Studies also show older Americans may be at higher risk for gambling addiction than the general population. For example, Las Vegas offers not only miles of casinos but also extensive treatment services for compulsive gambling. As the senior population has increased in Las Vegas, the number of seniors addicted to gambling has increased as well. One treatment center reports that 40% of those treated for gambling addiction are seniors.
Why it’s Dangerous: Gambling Affects Everyone, Even Non-Gamblers
Slot machines and other electronic gambling devices rank as both the most highly addictive for individuals AND highly profitable for casinos: a dangerous combination. Casinos are highly motivated to attract potential slot machine addicts, which is bad not only for individuals, but their families and our communities as a whole.
I recently interviewed Dr. Damon Dye, who operates Triangle Resolutions, a counseling center in the Tampa Bay area. He has been treating gamblers and their spouses for over ten years. I first became acquainted with Dr. Dye when I traveled to Tampa to release the Seniors in Casino Land report. I appreciated the way that his work focuses on the spouses and families of problem gamblers. As I researched the impact of gambling on older Americans, a statistic from the Journal of Gerontological Social Work concerning the communal impact of gambling stuck with me: at least 5 other people are adversely affected by an individual with a gambling problem.
Dye’s recently released book, Know When to Hold ‘Em was written for spouses and loved ones of problem gamblers to provide the emotional tools to deal with their loved one’s addiction. He begins with stressing how problem gambling is a “hidden addiction” that shapes how the individual thinks about money and purpose in life. Treatment involves the entire family system as they grapple with the shame and guilt of the addiction. His book helped me better understand how to recognize problem gambling behavior, what interventions in treatment tend to be effective, and how best to support the loved ones who support someone in the throes of addiction.
Some predict that casinos will become a leading institution for eldercare, or in the words of journalist Gary Rivlin, “day care for the elderly.” Indeed, the state-sponsored commercial casinos have developed a large body of market research on the wants and needs of retired Americans. But casinos are not public service institutions. They exist to make profits for their owners and shareholders and to produce revenue for the state.
As regional casinos and electronic gaming proliferate state-by-state and neighborhood-by-neighborhood, we will be wise to pause during National Gaming Education Week to learn about the true risks of gambling.