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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Problem Gambling is gambling behavior, which causes disruption in any major area of life: psychological, physical, social or vocational. The term "Problem Gambling" includes, but is not limited to, the condition known as "Pathological," or "Compulsive" gambling, a progressive addiction characterized by increasing preoccupation with gambling, a need to bet more money more frequently, restlessness or irritability when attempting to stop, "chasing" losses, and loss of control manifested by continuation of the gambling behavior in spite of mounting, serious, negative consequences.
It is estimated that approximately .6 percent and 1.5 percent of the adult population have the psychiatric condition known as Pathological Gambling Disorder. Although the number of individuals is not high, the truly serious nature of problem gambling merits programs of public education, prevention, intervention and treatment.
It is estimated that more than 80 percent of American adults have gambled in their lifetime. At least 95 percent of those people, who purchase lottery tickets, visit riverboat casinos or bingo parlors understand the costs and risks of participating in these games of chance. Up to 5 percent of these individuals experience personal, financial and social difficulties due to a gambling problem.
The National Research Council estimates that as many as 1.1 million adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18 are pathological gamblers, which is a much higher percentage than adults. In a study conducted by the National Opinion Research Center, adolescent problem and pathological gambling was found to be the same rate as adults, but the at-risk rate was double the adult rate.
Most researchers and mental health professionals believe that different types of gambling cannot be said to "cause" problem gambling. Dr. Durand Jacobs, for example, has written: "it appears that the addict's pursuit and over indulgence in alcohol, other drugs, food, gambling, sex, overwork, or whatever, is NOT the addicts "problem." On the contrary, a person's addictive pattern of behavior represents that person's best SOLUTION to the stresses generated by their long-standing underlying problems." Dr. Julian Taber has written: "Blaming alcohol or gambling for an addiction has important negative consequences. ... it allows the patient to focus on treatment and discharge plans that deal with everything except personal change."

That being said, problem gamblers are attracted to different forms of gambling for different reasons. Some are attracted to the sensory stimulation of video games of chance, while others to the perception of skill in cards or sports betting. Still others are drawn to the seemingly easy money of high-risk investments. Many, if not most, pathological gamblers indulge in more than one form of gambling. However, studies of pathological gamblers have found that the most frequently cited games of preference are slot machines, card games, and sports betting. A Minnesota study of 944 gamblers in treatment found that 37 percent listed slot machines as their preferred game and 37 percent listed cards. Lottery games, dice games and games of skill were each cited by less than 1 percent of those in the study. (Stinchfield and Winters, 1996)
Yes. Studies have shown that treatment is effective in a great many cases. A wide range of programs exists, ranging from Gamblers Anonymous to inpatient treatment centers. There is no one program that is right for all people. If a treatment program hasn't worked for a particular individual, a different program may well succeed. To find out information about treatment programs available in Missouri, call the toll-free help line 1-888-BETSOFF (1-888-238-7633) or view our providers list.
Compulsive gamblers can be male, female, young, middle-aged, old, wealthy, poor, white, or people of color. Recently, the National Opinion Research Center of the University of Chicago study completed the first-ever national (U.S.) survey on problem gambling prevalence. The study found that young adults, ethnic minorities, and people with little education were slightly more likely to have serious gambling problems, but the differences were not very large.
Yes. In several studies approximately 50 percent of problem gamblers were found to also have drug or alcohol problems, while studies of people in treatment for substance abuse have found between 10 and 30 percent also having a gambling problem. People may have both addictions simultaneously or can switch from one addiction to another.
It appears that in many cases the answer is yes. Various studies have found high rates of alcoholism, depression, anti-social personality disorder, mood disorders and other conditions in pathological gamblers, leading some researchers to suspect that problem gambling is often a symptom of an underlying condition.
This is another area in which research is still in its preliminary stages. Different researchers have suggested a number of character traits. Dr. Richard Rosenthal, for example, has cited three components he believes necessary: an intolerable feeling state, such as helplessness, depression, or guilt, a highly developed capacity for self-deception and exposure to gambling under circumstances in which it is valued. Other researchers have suggested that physical or hereditary predispositions may play a role; these links have not been proven or disproven.
*Reprinted with permission from the National Association of State and Provincial Lotteries (NASPL).


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Compulsive gambling is a behavior disorder in which an individual has an uncontrollable preoccupation and urge to gamble. This results in excessive gambling, the outcome of which is loss of time and money.

The gambling reaches the point at which it compromises, disrupts or destroys the gambler's personal life, family relationships or vocational pursuits. The key signs are emotional dependence on gambling, loss of control and interference with normal functioning.