Gambling - Recreation Leading to Addiction

Oct 20, 2011

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I want to start by saying my gambling experience has been confined to the slot machines in the diners I have stopped at on my way through Nevada.  So I did some research and it I was surprised to find that gambling can become a problem for individuals and families both financially and emotionally.

Over at the National Council on Problem Gambling -

  • 2 million (1%) of U.S. adults are estimated to meet criteria for pathological gambling in a given year.
  • Another 4-6 million (2-3%) would be considered problem gamblers. 
  • Research also indicates that most adults who choose to gamble are able to do so responsibly. 
  • Approximately 85% of U.S. adults have gambled at least once in their lives; 
  • 60% in the past year. 
  • Some form of legalized gambling is available in 48 states plus the District of Columbia.

A number of states allow children under 18 to gamble, and youth also participate in illegal forms of gambling, such as gambling on the Internet or betting on sports. Therefore, it is not surprising that research shows that a vast majority of kids have gambled before their 18th birthday, and that children may be more likely to develop problems related to gambling than adults. While debate continues on this issue, there appears to be a number of factors influencing this finding.

  • Parental attitudes and behavior play a role.
  • Age of exposure plays a part, in that adults who seek treatment for problem gambling report having started gambling at an early age. 
  • A number of adolescents reported a preoccupation with everything related to gambling prior to developing problems.

According to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission Report, legalized casino gambling in America grew 10 percent in 1975. Compare this to 29 percent growth in 1998. Meanwhile, playing the lottery increased from 24 percent to 52 percent. The commission estimates that 125 million U.S. adults gamble, and 7.5 million of these are either problem or compulsive gamblers. Between 1993 and 2003, total gambling revenue in the U.S. more than doubled, from $34 billion to $72 billion.

That's just going to a casino to gamble.  The Internet has opened a whole new way to gamble.

It has been estimated that between 1997 and 1998, Internet gambling more than doubled—from 6.9 million online gamblers to 14.5 million. The generated revenue increased even more—from $300 million to $651 million. For 2004, this figure increased to $6.6 billion, and industry experts project total revenue of $20.8 billion in 2005 ( The online poker industry alone grew threefold in 2004 (

Although online betting is illegal for American companies to offer, a U.S.-based company may still establish an overseas operation to dodge the law. Most online casinos are based in the Caribbean. In 2003, the United States accounted for an estimated 60 percent of all Internet gambling worldwide, despite the fact that wagering with U.S.-issued credit cards or checks is also illegal ( The World Trade Organization, in a recent case brought against the United States by the Caribbean nation Antigua and Barbuda, ruled that American laws against cross border gambling are in violation of free trade standards ( In a related development, the British Parliament is expected to approve Internet gambling soon, including specific provisions to allow gaming companies to accept bets from parties outside the U.K. This is viewed by some as purely a push for new tax revenue, and some observers expect America to follow in Britain's footsteps soon. (The Lure of Gambling,

If you go looking there are a lot more facts and figures that talk about the difference between a "problem gambler" and "pathological gambler" and the phases they can go through. But I was most surprised by the fact that gambling can start in the tween and teen years.  Most online games now are for points or prizes.  The lines are becoming blurred between online game sites and online gambling sites.  Make sure access to credit cards is limited or supervised.  Internet gambling can start with gambling games at home as toy stores now offer poker and blackjack kits.  The best protection is to know and understand the prize systems on the gaming sites your family accesses, and to talk to your kids about how gambling has affected other's lives.