Title: Betting Their Lives (Gambling addiction and its impact on families)

Word Count: about 2000 words


“Gambling is the fastest growing addiction today,” says Heiko Ganzer, Clinical and Program Director at LastWager Problem Gambling Treatment Program. Problem gamblers now cost American society approximately $5 billion annually and $40 billion in lifetime costs in increased crime, lost business productivity, and increased health care and social services costs, according to a study by the National Opinion Research Council. The costs to families with a problem gambler in their midst is even more devastating. This covers factors which are leading to ever-increasing rates of problem gambling, impacts on families, effects of increasing gambling opportunities on children, how to tell if a loved one may have a gambling problem, where to get help and how families can protect themselves financially if a loved one continues to gamble. Includes stories of real families dealing with gambling addiction.


Monte Carlo night at your child’s school. Lotto or Mega Millions. The office March Madness pool. Chances are you’ve participated in one of these forms of gambling recently. Gambling?! Wait a minute – isn’t gambling something much worse? Despite widespread social acceptance of these activities, “If it involves risking money on an uncertain outcome, it IS gambling,” says Heiko Ganzer, Clinical and Program Director at LastWager Problem Gambling Treatment Program.

“Gambling is the fastest growing addiction today,” says Ganzer. Researchers attribute this trend to two factors: increasing social acceptance of gambling as harmless recreation and increasing availability of gambling opportunities.

“The gambling industry has suddenly recognized that the word ‘gambling’ still has negative connotations,” says Steve Block, President, New York Council on Problem Gambling . “So they’ve started a massive re-marketing campaign to change the name of what they do to ‘gaming’ – promoting it as innocent entertainment.” For most people, an excursion to a casino or the track will be just that. But for the estimated five to eight percent of American adults with serious gambling problems and an additional fifteen million Americans potentially at risk of becoming problem gamblers, growing social acceptance of gambling exacerbates the problem.

Just ask Nancy*, mother of two. She and her (now ex-) husband started going to the racetrack regularly. “It was our entertainment,” she says. “I knew he was betting – I tried not to think about how much. He had a high stress job, so I figured he deserved some fun.” She told herself that his obviously increasing interest in betting on horses was no big deal. Family and friends said don’t worry about it. But when she discovered a huge stash of racing tickets that her husband had hidden from her, she says, “I was blown away. I couldn’t breathe. And I finally had to admit that our ‘entertainment’ had turned into a very serious problem.” . . .

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