When Gambling Takes Over

The casino is a world onto itself. There are no windows, no clock, but there are flashing lights, and the din of clacking coins and whirring slot machines. Beyond the slots, figures are mesmerized at the crap table. Interest in poker hit new heights with televised Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments. For the majority of gamblers, this is excitement, recreation, a fun diversion or escape from the ordinary and a chance to beat the odds. For others, an estimated three percent of the adult population, it’s an addiction, an endless roller coaster of excitement and despair.

A pervasive characteristic of addiction of any kind is that the repeated behaviors have led to a range of negative consequences. This may be putting it mildly in the case of pathological gambling, because someone in the grips of compulsive gambling usually suffers severe blows to finances and relationships before seeking help. His or her life may be in shambles.

Often the compulsive gambler’s denial leads him to believe that the next round will save the day. Of course, if the numbers come up right, the cash or credit won is then “invested” again. Gambling addiction is hardly a recent development, but the advent of electronic poker and the break-neck speed of today’s slot machines, as well as Internet gambling have actually sped up the time it takes to gamble for fun and when it slips into problematic, then compulsive behavior.

Pathological gambling, like other addictions, is both a biological and a behavioral disease. While we don’t know all the factors leading to gambling addiction, they often include social, family and psychological elements. We do know that the brain neuropathways involving the brain’s mechanisms are affected in an individual’s perception of rewarding experiences. The emotional escape that an individual finds in gambling may become entrenched.

We have seen from 15-20 percent of patients who suffer from cross-addictive disorders, such as alcoholism or drug dependency with problem gambling. Some estimates state that 35 percent of those with substance abuse or dependence also have met the diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling at some point in their lives. The SOGS (South Oaks Gambling Screen) is the accepted psychosocial diagnostic tool to identify a gambling problem and its progression.

Both substance and gambling addiction are progressive diseases, and may be characterized by inability to control impulses (to use or to gamble) denial, anxiety mood swings and depression and the need for instant gratification. Gambling, like chemical dependency, offers euphoric highs, which are inevitably followed by emotional valleys and usually remorse and shame. A major difference in gambling versus substance addiction is that the alcoholic or drug addict doesn’t believe the substance is the answer to recovery and to his problems, while the compulsive gambler believes the Big Win will be the answer to all his problems.

Gambling addictions can also result in symptoms such as blackouts and sleep disorders and hopelessness. Divorce, relationship and work problems, even arrests are some devastating consequences of compulsive gambling. A person’s general health is often neglected, including medical conditions that have been ignored. Gambling addiction is certainly a family disease, creating a dysfunctional family system that revolves around the individual’s addiction. Children may be emotionally stranded as well as physically neglected. Kids are affected long term too, with studies estimating 35 to 50 percent of children of pathological gamblers eventually experiencing gambling problems of their own.

It is important that when chemical and gambling addictions co-occur, they are treated at the same time. Like chemical dependency, gambling addiction is addressed in holistic treatment based on the Twelve Step Philosophy. Treatment is individualized and takes into account issues of gender and age.

Gambling: is it the money?

Some experts, including Dr. Henry Lesieur, St. John’s University, NY, who co-authored the SOGS screening assessment, believe it isn’t really about the money, even though money becomes a looming issue. Seeking action seems to be the major impetus for many. Being in action may be similar to the high of taking cocaine. “Chasing losses” is term use by habitual gamblers to describe attempting to recoup the gambling losses by winning. The action gambler usually likes to gamble on site, at a casino, racetrack, or other “live” venue. Often they are identified by casinos as “high rollers” and received comped rooms and meals. Others, though, don’t gamble for action so much as numb their feelings with compulsive gambling, so it becomes the ultimate, albeit temporary escape.

Age and gender as factors

A study by University of Connecticut Health Center psychiatrists published in 2002 evaluated gamblers seeking treatment and found significant differences by age and gender in pathological gamblers. Middle aged (aged 36-55) and older gamblers tended to include more women, at 45-55 percent, than younger gamblers (aged 18-35) at 23 percent. Middle aged and older women didn’t begin gambling regularly until the age of 55, while older men reported a habit of lifelong gambling. Perhaps surprisingly, the women also wagered greatest amounts in the month prior to treatment. Younger gamblers reported most problems with substance abuse, social and legal problems, while older gamblers found more employment-related problems.

There is hope for recovery

Pathological gamblers, like others who suffer from addiction can and do recover. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, with Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, can change unhealthy behaviors and thoughts, including false beliefs, rationalizations, and self-destructive feelings. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy also helps individuals to meet life on its own terms rather than escape painful emotions with compulsive addictions.

A holistic treatment program that addresses the root issues of addiction as well as any co-occurring disorders is an effective approach that treats the whole person. Continuing care may be essential, especially for impulse control, as well as ongoing participation in support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous. The recovering gambler may also need professional financial advise, and family therapy can help to develop a supportive, healthy family structure for sustained recovery.

When The Fun In Gambling Is No Longer Fun

Gambling is all fun and games until you hit the point where you cease seeing the fun in it, or you become irredeemably addicted.

Admittedly, most people do not see it coming. They start gambling for very noble reasons including,

1. The need to take time away from work and family pressures
2. Escape route from depressing thoughts on other issues.
3. Hopes of winning a fortune and living lavishly ever after
4. To bring a tinge of excitement into their otherwise dull lives
5. A chance to go out there, socialize and make new friends.

As you can see from the above points, no one anticipates that gambling will grow into the Frankenstein that now threatens to push them off the sanity cliff. A lot of people are able to keep their gambling under rein. They do it for fun, to pass some time and to socialize. Others lose it completely. They become slaves to online and offline gambling. It throws their lives off-balance. They start putting more time and money into gambling, and they gradually neglect other aspects of their lives.

At this point, problem gamblers look back at their lives and get surprised at how and when it happened. For a lot of people, the problem starts with a shift in mentality. A big loss or a big win, and you are hooked. You start gambling more money than you had planned to spend on gambling, you invest a lot of time in the casinos and before you know it, you are a slave to gambling. You can’t eat, sleep nor breathe without thinking gambling.

To help you understand how gambling addiction works, I have analyzed some of the most common factors that pull people deeper and deeper into addiction.

1. Illusion that You Can be in command of Chance
No one can control chance. It doesn’t favor anyone, smart or otherwise. Unfortunately many problem gamblers think that they can manage to overturn their luck on the tables through sheer power of the mind. They have this skewed illusion that they can win if only they can learn the tricks of the game. They spent hours on end in the casinos trying to perfect their game. They fail to acknowledge the fact that gambling is 100% chance and not something to be learned. There are no tricks and knowledge that will all of a suddenly overturn the tables to your favor.

2. The Lure of the Jackpot
Winning a few hands on the tables can make you feel unconquerable. Everyone loves winning, and science has proved that people remember their victories more than they remember their losses. Fortunately, or probably unfortunately in this case, new gamblers have what is commonly referred as ‘beginner’s luck’. They begin their gambling hobbies on the right foot. They become obsessed with the idea of winning the jackpot.

3. Faith of Changing Luck
In life, we are encouraged to get up after every fall. We will make it in the end. We will accomplish our goals if we do not quit. After all, who wants to quit while the gold vein could be just a few inches away. There is only one place where this advice does not apply. If your quests are governed by pure luck, there is very little chance that you will ever make it. The statistics are open for anyone who wants to take a look. Gambling only ends up in massive losses, debts and frayed social relationships. There is no better time to quit than now. Lady Luck will not smile at you anytime soon.

How To Know If You Are Addicted To Gambling
Although there are clear pointers that indicate you are going down the addiction lane, it can be extremely difficult to identify them if you do not know what they are. This is probably the saddest thing about addiction. We never know we are addicted until we take a step back and look at ourselves in hindsight, at which time the damage has already been done.

In this section, we will discuss the 5 major red flags to watch out for.

1. You Just Can’t Stop
Remember the wise Gambler who Kenny Rogers sings about? Every wise gambler knows when to hold and when to fold. Compulsive gamblers on the other hand do not have limits. They will gamble everything they have thinking that they are having bouts of fun, when in actuality they are driven by compulsions beyond their control.

2. Gambling with Money Not Meant for Fun
Problem gamblers will gamble with money that they can’t stand to lose. They do not have a set gambling budget and will often risk money meant for important things such medical bills and other utility bills.

3. Gambling to Win or to Recover Losses
If you find yourself gambling more for the sole purpose of hitting the jackpot than for fun, you need to reevaluate yourself. Same case applies if the main driving force behind gambling is to recover losses that you had suffered earlier.

4. Obsessively Thinking about Gambling
If you eat, drink and sleep thinking about gambling, you might already be too deep in the trench.

5. Borrowing to Finance Gambling
Have you ever borrowed money to finance gambling? Chances are if you have, things are not looking so good.

What other key pointers do you think indicate a problem with gambling? I believe that you know them better. You know what triggers that red flag and siren at the back of your mind. A lot of gamblers realize the symptoms that point to problematic gambling in their lives, yet stopping becomes a quagmire.

US Gambling in the Midst of UIGEA

Online gambling in United States is endangered with the passing of the UIGEA or Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. It was enforced in 2007 and since then it has dramatically curtailed the online gambler population. Many gambling websites have already stopped operating and many online gamblers have controlled their urge to gamble for the fear of being caught.

Such scare continued to linger despite the efforts to assure people. A few online gambling sites offer gambling system in roulette in which the prizes double with succeeding loss. This martingale system aims to attract more players. Many people aren’t aware of this prohibition and so aren’t familiar with its specifics. This led to false notions, and because of that, information campaign regarding UIGEA has become necessary.

Gambling Sanction

The major implication of UIGEA is to prevent operation of online gambling sites, thereby, preventing players to gamble. This is a US law and is being enacted in two ways. First, it compels legal operations of gambling sites through qualification assessment and issuance of gambling license as administered by Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which will oversee the legalities of operations. Second, other games shall be reclassified and redefined for delineation; hence, games like chess, roulette, and poker shall be removed from the UIGEA scope.

UIGEA does have a good result-security in gambling for US players. Since it tracks down different online gambling sites, it is almost impossible for them to run away, supposing they commit crimes. The main issue is that the UIGEA stirred the industry drastically. A more pressing situation is its ineffective enforcement. The irregularity in enforcement made UIGEA a culprit of setbacks in the online gambling world, no less.

General Picture

UIGEA is so inefficiently enforced that it has become a culprit of profound problems encountered in online gambling today. The issue has a lot to do with the shareholders who invested funds in gambling sites. Because of the impending prohibition of gambling, many shareholders withdrew their shares from online gambling sites because of fear of bankruptcy. This slump causes many gambling websites to shut down operations. As more sites closed, people began to believe that it was going to be the end of online gambling in the United States. Many of these online venues lay the blame on UIGEA for their closure and non-operation. What was supposed to safeguard the gambling market lead to its near demise.

This ineffective enforcement of UIGEA also caused another repercussion. As it is not implemented in some states, there is confusion across the country as to the scope of this law, whether it aims to ban gambling and ban citizens to gamble online or not. Nevertheless, UIGEA does not necessarily prohibit American players to join online gambling websites. But some states did not understand the bill correctly. So many of the US gamers have now succumbed to the idea that they could no longer enjoy gambling online. Despite the number of states allowing gambling, the anxiety in the whole country is very real. As you can see the truth, the nation’s opinion regarding gambling is not in unison. And up to the time that UIGEA continues to be in partial implementation, this nationwide confusion goes on.