prefer more isolated activities such as slot machines, bingo, and online poker. They also prefer games that don’t require much thought, so they can “zone out.”

  • Signs and symptoms of problem gambling:
You may have a gambling problem if you:
    • Neglect work or family to gamble
    • Gamble in secret
    • Lie about how much you gamble
    • Feel compelled to keep upping your bets
    • Feel remorse after gambling
    • Gamble until you’ve spent your last dollar
    • Gamble with money you need to pay bills
    • Steal, borrow, or sell things to get money for gambling
    • Dream of the "big win" and what it will buy
    • Gamble to escape worries
    • Gamble in order to solve financial problems or win back losses
    • Celebrate by gambling
  • Red Flags.  While the warning signs of problem gambling can be subtle­, there are some red flags that should put you on alert:
    • Secrecy over money and finances
    • New desire to control household finances
    • Overdue or unpaid bills
    • Unexplained loans or cash advances
    • Lack of money, despite the same income and expenses
    • Unusual increase in credit card activity
    • Asking friends and family for money
    • Missing jewelry, cash, or valuables
    • Dwindling savings or assets 
  • The costs of gambling get pushed onto everyone in society, willing or not.  Gambling produces no product that can be sold or exported.  It does, however, remove billions of hard-earned dollars from people who otherwise might spend or invest in things of value.  It also takes money from other forms of recreation.  Earl Grinols, an economics professor at Baylor University, has done a cost-benefit analysis of gambling.  His conclusion?  "It is not even close.  At best, costs outweigh benefits by at least 3 to 1."    ("Gambling in America: Costs and Benefits," Earl Grinols) 

  • Gambling and Crime.  History shows a direct relationship between gambling and crime.   An estimated 40% of all “white-color crimes” result from compulsive gambling.  An estimated 80% of compulsive gamblers commit felony crimes, usually against banks and other businesses.  Gambling's legalization and expansion eventually costs the taxpayer and society in increased crime, increased law enforcement, unpaid bills and debts from problem gamblers. 
  • Illegal activities like robbery and theft, in advanced cases, may result from the need to gamble, or pay gambling debts.

  • Personal bankruptcies.  According to recent research, gambling may be the single fastest growing cause of personal bankruptcies. 

  • College Students.   Among college students, 70% admit to gambling regularly.  Many skip classes to gamble online.

  • Teen Gambling.   The 1999 federal National Gambling Impact Study reveals that 70% of teens have gambled, with as many as 6% of teens addicted to gambling.

  • The Lottery.   In 2012, people spent $78 billion on lottery tickets.  Some 43 states are involved in the lottery business; and 11 states take in more revenue from lottery ticket sales than they do from corporate taxes.  Lotteries hurt poor people.  The people who can least afford to gamble buy the most tickets, leaving them less money to spend on food, shelter, and other bills they need to pay.  ("The Business of the Lottery," Mellody Hobson, CBS News Contributor and Analyst, CBS Morning News, May 14, 2013)
What You Can Do

Treatment options for gambling addiction and problem gambling:  
  • Professional Cognitive-behavioral therapy.
  • 12- Step Gamblers Anonymous.  This recovery program is patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous. It is widely viewed as the most effective treatment for compulsive gambling.

  • Medication.  This will not cure a gambling problem, but it may be helpful if depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, or another mental health problem is fueling the compulsive gambling. Medications used in the treatment of problem gambling include antidepressants and mood stabilizers.
  • Tips for family members of problem gamblers:
    • Take over the family finances
    • Review bank and credit card statements
    • Request credit reports from the three main credit bureaus
    • Monitor Internet use to see if the person is gambling online
    • Be honest about how the gambler’s behavior makes you feel
    • Get counseling, join a support group, or encourage the person to go to Gambler’s Anonymous
  • If you have never been involved in poker games or other forms of gambling, don't start.  If you are involved, then quit now while you can do so. 
Local Organizations
Additional Resources

Evergreen Council on Problem Gambling

1929 4th Avenue E
Olympia, WA 98506
(360)  352-6133
Treatment, training, awareness, youth programs, and the gaming industry in Washington.

Internet Safety 101
Making the Internet Safer for Children and Families
Learn about pornography, Sexting, Predators, Social media dangers, Online gaming, Cyberbullying, and more.