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Problem Gambling in the News Again

By: Joe Valentino, Wednesday July 22nd 2009
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Recently there have been two different aspects of problem gambling in the news. Both offer illuminating information.

The first study concerns senior citizens and problem gambling. Though the incidence of problem gambling among the general population is less than 3%, a WREX-TV report says that in the segment of the population above 65 years the incidence of problem gambling is as high as 11%. This figure appears to be inflated because of an arbitrary definition of problem gambling used in the study. Problem gambling had been defined as wagering more than one can afford or wagering more than $100 on a single bet. The second stipulation appears to be unreasonable. While experts have disputed the figure of 11%, they do agree that senior citizens face a greater risk of problem gambling.

Experts have narrowed down the reason for this to specific cultural phenomena associated with the later stage of life. These include loss of spouse, serious illnesses and sometimes the use of medicines that may affect judgment. The symptoms of problem gambling among senior citizens are however not very different from the symptoms exhibited by the rest of the population. Hiding the gambling habit, using savings for funding gambling, intense happiness when winning and great depression when losing are the common symptoms. Keeping family ties alive and developing hobbies are the key to preventing falling into the problem gambling trap. However should the senior citizen succumbed to problem gambling then professional counseling and therapy becomes essential.

The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling has reported that requests for assistance through problem gambling help lines have increase by 50% as compared to the figures for four years ago. The calls for help have increased from about 3000 per year to 4400 per year. A Gamblers Anonymous spokesman stated that this was an indication that "Florida compulsive gambling is ready to explode". However, both the Institute for Research on Gambling Disorders and the National Council on Problem Gambling have confirmed that percent of population that actually exhibits problem gambling disorders is static at about 1%. The increase exposure of society to problem gambling does not alter this figure. The reason is that problem gambling is believed to be a genetic disorder.

Counselors at the Florida Institute attribute the increase in requests for assistance to the aggressive advertising and educational campaigns conducted both by gambling operators and by problem gambling institutes. They cite the inclusion of numbers like 888-ADMIT-IT by casinos in their adverts. As a result more and more problem gamblers are coming out of the closet and seeking help.

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