Compulsive gambling starts out as recreational and slowly progresses to the point where it has serious consequences for both the gambler and their family. Just as with any other addiction, compulsive gambling is threefold in nature: mental, physical and spiritual, with its main symptom being that of denial and its major characteristic loss of control.
- The opportunity to place a single large bet e.g. horse racing or casino.
- The opportunity to place frequent small bets over relatively short periods e.g. fruit machines, where the interval between bets may be less than 20 seconds.
Characteristics of compulsive gambling:
- Preoccupation: an overriding passion that dominates all aspects of life. The preoccupation transforms the gambler into a withdrawn and moody person.
- Loss of control: not being able to stop once he/she has started.
- Continuing despite the negative consequences.
Predictors of compulsive gambling:
- The compulsion to chase losses.
- Repeated attempts to stop.
- Gambling in response to negative emotions such as stress and depression.
Phases of compulsive gambling:
Who is at risk?
- Research shows that people on low incomes and unemployed people are vulnerable. In this income category, problems emerge at a much earlier stage.
- Young men between 16-30 playing fruit and slot machines and betting on horses are more at risk than their contemporaries purchasing lottery tickets.
- Bingo, scratch cards and machines have more appeal for older women.
- Impulsive people, which brings us back to availability and accessibility.
Effects on problem gamblers:
- Spending savings.
Cashing in holiday/sick pay allowance.
Drawing advances from credit card accounts.
Taking high interest loans.
Pawning jewellery and household goods.
Accessing other family members’ bank accounts.
Engaging in criminal activities.