• How Is Gambling Bad For You?
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    How Is Gambling Bad For You?

    Let’s face it, during the last thirty years, legal gambling, in the form of Indian gaming casinos, has brought these establishments into nearly every neighborhood. Prior to that, gambling was legal only in the state of Nevada, where Las Vegas and Reno created a huge industry by building thriving casinos. Then came Atlantic City and many others followed suit.

    The United States leads the world with numbers of casinos at 1,511 establishments in 2012, with revenues from gambling running at $65, 497 million. The next closest country is France with 189. Needless to say, the casino industry is considered “big business” in the U.S.

    What do we Consider to be Gambling?

    Gambling is defined as when one risks either winning or losing money, property or possessions in a game where the outcome is mostly by chance. In the early days of gambling, restricted to mostly horse racing, betting on cards or lottery opportunities, there were few places where gambling was practiced.

    Historically, gambling was seen as an activity that was similar to drinking, not socially viable or even acceptable. Gamblers were nefarious persons, viewed askance and seldom publicly appropriate. Today it is a huge industry, employed hundreds of thousands and harming even more people.

    Some popular forms of gambling are:

    • Casino games (Craps, dice, Sic Bo (Chinese dice game), Pai Gow Tiles (Chinese Dominoes), Roulette, Blackjack, Caribbean Stud, Three Card Poker, Casino War, Baccarat, and others)
    • bingo
    • keno
    • slot machines
    • lottery tickets
    • scratch, Nevada or pull-tab tickets
    • betting on card games, mahjong or dominoes
    • betting on horse racing
    • other sports betting (football, baseball, basketball, including pools)
    • betting on games of skill, such as golf or pool
    • internet gambling
    • stock market speculation

    A person who is a compulsive gambler will make bets on the weather, the sex of an unborn child, the next person to call them, and just about anything that is unknown to them from one moment to the next. Life itself may become, for them, an opportunity to place a wager.

    What is Problem Gambling?

    Most people seem to be able to enjoy betting without suffering horrible consequences. They are able to win and lose with impunity, seldom suffering from their gambling periods. Many people are able to gamble only on a vacation to a city with a casino or other times when it is a recreational experience.

    However, for a gambling addict, it begins to take them away from their life. Gambling away their financial security or that of their family becomes a high risk. They may lose a great deal of money, which for many is a deterrent to future continued gambling. However, these people are convinced that they are investing in a future “win”, which will restore their financial standing.

    As losses escalate, they begin to cheat and lie to procure money, borrowing from friends and family, even loan sharks to make up their losses with the “big win” they have convinced themselves is on its way. They may sell precious belongings of theirs (or others) to get money, firmly convinced they will buy them back.

    As these behaviors sink them deeper and deeper into the pathology of cover up and additional gambling, they will begin to lose sleep, failing to show up for work and for family events. They are either in casinos, obsessively gambling, or doing what they need to do in order to get more money for gambling. All of their efforts are spent on further gambling activity.

    What Happens to the Gambler?

    Someone with a gambling addiction becomes, much like any other type of addict, obsessed with their addictive behaviors.

    A portion of the brain reserved for risky behaviors becomes involved during the early gambling experience and receives constant “hits” creating the same kind of “rush” that drug addicts experience when they begin their initial drug use. The gambler experiences the same “fight or flight” responses, which becomes part of the addiction. They may have hot flashes, rapid breathing, and adrenaline may begin pumping through their bodies, giving them a sense of “excitement” or “danger”.

    Those with a history of trauma or near-death experiences are sometimes more apt to be drawn to these sensations, and therefore, more vulnerable to this addiction. A feeling of danger often gives them the sensation of “being more alive” than their normal state.

    The gambler may become convinced they are helping the family by gambling, believing they are going to “hit big” and restore family finances to a higher level or return the money they have lost. After each loss, they will experience enormous depressed states, sometimes running into suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

    Their behavior begins to become sneaky and suspicious as they develop more dishonesty to cover up their gambling and losses. The gambler may then begin to experience anxiety as the desire to “fix” their problems with more gambling behaviors increase. They will seek out another gambling opportunity, because they have become hooked into the patterns of exhilaration and depression that is the chronic cycle of addiction. They have by now, often lost interest or ability to perform normally at work or home. Employers may have fired them for frequent loss of time on the job or even stealing. The gambler is spiraling into the morass of hopelessness and remorse.

    As their problems increase, they will spend more and more time focused on recouping losses, finding more money with which to gamble, and covering up the behaviors. This leads to increasing levels of stress, increasing their risks for heart disease, digestive problems, and emotional instability. Families despair around the money issues involved and the loss of their member to gambling.

    What Can Be Done to Stop Gambling Addiction?

    As with other addictions, the gambler must address the problem themselves.

    While intervention is sometimes a viable option for family members and friends or employers, it is up to the gambler to refrain from additional gambling behavior. Counseling or therapy may help them to stop the behaviors associated with gambling. A sound financial advisor can assist with reclaiming financial stability. There are support groups and 12-step programs available as well.

    Once the gambler has achieved a state of abstinence, that is recognized as the beginning point of recovery from ongoing gambling problems.

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