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Best of Mark Pilarski
The side of gambling casinos never talk about10 November 2000
I questioned myself, Jane, if your inquiry was appropriate for this type of column — unequivocally YES!
Extent of the Problem: The magnitude of problem gambling ceaselessly draws heated debate. Groups like the National Coalition against Legalized Gambling believe the wrath of gambling leads to the gates of prison, insanity or death. The casino industry disputes any figure and gives problem gambling limited lip service. Setting biased opinions aside, a good frame of reference is the number of studies showing that anywhere from 5-10 million people in the United States (2% of the population) can be considered compulsive gamblers, with an additional 3% problem gamblers. Research also indicates that as many as 7% of teenagers could be addicted to gambling.
Trends: As gambling proliferates across America — legal in 27 states by 1998 — one frightening trend always, repeat always, appears. Saturate any area with gambling and the prevalence of problem gambling spirals upward. I am personally inclined to believe that problem gambling will continue to accelerate north for two reasons.
1. Social attitudes toward gambling have changed from negative to positive.
2. Church and state got into the gambling business. Be it church bingo, Las Vegas Nights, the lottery or casino gambling, both institutions not only legitimized gambling but depend on these legalized activities as a way of generating revenues.
Profile: Until the mid-1970s, your typical compulsive gambler was a white, middle-aged man. Today's profile according to the Council of Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey crosses all ages, races, religious persuasions, socioeconomic levels and educational lines. Below is their snapshot of your typical compulsive gambler.
Nine out of 10 problem gamblers are men.
91% of problem gamblers who paid off their gambling losses continue to gamble.
17% attempt suicide.
96% began gambling before the age of 14.
Three out of four compulsive gamblers commit felonies because of gambling.
Treatment: What works? Gamblers Anonymous. Gamblers Anonymous offers the following questions as self-evaluation. These questions are provided to help the individual decide if he or she is a compulsive gambler and wants to stop gambling. Most compulsive gamblers will answer yes to at least seven of these questions.
1. Did you ever lose time from work or
school due to gambling?
For my loyal readers: Bet with your head, not over it. If you or someone you care about has a gambling problem and wants help, call GAMBLERS ANONYMOUS.
GAMBLERS ANONYMOUS is a fellowship of men
and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other
so they may solve their common problem and help others recover from a
gambling addiction. The only requirement for membership is a desire to
stop gambling. For further information write or call:
Best of Mark Pilarski