Gambling is defined as the staking of money as well as goods that have a material value on a particular event with the intention to win extra money (or material goods with value for that matter). The result of this wagering becomes evident in a short period of time. It has now become a commercial activity that is conducted internationally, meanwhile the legal gambling market was estimated at $335 billion in 2009 (The Economist, 2010).
The games that are played by gamblers in the modern casinos of today were first originated in China and Europe (The History of American Gambling, 2012). Some of the games that originated in Europe include baccarat, blackjack, craps and roulette; meanwhile those that were originated in China include keno and pai gow poker (Gambling History, from the beginning, 2011).
There are many countries of the world where gambling has been banned. At the same time there are also many other countries that have legalized gambling but it is regulated by licensing and taxation through government intervention.
The main aim of this paper is to analyze legalized gambling from the point-of-view of addiction counselor and other organizations that are there to help the people abstain from gambling, when it becomes more of an addiction than just a game.
Addiction of Gambling
Gambling addiction is also referred to as "compulsive gambling" and is classified under impulse-control disorders category (Saisan, et. al, 2012). People who are considered to be compulsive gamblers to addicts do not have the will power to not gamble even when they are aware that gambling is not good for them and their loved ones. They do not care about the consequences and just want to go on with gambling. Nothing affects their gambling habits. They are not bothered if they are flush or broke, if they are happy or sad. These people can just not resist their urge to bet even when they know that cannot afford to lose and even when they know that gambling will hurt them.
There is another term that we need to understand before we proceed further with our discussion and that is "problem gambling." It is defined as any gambling behavior that will have a negative impact on one's life (Saisan, et. al, 2012). If one constantly feels preoccupied with gambling all the time and spends increasing amount of time and money on it, despite the disastrous consequences, then he or she has a gambling problem.
Many people view gambling addiction as just a financial problem. However, it is not the case. Problem gamblers suffer way more problems than just financial; they have a stressed family life and strained friendships.
Signs and Symptoms of Gambling
It is sometimes difficult for people to figure out if they have become gambling addicts. This is because this addiction does not produce any physical signs and symptoms like alcohol or other drug addictions. Those who have become addicted to gambling will be seen hiding their gambling and denying it. They start avoiding their loved ones and even lie about their gambling activities.
One knows that he or she is a problem gambler of gambling addict when he or she is unable to resist the urge to gamble and gamble till the very last dollar that one owns. Time frame is also important in gambling to assess the severity of addiction.
Why People Gamble?
For the treatment of gambling addiction, it is important for us to know what drives people to go for gambling after which they get addicted to it. Many people gamble to bring some excitement in their lives. Some people gamble because they want to become more social and they want to overcome their shortcomings like isolation or shyness. When people feel unpleasant or depressed, they often go to a casino to make themselves feel better and happy. Some people are attracted to gamble when they are bored, lonely or have nothing better to do. When one comes back home after a long stressful day, gambling is considered to be a way to relax. There is also a huge fraction of gambling addicts who gamble because they have some financial problems.
Treatment of Gambling Addiction
Once a person is diagnosed with a problem of gambling, it is going to be wise for him or her to seek professional help. Many people think that going to a counselor or doctor means that they are too weak to handle their problems. However, only smart people realize that they can fix their issues by seeing a professional and there is no harm in it. Let's look at some ways through which these people are given help so that they can overcome their problem of gambling addiction.
Since problem gambling is a problem of 1.6% of the adult population in America, Gamblers Anonymous is a program for people who are addicted to gambling (Petry, 2003). This is a twelve step program that started in Los Angeles in 1957. The only requirement for Gamblers Anonymous membership is the drive to abstain from gambling. The meetings of Gamblers Anonymous are held throughout the world to help people with this syndrome.
When a comparison is made between the gamblers who attend GA and those who do not, we find out that the members of GA are expected to have more intense gambling problems, are of older age, have higher incomes and mostly are married. They also tend to have larger debts, family conflicts and almost no history of drug abuse (Petry, 2003). GA is also known to be effective when it comes to prevent relapses of gambling addiction (Brown, 1987).
Most of the time and resources are spent on counseling the GA members as to how they can deal with financial and legal problems. Pressure Relief Groups are supported by GA, where the members interact with each other and encourage each other to become honest with their loves ones and people at work. Some of the gambling addicts who feel that the GA meeting did not do them any benefit are likely to discontinue attending these meetings; meanwhile gamblers who feel that they can give up gambling just after attending the first meeting are also likely to adopt the same behavior. Therefore, GA is suitable for the gamblers who have a balanced opinion regarding the GA meetings (Ferentzy, 2005).
Many people claim that GA is a gender biased program. Although, the probability of men and women attending this program is almost the same (Crisp et. al, 2000), the reason why many people believe so is because this program does not have any downplaying of interpersonal and spiritual issues, women are not attracted towards it.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Cognitive behavior therapy is available for gambling addicts and it is conducted by addiction counselors or service providers. The focus of these counselors is on altering the unhealthy gambling behaviors and thoughts. These counselors also help the gamblers to deal with the unpleasant emotions and solve the problems regarding finances, relationships and work. This therapy is a four step program.
As mentioned earlier gambling is legalized in many countries of the world, however it is regulated in these countries through licensing and taxation. Some of the organizations that regulate gambling include Nevada Gaming Control Board and Gambling Commission in UK (UK Gambling Commission, 2012). The image of gambling is now being rehabilitated in many countries of the world as people have started to consider acceptable by all. Since the mid of 1970, gambling is considered to be America's fastest growing industry (Ogwyn, 2001). Polls have also shown that since the mid-1990s, there is an increased number of people who no more think that gambling is no more a social or financial harm, rather it develops the economy.
However the people who counsel the gambling addicts and organizations that are working to help the people abstain from the addiction of gambling might not have the same view. They have many reasons for not supporting the legalization of gambling. However, there are also some of the counselors who believe that there is nothing wrong with legalization of this activity.
Legalized Gambling -- A counselor's perspective
Many counselors believe that the social and financial problems that are a result of addiction to gambling outweigh the benefits that it might render for the development of the economy. An individual who does not gamble because of the legal consequences is, for obvious reasons, less likely to get addicted to gambling than a person who knows that he will not have to face any legal consequences even if he gambles. Many people abstain from gambling just because it is illegal in many countries and thus there is no chance of them getting addicted to gambling.
Counselors claim that the benefits of the legalized gambling are actually very short lives. Meanwhile advocates of legalized gambling claim that gambling can save the economy through recession, the counselors of addict gamblers believe that these benefits are too short lived to save…