In 2013, The Oregonian covered a five-part series on state-sponsored gambling in the state of Oregon. This is due in part because the state lottery had noticed a decline in revenue and hired a team of consultants to study the gambling habits of local Oregon residents. That way, they could gather the information they collected in order to find some strategic ways to increase gambling revenues. However, what they found shocked them.
The information they were able to gather revealed that over 86% of state revenues, which equaled close to $737 million had come from video slot and poker machines while the other 14% came from lotteries and scratch tickets. This in turn added about $500 million dollars of state tax money, but most of the revenue had come from only 5% of the players. This is because 4% of the players were either pathological or problem gamblers. When we stand back and examine this at a glance, that means that 80% of all gambling revenues come from compulsive gambling.
In this, we begin to find our scope of the increased gambling in the united states which, by default, allows for recent cases of both problem and compulsive gambling. In the year 2012, Americans already bet $900 Billion alone at gambling venues. Furthermore, with recent technological advances in gambling, more opportunity to indulge in the practice has presented itself. Gambling is no longer confined to casinos and lottery tickets but could include everything from video poker machines to internet gambling and bar games.
So, it has been presented to us that gambling is rampant in the country. Next, we begin to understand the difference found in individuals when gambling starts to become an addiction. A person with a compulsive gambling problem would traditionally fall into 3 categories. A problem gambler is one whose gambling causes problems in their psychological, physical, sociological, or vocational realm. If one were to be considered a pathological gambler, that is where the presence of an obsession takes place, namely they disrupt their life to be able to gamble more.
Like with most addictions, denial plays a key role in the lives of most compulsive gamblers. However, as stated previously, the increased availability of gambling opportunities has caused the number of compulsive gamblers to increase, allowing their addiction to become more secretive. One of the first steps necessary to push the individual past their denial is to first examine the signs of a gambling disorder. This particularly involves looking for signs of preoccupation when it comes to gambling, chasing the “old highs” of a winning streak, gambling with ever-increasing amounts of money, lying to conceal the height of their gambling activity and of course, craving.
Sadly, the person involved with a gambling disorder, like with most addictions, has to hit their rock-bottom. This typically comes with common addiction based consequences such as loss of job, loss of home, isolation, alienation and finally surrender: when they finally realize that they can’t “win it all back.”
This is when the individual is finally ready to enter into recovery. This primarily involves correcting the cognitive disorders already associated with compulsive gamblers, that unique sense of delusion, entitlement, and ego which most addiction specialists have stated is the key difference between gamblers and substance users. However, exactly like drug and alcohol addiction, there is hope for the gambler. Through counseling, treatment and community support, the compulsive gambler can find relief, treatment, and a life which is happy, joyous and free. Most recovering compulsive gamblers have found relief through the 12-step based recovery group Gamblers Anonymous (GA), whose meetings are held nationwide, and follow the basic structure of a 12-step meeting.
Coming to understand a person with a gambling problem can be difficult, but it is doable. With understanding comes the first step in getting that person help. However, it also involves realization. A realization through intervention that the gambling addict is hurting the ones that they love with their compulsive disorder and that the ones they love want them to get help. Like with every other intervention, instilling a sense of purpose, which is deserving of compassion and understanding is vital to the compulsive gambler’s recovery.
-J. Dalton Williams, BA
Inaba, Darryl S. Cohen, William E. Uppers, Downers, All Arounders: Physical and Mental Effects of Psychoactive Drugs. 8th ed. CNS Productions, INC. 2014.