Gambling addiction is a tough habit to beat as it grips you in a short term reward pattern wherein the player does not fully comprehend the long term losses and impact on their quality of life. Their brain becomes wired to seek out the pleasure of the bet and the win. In case of a loss, the player can quickly minimise the negative feelings. The problem gambler will typically seek out the next gambling win to cover the feeling of loss and/or reduce the emotional depression with another addiction such as drugs and alcohol. Life spirals out of control as the mounting pressures to get more money for gambling is crashing against the payments necessary for a normal life.
Gambling addiction is found across so many types of individuals it is hard to pin point one aspect as a common thread. I have seen men and women, old and young, rich and poor. A grandmother can spend hours on a bingo website and easily lose thousands of pounds just like a young banker playing in a London casino after work. It really can be anyone and until the situation becomes dire, the gambling addict can hide their compulsion to play for a very long time.
The split between men and women is about equal for gambling addiction. Men tend to start gambling younger while women are skewed towards later in life from ages 35 to 40. Gambling addiction is associated with the desire to feel the gambling high for young people, economic problems for middle aged people, and health problems for people 55 years and older.
The 2010 British Gambling Prevalence Survey showed 73% of adults in Great Britain had gambled in the past year, that is about 35.5 million adults. About 1-2% of gamblers are found to be problem gamblers, making 355,000 to 710,000 adults with a form of gambling addiction. This small group has been shown to generate 30% – 60% of revenues for machine-gambling games in casinos and businesses. You can see how quickly the money they make or borrow or steal goes straight back into the system; chasing the big score. (http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/PDF/British%20Gambling%20Prevalence%20Survey%202010.pdf)
Once a compulsive gambler seeks help they are often in a large amount of debt, typically around £60,000 to £100,000. Of this group, 80% have seriously considered suicide as a way out, having run themselves, their families, and their livelihoods into the ground. Unfortunately, before they turn to help, anywhere from 13% to 20% either attempt suicide or succeed. Of people in treatment for gambling addiction, roughly 2/3’s have committed crimes to continue their addiction. (http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/ngisc/reports/4.pdf)
A major problem with gambling is that it is available 24/7; on the internet in your home, out on the high streets, and even your mobile phone. You could wake up in the middle of the night, place a bet on your mobile, and go back to sleep. The distance between a gambler’s craving to bet and placing one is practically zero.
On top of gambling availability is the constant in your face reminders and lures. Betting shops are on every high street and sponsor athletic clubs and events across the country. Lotto numbers are announced on t.v.’s and newspapers along with the smiling big winners. Spam emails and online marketing promotes free money to play which makes it seem risk free but typically leads one-click relapses. There is practically no escape from the influence of gambling so gambling addicts need to build strong defences from such a constant pull to play.
There doesn’t seem to be an end to gambling opportunities in the UK and the constant flow of players addicted to gambling coming to me for help shows the damage out of control gambling will continue to wreck. While gambling might not ever go away I can help people overcome their propensity to put down a bet or spin a wheel. No matter your past, how many friends or family you have lost, how much debt you hold, or how down you feel right now; I will fix you up and put you back in the real game of life.