Gambling for entertainment turns into problem when you can’t draw the line

Jill Fier

Jill Fier

The word gambling can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

For most of us, it means buying the occasional lottery ticket as we pay for our gas at the gas station whenever we fill up our tank. Or it can mean a weekend of fun with a group of friends at a casino about once a year.

For others, a single lottery ticket turns into an unrealistic and constant fantasy of an extravagant lifestyle that’s not coming. For these people, gambling is something that occurs almost every day, something that has gotten so out of control they don’t know how to stop it.

Sue VanDoren, a nationally certified gambling counselor with the Keystone Treatment Center in Canton, S.D., said that people become addicted to gambling for a variety of reasons.

“It’s different for different people. Some people can look back and tell what started their addiction, and others can’t.”

For some people, they get a euphoric feeling when they gamble. When they win money, they want to keep going to win more, and when they lose, they want to try to win back what they have lost.

VanDoren said that as their addiction worsens, addicts have to keep increasing the amounts of money they bet with to keep that euphoric feeling.

While 96 to 97 percent of all gambling addicts that come through the Keystone Treatment Center are addicted to video lottery, age can affect what bets people will pursue.

“What’s accessible to them is what they’ll play; people under 21 play scratch tickets a lot,” she said.

VanBuren also said that 85 percent of the people receiving inpatient treatment she sees have been involved some sort of illegal activity.

Some things to watch out for in case you suspect someone is addicted to gambling include:

*Lying about the amount of money spent gambling.

*Lying about amount of time spent gambling, or finding periods of time unaccounted for.

*Bragging about the wins, but not mentioning losses.

*Trying to cut back but unable to.

*Experiencing extreme emotions, like elation and depression.

*Jobs and relationships being put in jeopardy because of problems related to gambling.

*Frequently borrowing money from friends and family to gamble or help pay off bills.

*Doing anything to get more money to gamble, including writing more and more checks when cash runs out.

For more information on how to control a gambling addiction, call the toll-free number to find the nearest gambler’s anonymous group at 1-888-781-HELP.