Is gambling an expression of a pathological and/or neurotic individual? Essay

            Gambling can progress over into the realm of mental disorders especially if it shows signs of its being pathological in nature. In fact, pathological gambling was recognized as a psychiatric disorder although the criterion was reworked based on several researches and statistical methods for the DSM-IV. The American Psychiatric Association defines pathological gambling as an impulse control disorder that is a chronic and progressive mental illness. (Problem gambling). If it is persistent and recurrent meeting at least five of the following criteria as long as these behaviors are not better explained by a manic episode. Some of these are preoccupation and frequent thoughts about gambling; tolerance, withdrawal, escape, chasing, lying, loss of control, bailout, risking significant relationships, illegal acts, and biological bases. (Problem gambling).

            Are you addicted to poker? For most, the answer would be no, but for some, the answer would be a denial, coupled with a gnawing guilt. Studies show that addiction to gambling, particularly in Texas hold ‘em poker is a growing problem. Since the 48 states in the union do not keep records on the financial accounts of casino and gaming companies on the national level, therefore an accounting of the national scope of gambling problem is next to impossible. The problem can only be glimpsed through state studies and studies from other countries sharing many cultural similarities to the United States. These countries include Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia, countries that have a high level of documented gambling addiction in the world. The studies consistently show that segment marketing, coupled with advertising and special promotions have been successfully enticing individuals to gamble. The growing cultural acceptability of gambling as a form of entertainment, contribution to state revenues, and the proliferation of internet casinos makes the limitation of gambling extremely prohibitive. The studies point towards gambling addiction intercession and treatment are the most prominent form of intervention both by the state and by private entities. Among the gambling addictions, Texas hold ‘em is among the most prominent. It even has several versions in order to entice more players. These versions are called ‘on limit’, ‘fixed limit’ and the ‘pot limit.’ (Tips for Texas Poker).

Even with police stations the instances of recidivism can be seen in the abuse of gambling. There have been reports of the repeated offenses of people who have undergone the therapy of Alcoholics Anonymous. This repeated offense may be attributed to “noncompliance with the immunosuppressive regimen”. (Fabrega, et al. 1998) This particular instance of recidivism can be attributed to the person’s own willful choice of not adhering to the standards that have been set before him. This is a choice that the person solely makes upon entering into rehabilitation. If the person is indeed pardoned for drinking alcohol while driving, it still does not mean that recidivism will not be present anymore after the rehabilitation. There are several important factors to include such as the duration of the addiction, the frequency of his drinking binges, his or her exposure to several alcoholic stimuli and several others. For an alcoholic, there is no guarantee that once he or she is finished with the rehabilitation program, he will have a 0% chance of coming back to alcohol. There is always a likelihood that there will be a return to that particular drinking habit. “Despite some promising leads, no controlled studies definitively have shown any single or combined intervention that prevents relapse in a fairly predictable manner. Thus, relapse as a central issue of alcoholism treatment warrants further study.” (Polich, 1981) This only means that even if a person is genuinely rehabilitated and is entered into a controlled environment, he is still as much as vulnerable as the next person. The recidivism of an alcoholic is very much evident in the case studies done by Polich. Because of such studies and conclusions, alcohol abuse is one of the prominent areas wherein recidivism is apparent and irrevocably present.

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There have been cases wherein a person has already gone through the recovery program of Alcoholics Anonymous yet after a few months or years, they still slip and stumble during their hiatus from alcohol. There is something within them that simply yearns to go back and try again the very thing that they despised so much. One of the reasons of this is it is because of the naturally addictive effects of alcohol and secondly, it is because their will might not be strong enough to resist the urge to try even just a glass of alcohol. Soon enough, some people succumb to a relapse and their recidivism starts anew. This only goes to show that even if the person undergoes a rigorous recovery plan, there is no scientific way that has been discovered in order to prevent recidivism in alcoholics. The best that one can do is to try to enter oneself into rehabilitation and have fellow-members check up on him or her in order to avoid relapse. Since there are some extreme cases of alcoholism, it would be prudent if the person admitting himself in would also be willing to change what needs to be changed. If this is achieved, there will be a greater chance for the person to be able to avoid alcohol recidivism           The issue of gambling takes the attention of media and government on a wider scale today such that issues on gambling of youth have become of primary concern. More than ever, concerned institutions want to address the development of scientifically validated youth prevention programs, treatment programs, training of researchers and clinicians, and governmental and industry consultations (Gupta and Derevensky).

Studies in the United States

            Studies of gambling addiction in the United States show insignificant variables, showing that on the average, gambling addiction vulnerability is found on a socially stratified level consistent with gambling companies’ segmented marketing strategy. On the average, the elderly, adolescent, and ethnic minorities, as well as those that have low income are vulnerable to addiction. On the average, addiction is on the rise on elderly and adolescents. The extent of the problem is relatively not widespread though, chronically affecting only over three in a hundred gamblers with variations across states.

Texas (1995)

            Lynn S. Wallisch’s analysis using South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS), a derivative of the American Psychological Association’s method of identifying people with gambling problem showed that 3.9 percent of the adult population in Texas have pathological gambling problem while 7.2 percent of the population have gambling problem. The total adult population with gambling problem shows no significant difference in gender, race, or region (within Texas) of residence. It is of note that in Texas, most gamblers who have problem are Caucasians, but the study showed no especial vulnerability of Caucasians across state. The study noted that adolescents are more vulnerable compared to adults to be enticed to gambling as a form of socialization. Both adult and adolescent populations (combining their respective pathological gamblers and individuals with gambling problems) have been identified as likely substance abusers.

            Wallisch’s study on gambling in Texas showed a high prevalence of gambling incidence among teens (67 percent in 1995 from 66 percent in 1992), and a significant level of at-risk or problem gamblers although the figures are decreasing (12 percent in 1995, down from 17 percent in 1992). The study identified that part of the growing popularity of gambling arise from growth of casino gambling, presence of slot machines in truckstop arcades in neighboring states particularly in Louisiana. The study concluded that teen’s propensity to be a gambling addict is no higher than if a teen plays in a gaming machine due to problems in acquiring transportation to play outside of the state. The study identified that a higher incidence of risk is present for teens in areas with access to a casino or a gaming parlor. The study noted however that despite the presence of casinos, lottery, and gaming parlor, the establishments have made no significant difference in the impact of putting teens at risk for gambling problem. This follows the same pattern established in Minnesota where a shift in preference but not in incidence was noted.

Oregon (2001)

            Thomas L. Moore’s primary analysis of the gambling behavior of Oregonians show that 2.7 percent of the adult population are lifetime gamblers while 1.9 percent are pathological gamblers. In total, 4.6 percent of the population has gambling problems.  The study noted that the prevalence rate of the combined totals of pathological and lifetime gamblers in 2000 fell from the rate of 1997. Interestingly, the number of non-gamblers rose from 13 percent of the population from 1997 to 20 percent in 2000. Furthermore, those who gamble at least weekly fell from 18 percent in 1997 to 13 percent in 2000. The study noted that the only gambling habit that rose in Oregon during that period is the numbers for lifetime internet gamblers, which rose from 0.3 percent in 1997 to 1.1 percent in 2000. In this period, the gambling incidence follows the same trend from studies Louisiana, Montana, and North Dakota, as well as New Zealand.

            In Moore’s secondary analysis of data, Moore noted that as age increases, the numbers for people with gambling problems fell and that males were no more vulnerable than females. Interestingly, Moore noted that minorities have vulnerability in gambling problems. The study noted no relationship from the amount spent per month and age. Additionally, casino gambling (26.5 percent), lottery (22.1 percent), non-casino card games (8.8 percent), video poker (5.2 percent), and sports betting were identified as the favored gambling activity with 13.1 percent indicating no favored gambling activity.

Minnesota (2005)

            In Don Feeney’s survey on the state gambling addiction prevention strategy, it noted that there was a sharp divide in the state with no consensus on whether compulsive gambling stems from moral weakness and efficacy of treatment, but a majority agree that gambling is a matter of willpower. Furthermore, the survey noted the majority of people do not understand the true scope of the extensiveness of gambling problem in the state and that the awareness measures are inadequate.

Neurotic Behavior

            In the quest for the addiction to gambling, a person may even seem to pursue love and worth, but on close examination, this is only a pseudo-pursuit. He does so only if he can use people or power to further his habit. Many a person married to an addict or employing one can testify to the truth of this statement. The addicted gambler will victimize almost anyone in his effort to get his high—he may do a superb job for his employer and at the same time steal him blind—but do so with such psychopathic charm t6hat those who are victimized are often puzzled that they do not dislike the addict more. The only way an addict will truly pursue love and worth again is to give up his addiction, and to an addict that door is closed. No one knows it is closed more than he because he chose to close it and he will never open it until he kicks the habit. Until now, it is hard to compare the efficacy of various approaches in the treatment of addiction to gambling. There are researches that focus on self-reported behavioral measures including the intensity and frequency of gambling as well as thoughts and behavioral urges that are gambling-related. (Walker et al).

More effects

            Further, and unfortunately for him, the habit itself gradually becomes less effective. The dose of drug he takes to cause his mind to spin free and expand must be increased. The drugs will still relieve the pain through the surge—they never grow so ineffective that they will not do this—but the following pleasure diminishes, perhaps because his mind has been up and down so many times in the same way. This does not mean he will quit. This is the only game in town for him, but it just does not work as well. There is an increased pleasure but there is a limit to which any addiction will take him. He may never grow tolerant of gambling, as many successful workaholics prove, but he will run out of money if he is a Las Vegas-type gambler because there is not enough money in the world to satisfy the habit of an addicted gambler. (Walker et al).

International Studies

            Internationally, the gambling picture share many of the traits found the American demography in countries in which it shares many cultural similarities such as South Africa, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. Population segment vulnerability and gambling exposure are similar to that of the levels in the United States

            Robert Wood and Robert Williams of the University of Lethbridge conducted a survey of the prevalence of internet gambling and noted some key notes; including problem gambling is higher among younger people, and higher in men. Additionally, gambling problem prevalence is lower in Canadians compared to other nationals, lower among those of European descent, and lower among married and widowed people. The survey noted that it is higher on those who have post-secondary education, lower in those who have strong religious views, higher in unemployed, and lowest among bingo and slots players. The study noted of the internet gamblers, 33.5 have no gambling problem, 23.9 percent are at risk to be gamblers, 22.6 have moderate gambling problem, and 20.1 percent of the total respondents have severe gambling problem. (Wood and Williams).

            In Rod McCormick’s study on Canada’s aboriginal population, among the key findings were aborigines were disadvantaged in terms of education, and employment, with over 70 percent having had experience with emotional, physical, and mental abuse and 3 to 6 times higher than the Canadian average on suicide rate. Subsequently, the study found that the aboriginal gambling is 2 to 15 times higher than those of Canadian average, with aborigines spending more than the average on gambling. Furthermore, the study noted that 40 percent of gamblers with problem borrow money to sustain their addiction.(McCormick).

            In a survey commissioned by the South Africa’s National Gambling Board (NGB),  the study noted that only 27.5 percent of the population does not gamble and that the national lottery is by far the most popular gambling activity. This is reflected by the popular sentiment that it is acceptable (73 percent), and unacceptable but not objectionable to gambling by others (14.8 percent). The NGB study noted that gambling expenditures often displace essential expenditures in household necessities (71.3 percent) and savings (27.3 percent). Furthermore, the study noted displacement in expensive but necessary purchases in reading materials (64.9 percent), clothing and footwear (62.9 percent), and furniture and equipment (57.6 percent).


            In 1999, the Australian Productivity Commission released a report identifying 290,000 Australians as problem gamblers, accounting for over AU$ 3 billon in annual losses. The study noted that bankruptcy, divorce, suicide, and lost time at work were the results of the problem. It also identified the growing demand for internet gaming and recommended a preventive measure to its access. Among the recommendations were establishment of a Ministerial Council on Gambling that would focus on stopping the Australian expansion of gambling in Australia, on assessing the impacts of problem gambling on families and communities, on internet gambling, and consumer protection.

New Zealand

            In 1999, the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs released a report on the gambling habit of its citizens. Among the key findings in the survey includes between 22,700 and 50,800 New Zealanders aged 18 and older currently experience gambling problems, with between 58,000 and 107,700 adults experience gambling problems at some stage during their lives. The report also noted financial losses assessed as NZ$1.2 billion. The report noted that the prevalence of gambling is high, with 94 percent of adults reported taking part in at least one form of gambling at a point in their lives, 86 percent said they gambled during the six months prior to the survey, and that 41 percent gambled weekly or more often. The report noted that aborigines (Pacific Islanders and Maori) have extreme levels of gambling problem, that there is a gap between the level men and women gambling, with men being more predisposed to gamble than women do but the gap is being closed rapidly. Furthermore, the study found that while just over 1 percent of adults are currently problem gamblers, they account for about 20 percent of total reported gambling expenditure.

Take the money and leave

            The studies noted that while gambling problem is an acute problem in the population, the problem is crippling emotionally and economically devastating to those affected. Indeed, the studies were in consensus that the problem should be addressed. Though the measures recommended were curative by nature, the measures can be strengthened by introducing stronger preventive measures and increasing population awareness through communication campaigns and materials customized to those targeted by the gaming industry such as the youth and the elderly.

            In the growing market of internet gaming, John E. Cargnello offered an innovative solution in minimizing the gambling problem. Among Cargnello’s recommendations include pre-established limits, game design, display and account establishment. In pre-established limits, among the measures are time limitation of an account, limit change only after 48 hours, and self-exclusion. In game design, the measures are banning games with “near miss” features and winning increases dependent on time of play. In display, the measures recommended are pop-up reminders, permanent clocks, actual dollar amounts, actual odds, and establishment to gambling addiction link resources. In account establishment, among the measures are the implementation verify me© and experian© programs designed by the Technical Systems Testing Company.

            In sum, while gambling both in establishments and on the internet is leisure for most, it is in the interest of the society that it be controlled by a body with strong regulatory powers. In doing do, the gaming industry could thrive responsibly, without the pervasive adverse effect on the lives on those chronically affected with gambling. Furthermore, targeting and tracking by the gaming industry should be banned or strictly limited, allowing for vulnerable segments of the society particularly the youth, elderly, and minorities to have less exposure in gaming, thus minimizing the efficacy of the campaigns and special promotions of the gambling industry.


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