Why do some people frequently buy lottery tickets or make trips to the casino? These people may be problem gamblers. The number of problem gamblers is steadily growing and effecting more and more adolescents. Many americans have a gambling problem and the government needs to set restrictions on gambling to help those who are struggling with addiction.
Understanding the definitions of a problem gambler and a pathological gambler are very important when trying to determine the effects of gambling on society.
“Problem gambler” is used in two ways; one way is to refer to those who don’t have as serious of a gambling problem as pathological gamblers, and the second is when talking about both problem gamblers and pathological gamblers (Lesieur). The distinction between a regular gambler and a problem gambler is that the problem gambler gets a thrill from almost winning (“The Almost- Winning Addiction”). In an article about the treatments of pathological gambling, Henry R. Lesieur explains “The American Psychiatric Association uses 10 criteria to define pathological gambling.
” Some examples of those criteria are irritability when unable to gamble, unsuccessful attempts to stop or reduce gambling, and lying to cover up gambling (Lesieur).
Problem gamblers have greater brain response to nearly winning than the average gambler (“The Almost-Winning Addiction”). Instead of treating situations as a loss a problem gambler instead treats it as nearly winning and gets a positive feeling about losing (Griffiths).
This may be due to the fact that some problem gamblers personalize the machines and talk to them as if they are having an actual conversation (Griffiths).
Henry Lesieur also states, “The six problem areas are loss of control, emotional problems, family problems, job or school problems, financial problems, and illegal activity.”
The number of problem gamblers has continually rose in the U.S. In 1997, 4.5% of the U.S. population was considered problem gamblers which is about 15.4 million people, of those people half of them were said to be adolescents (Calvert; Klein). In 1998, 29% of all adults in the
U.S. gambled and in Washington alone 91% of it’s adults made a visit to the casino (Calvert; Lesieur). In 1997, gambling was the fastest growing addiction in the U.S. (Horn). Iowa had a substantial amount of growth to their gambling industry once riverboat casinos were brought to their state (Horn). Before these new casinos, 1.7% of Iowan adults were pathological gamblers, after 5.4% of the population were considered pathological gamblers, that in roughly 110,000 people (Horn). In Bernard Horn’s article about curing the gambling addiction, he states “Pathological and problem gamblers, representing 4% of the adult population, may account for as much as 52% of an average casino’s revenues” (Horn). Twenty years ago, thirteen states had lotteries and only one had a casino, today only Hawaii, Tennessee and Utah are the only states that do not have some form of gambling (Kelly). In a twenty-one year span, gambling revenues in the U.S. increases by $41.1 billion (Horn). In 1997, Americans wagered over $550,000,000,000 (Horn). Robert Goodman, author of ?The Luck Business ?stated, “Those in low-income brackets spend four times as large a percentage of their income on lottery tickets as those in the highest income group” (Qtd. In Klein).
According to Mark Griffiths, becoming addicted to gambling comes from “the consequence of a combination of a person’s biological/genetic predisposition, their psychological make-up and the environment in which they were brought up.” It is estimated that 50 percent of problem gamblers also have a problem with alcohol or drug abuse (Calvert; Lesieur). It is also stereotyped that lottery players are elderly, poor, and undereducated (Calvert).
Furthermore, problem gamblers are commonly coffee-drinking, chain-smoking, young minority males (Griffith; Lesieur). Peers can lead others to become problem gamblers by socially rewarding them while gambling (Griffiths). Problem gamblers could feel more reward for nearly winning because their brain triggers dopamine, a substance associated with addiction, to transmit causing them to even enjoy nearly winning or losing (“The Almost- Winning Addiction”). No matter what kind of gambling, the odds never favor the gambler, or the companies would not be able to make money (Horn).
Indian casinos were coming into the states, so governments decided that if gambling was going to be legalized they should be able to have commercial casinos too and earn tax revenue (Horn). State governments have become so addicted to this extra money that they have started promoting gambling (Horn; Klein). More than $100 million dollars has been given to the government from the gambling industry in hopes that they will promote and expand the business (Klein). In the nineteenth century, Americans fought against the legalization of gambling because of it’s devastating social and financial effects (Lesieur). Normally when a large, negative addiction spreads, the government will step in and intervene, but because they are receiving lots of revenue from this industry they have done nothing to regulate or stop the addiction (Cure). Research has proven that the gambling addiction is strongly affecting the population, yet the government has not intervened or tried to improve any portion of it (Singleton).
Location has a large effect on the source of casino revenues. For instance, larger cities such as Vegas and Atlantic City draw out of state money which can be used to pay local taxes. In fact, in Vegas, 80% to 90% of its revenues come from out-of-state tourists (Klein). But other places like Iowa, which don’t draw much tourism, get there revenue from local gamblers which ends up taking money from their own local economy (Klein). Similarly, only 16% of gamblers in Illinois are out-of-state gamblers (Klein). This causes locals’ money to be spent at the casinos for meals, hotel, and entertainment instead of small restaurants, hotels, and entertainment business, therefore declining their local economy (Klein).
Gambling has a long list of connections to various crimes, some examples include drunk driving, theft, and prostitution (Klein). As stated by Lesieur, The Illinois survey (Lesieur and Anderson 1995) found that the average amount stolen for 184 Gamblers Anonymous (GA) members was $60,700; the median amount stolen was $500, and 56 percent admitted stealing. The average in Wisconsin, excluding one person who took $8 million, was $5,738; 46 percent admitted stealing.
Problem gamblers commit felonies and account for about $1,300,000,000 in insurance fraud each year (Horn). Casinos have caused some town to have to hire more law enforcement officers to help control the outbreak of crime (Kelly).
According to Lesieur, pathological gamblers run their families into debt causing, “mortgage, rent, gas, electricity, telephone, and other bills [to] be late or overdue. Gamblers may even spend college or retirement savings (Horn). The average debt for a GA member is between $35,000 and $92,000 and thousands of gamblers file for bankruptcy (Horn). Timothy Kelly included the following case history in his article about the growth of the gambling industry:
Reported by the NGISC: “Debbie had never been to a casino….. She suggested to her husband that they make the hour trek from their Denver home”. “The novelty quickly wore off for Debbie, but such was not the case for her husband. Before long he was visiting the casinos four and five nights a week”.”Debbie became aware that they would have to file for bankruptcy. Her husband had lost close to $40,000 in three months”. “She filed for divorce”.Before his gambling problems, Debbie said, her husband was a stable individual, an involved father with a strong work ethic. After gambling problems developed, Debbie found her husband virtually unrecognizable. There were episodes of domestic violence and bizarre behavior. “The husband I divorced was not the husband I married,” she said. “He’s a total stranger to me. He became a liar, he became a cheat, he became engaged in criminal and illegal activities.”
Therefore, gambling doesn’t just affect the gambler themselves it can cause problems for their spouses and children. The poor and less fortunate are more likely to get hit by this addiction (Calvert). Three dozen “Cash for Gold” stores are able to stay in business in Atlantic City because after gamblers lose all their cash and clean out their bank accounts, the decide to sell their jewelry. They will sell their watches and in extreme cases wedding rings, just so they can have some extra cash to gamble with in the casinos (Horn). The things the people don’t think about are the spouses at home that are planning a divorce or their kids who are eating peanut butter and jelly because their school lunch money has run out. (Calvert). These problems don’t only affect problems gamblers they can also affect the general gambler just on a less serious level. (Singleton) Gambling can change someone’s work habits, relationships, and general personality. (Griffiths) All of this added stress can cause anxiety and mental disorders. (Lesieur) Seventy percent of pathological gamblers have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder and some have bipolar disease. (Lesieur)