Average Problem Gambler’s Debt: $38,090 [Gambling in the News]

$38,090. That’s the average debt of a problem gambler, according to the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling.

The organization fielded 13,081 calls to its helpline in 2016, many from people expressing desperation over their situation or that of a loved one. In a Post-Crescent article, Rose Blozinski, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling, recalled one case where a man called because his sister had run up $100,000 in gambling-related debt and had tried to commit suicide.

Excessive gambling is not a money problem.

Debt is a symptom of problem gambling. A person can engage in unhealthy betting behaviors regardless of their financial status. Compulsive gambling is actually rooted in the brain. Numerous studies have identified differences between problem gamblers’ brains and those of non-gamblers. For example, one recent study found that gambling addiction activates the same brain regions as those stimulated by drug addiction.

The solution to gambling addiction is not to pay off the gambler’s debts.

Helping a gambler pay down debts doesn’t solve the problem. Rather it can enable a gambler to continue the behavior. The path to recovery lies in a comprehensive treatment plan that includes a combination of therapies, such as:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps the gambler “rewire” his or her thought processes;
  • Self-help groups, which provide a safe place for a problem gambler to find support from those in the same situation;
  • Stress reduction activities, which can help decrease cravings to bet;
  • Lifestyle changes, such as eliminating time spent in unhealthy situations, like visiting a casino with friends;
  • Financial counseling, which can provide smart money and debt management techniques to get back on track.
Learn More about Treating Problem Gambling

If you’re in the Lancaster or Lebanon area, visit our list of treatment providers with expertise in gambling addiction. You can also get in touch with our Compass Mark team for referrals, intervention information, and prevention resources. Call us at 717-299-2831 or use our online Get Help form.

 

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