How Gambling Becomes a Problem
For many problem gamblers, gambling started off fun until it got out of hand. The fun usually begins with gambling with friends, betting on a few hands on special occasions or even partaking grand promotions from casinos. At some point, gambling is no longer fun when the individual is:
1. UNABLE TO STOP
It is quite easy for recreational gamblers to set limits on time and money and stick to them. Unfortunately, for compulsive gamblers, there never seems to be a good time to stop.
Problem gamblers believe there are only three possible outcomes for each gambling session:
- WIN – I’m hot so let’s see how much we can win tonight.
- LOSE – Just a few good hands and I can get it all back.
- BREAK EVEN – No serious gambler ever plays to break even.
2. GETS HOOKED BY THE BIG WIN
Most members of Gambler’s Anonymous can readily recall an “early big win” in their gambling careers. Normal gamblers recognize that the chance of winning a large jackpot is part of what makes gambling so much fun. Problem gamblers, on the other hand, get hooked by an unrealistic thinking that big wins will come to them again, easily and often. Most researchers have agreed that the “early big win” is the beginning of most problem gambling.
3. GETS TRAPPED BY CHASING
“Chasing,” in reference to gambling, means continuing to gamble in an effort to win back money already lost. “Chasing” signals a desperate attempt by all problem gamblers, new and old, to win at all cost and most lose it all because of “chasing.” People who are able to gamble within their limits are called “normal” gamblers and are rarely trapped by “chasing.”
4. LYING, BORROWING AND STEALING TO GAMBLE
Relationships and trust are often destroyed when gamblers lie, borrow or steal money for gambling. Imprisonment may stem from illegal activities such as stealing, robbery, criminal activities as problem gamblers seek more resources for gambling.
In addition to the early big win, several other risk factors have been identified.
- Mood disorders such as depression or anxiety
- Alcohol or substance abuse disorder
- Impulsive personality
- Highly competitive personality
- Low income
- Parental problem gambling (one or both parents had gambling problems)
- A distorted perception of luck, chance and random events
- The early “big win”