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Problem Gambling: You Got To Know When To Fold ‘Em

Recently, I completed an eye-opening program. I’d like to share with you some of the information from the New York Council On Problem Gambling, especially since there is discussion about increasing the number of casinos in NY State in order to raise revenues which supporters hope will refresh our rotten economy.

I’ve heard that other states are also considering legalizing or expanding various forms of gambling.

While I agree the economy in general stinks, I disagree that casinos actually increase revenues for states during a nationwide depression (okay, recession). I’m not alone in believing this, some economists and politicians agree.

In addition to the obvious risk of increasing problem gambling, the evidence seems to indicate that casinos and racetracks actually suffer financially in a bad economy. For example, despite news reports that say Nevada’s economy is turning the corner, it’s been pretty rotten for awhile and the casinos there are hurting.

It seems like Nevada’s economy is only “turning the corner” now that there are reports that the national economy might be picking up. (It’s true that I’m not an economist and giving you my less-than-expert opinion on matters economic, but hey, are the professional economists doing any better with their prognostications right now?)

I worry about promoting gambling in general. Yes, it’s legal. Yes, it’s a form of entertainment for some and a place of employment for others. But for many, the closer they live to a casino, the higher the chances that they’ll develop a problem. Anywhere in America, take a look in any casino, at any racetrack, at any OTB place, and you’ll see some examples of the ravages of pathological gambling.

The NYCPG says:

To be diagnosed as a pathological gambler, an individual must meet at least five out of ten diagnostic criteria established by the American Psychiatric Association:

        • thinks constantly about gambling
        • increases bets to sustain thrill
        • exhibits agitation when cutting back
        • gambles as an escape
        • chases losses
        • lies to conceal activity
        • finances bets through illegal acts
        • jeopardizes significant relationships
        • relies on financial bailout
        • fails in effort to control or stop

On the NYCPG site, they also list the warning signs (for both adults and adolescents):

Warning Signs

  • Are you or a loved one haunted by bill collectors?
  • Do you or a loved one gamble to escape worry, boredom or trouble?
  • Do thoughts of gambling disrupt your sleep?
  • Do you or a loved one ever gamble longer than originally planned?
  • Do arguments, disappointments or frustrations cause you or a loved one to gamble?
  • Do you or a loved one celebrate good times with gambling?
  • Have you ever had self-destructive thoughts because of problems resulting from gambling?
  • Have you or a loved one lost time from work or school due to gambling?
  • Do you hide the rent/mortgage or food money because your spouse, partner or other family member gambles it away?
  • Do you or a loved one borrow money to finance gambling or to pay back gambling debts?
  • Does your spouse, partner or other loved one promise faithfully that she or he will stop gambling, yet continues to gamble?
  • Have you noticed a personality change in a loved one as his or her gambling has progressed?
  • Is your spouse, partner or other loved one away from home or unavailable to the family of long periods of time due to gambling?

Adolescent Warning Signs

  • Unexplained absences from school or classes
  • Sudden drop in grades or failure to complete assignments on time
  • Change of personality or behavior
  • Exaggerated display of money or other material possessions
  • Daily or weekly card game
  • Bragging about winning at gambling
  • Intense interest in gambling conversations
  • Unusual interest in newspapers/magazines/periodicals/sports scores
  • Unaccountable explanation for new items of value in possession
  • Borrowing or stealing money
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Uncharacteristically forgetting appointments or dates
  • Exaggerated use of word “bet” in vocabulary and/or use of gambling language in conversations (e.g. bookie, point spread, underdog, favorite)


Problem Gambling: You Got To Know When To Fold ‘Em

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2019). Problem Gambling: You Got To Know When To Fold ‘Em. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 24, 2020, from


Last updated: 30 Mar 2019
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