Some Gamblers Self-Medicate with Mobile/Computer Casino Games [Research]

Almost half of people at risk for gambling problems turn to social casino-type games on mobile devices or computers to cope with negative feelings, according to a study from Southern Cross University.

The study, which was reviewed by the Worldwide Addiction Gambling Education Report (WAGER), revealed that nearly half its sample played social casino games, like poker and gaming machines, to escape from problems or relieve a negative mood. Participants also reported unsuccessful attempts to stop or reduce playing, preoccupation with the games, withdrawal, and negative impacts.

Researchers and health care providers, including problem gambling therapists, have long understood that people who struggle with unhealthy gambling behavior sometimes use wagering as a form of self-medication. This research extends that idea to at-risk gamblers playing on mobile devices or computers.

The study doesn’t provide evidence that social casino games trigger traditional gambling, or vice versa. However, it does suggest that health care providers, such as mental health counselors, should be alert to problem gamblers turning to these games to self-medicate gambling urges.

In addition, health care providers should know that previous research has uncovered that people who play practice or no-money games are more likely to bet in higher amounts when they play for real money later. This could be because gambling app practice modes may generate confidence in skill level—a false sense considering that, ultimately, the house always wins. What’s more, there’s evidence that “payouts” for many practice or no-money games are higher than those in real money games, adding to that false sense of confidence.

Gambling Addiction Resources for Health Care Professionals

If you’re a health care provider or other concerned professional, visit Gambling Resources for more information. Are you in the Lancaster, PA or Lebanon, PA area? Call Compass Mark at 717-299-2831 to learn more about our gambling awareness and prevention programs or to get a treatment referral.


Brain Activity Linked to Problem Gambling [Research]

Gambling addiction activates the same brain areas as cravings for alcohol and other drugs, according to recent research.  The study also revealed that problem gamblers showed a weaker connection between some areas of the brain.

The gambling study, conducted by an international team of researchers and funded by the UK Medical Research Council, found that gambling triggers activity in two brain areas, the insula and nucleus accumbens, in those addicted to the behavior. These regions are linked to rewards, impulse control, and decision making. Previous research had connected those areas to cravings for alcohol and other drugs.

In addition, the researchers discovered that problem gamblers showed a weaker connection between the nucleus accumbens and frontal lobe, which plays a role in decision making. Experts theorize that the weaker frontal lobe link makes it harder for a problem gambler to control impulses and easier to ignore the negative consequences of unhealthy gambling behavior.

The findings suggest that gambling addiction could possibly be treated in the future by controlling activity in those brain areas affected by gambling.

Gambling Resources for Health Care & Treatment Professionals

Treatment for Problem Gambling in Lancaster, PA, Lebanon, PA, and the Surrounding Area
Council on Compulsive Gambling in Pennsylvania
National Council on Problem Gambling
College Gambling Resources for Campus Health Professionals  

If you’re in Lancaster or Lebanon, you can also count on the Compass Mark Referral Team to guide you to the resources you need to help patients and clients.


How to Keep Your Resolution to Reduce or Stop Gambling

For many Americans, it’s time to make New Year’s resolutions: promises we make to ourselves to change our behavior in a positive way. If your gambling creates problems that keep you awake at night or it sparks conflict in your relationships, it might be time to change that behavior so you can live the life you deserve. Here’s how to keep a resolution to decrease or stop gambling this upcoming year.

Join a gambling self-help group.

Groups like Gamblers Anonymous (GA) can provide the support network you need to stop problem gambling behaviors. GA’s recovery program is based on the 12-step model that seeks to help people recognize their negative behavior and the impact it has on their life and the lives of those around them. The group is open to anyone who wants to stop gambling, and there’s no cost to attend. Find a GA meeting near you.

Seek professional counseling.

A professional therapist can be an ideal partner for reducing gambling in the new year. He or she will talk with you to learn more about your behavior, concerns, lifestyle, and more. Then the counselor will make recommendations for treatment and recovery.

Treatment for problem gambling usually includes a range of therapies that support each other. The foundation is talk therapy, which will help you recognize your behavior and its impact, as well as identify your personal gambling triggers. You’ll learn practical strategies to deal with those triggers in a more positive way so you can avoid relapses. Additional therapies vary, and they may include family/marriage counseling, financial/debt counseling, and, when necessary, substance abuse help or treatment. Find a gambling addiction treatment provider in Lebanon County, Lancaster County, and the surrounding areas.

Commit to lifestyle changes.

Stress is a primary trigger for many problem gamblers. Learning to reduce stress in a healthy way can reduce the craving to gamble and support long-term recovery. You’ll discover many different ways to dial down stress, but some of the more common methods include:

  • Physical exercise;
  • Meditation;
  • Journaling;
  • Hobbies, including crafts, music, art, and more;
  • Volunteer work.

Additional problem gambling resources in PA

Begin your new year by taking positive steps toward reducing or eliminating the gambling behavior that keeps you awake at night or affects your relationships. For more judgment-free guidance, contact Compass Mark at 717-299-2831 or use this simple gambling help form.


Slots & Poker Apps: Gambling with Addiction? [Research]

People who play digital simulated gambling games were “significantly” more likely to report problem gambling behaviors, according to a recent Australian study.

Social casino gamers is a term that describes people who play simulated casino games that don’t involve real money wagers. Examples include apps that mimic slots or poker games.

The research, which was reviewed on the Worldwide Addiction Gambling Education Report (WAGER), was based on interviews with 2,010 gamblers. The results revealed that 15% of social casino gamers were at moderate risk for developing problem gambling, while 5% were problem gamblers.   Social casino gamers were also less likely to be non-gamblers. The group reported it was more likely to engage in other risky behaviors, too, including smoking and illegal drug use.

As noted in WAGER, the findings don’t necessarily say that social casino games create gambling addiction; it’s possible that people who are already at risk for problem gambling are more attracted to these types of games.

However, it’s also important to consider whether the findings could suggest that social casino gaming puts players at higher risk because it nurtures a false sense of skill. In addition, another study found that people who played free gambling games bet “significantly” more in real money games later than those who hadn’t played the free games. Gambling-like apps may also make gaming much more accessible to youth, potentially increasing their vulnerability to developing gambling problems later in life. Learn more about Kids and Simulated Gambling.

Problem Gambling Resources in Lancaster, PA and Lebanon, PA

If you’re a concerned health care or mental health professional, visit Problem Gambling Resources, bookmark our Gambling Blog, or follow Compass Mark on Facebook for the latest in news, research, and training opportunities.


Prevent Gambling Addiction Relapse: Tips for Navigating the Holidays

As the holiday season approaches, stress levels tend to increase—and that sometimes presents challenges for people in recovery from gambling addiction. Here are tips to help you reduce the urge to gamble when holiday craziness starts to get under your skin:

Know your triggers.

Stress is a common relapse trigger, but it’s not the only one. Even if you’ve gone through the process of identifying triggers before, now is a good time to review them. This will help keep them at the top of your mind, so as triggers appear you can recognize them and take action.

Connect with a self-help group.

A community of people living with the same problems and urges as you can be a valuable tool for maintaining recovery. Gamblers Anonymous is a support group specifically for those with problem gambling. Members provide each other with support and share resources in a confidential environment. Find a Gamblers Anonymous meeting in PA.

Reduce or eliminate alcohol intake.

From office parties to family get-togethers, alcohol is common at holiday functions. Be aware that alcohol lowers inhibitions and that can make you vulnerable to relapse.

Avoid situations that include gambling.

Family traditions that involve wagering, like poker games, can be hard to navigate. However, your emotional well-being and long-term recovery is more important than any family tradition. Excuse yourself from gambling-related entertainment, and grab a loved one to do another—healthier—activity with you.

Be vigilant about financial temptation.

The holidays tend to get crazy with errands—errands that often involve money. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash or keeping extra money in bank accounts to which you have access. If you start feeling stressed and know the cash is available, it can lead to a gambling relapse.

For confidential guidance or to find gambling addiction treatment resources in Lancaster, PA and Lebanon, PA, call Compass Mark at (717) 299-2831 or submit this online help form.


Faces of Gambling Addiction: Lanc. Man Finds Recovery (And How You Can Too)

A Lancaster County man recently shared his journey with gambling addiction, a diagnosable condition that endangered his marriage and his well-being. The Lebanon Daily News (LDN) article, written by Daniel Walmer, details the man’s decades-long addiction to gambling.

The man, Harry, recalls that once in the 1960s he became so involved in a card game that he missed his own birthday party–an event for which his sister had arranged to fly him into Cuba, where she was stationed at Guantanamo Bay.

Over time, the behavior escalated, and, by the mid-2000’s, Harry says he was spending as many as 10 to 12 hours a day in casinos.

Jean Gerdes, a problem gambling prevention coordinator with Compass Mark (the parent organization for this blog), said in an interview for the LDN piece that compulsive gamblers experience psychological withdrawal symptoms, like anxiety, when they stop gambling. The article continues:

Even now, however, people are less likely to be understanding of a gambling addict who says they can’t make a simple bet on a putt at the golf course than an alcoholic who says they can’t take one drink, Gerdes said.

“There’s a lot of shame that goes with it, because we don’t recognize it as a disease,” she said.

As for Harry, he says he realized he needed help for gambling after an emotional breakdown and serious marriage problems. Now he attends Gamblers Anonymous meetings and counsels other people living with addiction.

Warning Signs of Gambling Addiction
  • Lying or acting evasively about gambling behavior;
  • Selling or pawning possessions;
  • Increasingly absent or tardy to work or school;
  • Exhibiting mood swings based on whether they’re winning or losing;
  • Willingness to wager on virtually anything at any time–not just at casinos, racetracks, online betting venues, or sports events.
Problem Gambling Help for Gamblers and Their Loved Ones

Gambling addiction can be treated in Lancaster, Lebanon, and the surrounding areas. Visit our list of Gambling Addiction Treatment Providers.

Help isn’t just for people struggling with the addiction themselves.  If your loved one is a problem gambler, you’ll benefit from therapy too. Like substance addictions, gambling is a family disease that impacts everyone–and not only from a financial standpoint. When you live with or love a gambling-addicted person, you might feel frustration, anger, embarrassment, guilt, or other negative emotions that take a toll on your own mental well-being.

Find your own path through a loved one’s compulsive gambling by contacting Compass Mark at 717-299-2831 or by using our Help Form. We’ll direct you to resources so you and other family members can learn healthy coping techniques and find hope.


National Recovery Month: Removing Stigma from Problem Gambling, Other Addictions

September is National Recovery Month. The theme for this year’s initiative, by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Our Families, Our Stories, Our Recovery!”  SAMHSA’s goal is to raise awareness by encouraging people to share their personal connection to recovery.

Overall, 43 million Americans experienced a mental illness in the last year, and about 22 million had a substance use disorder. At those rates, virtually every American is affected—either directly or through a loved one–by a mental health or substance use disorder, including conditions like compulsive gambling.

Statistics compiled by the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) show:

  • About 2.2% of Americans have had problem gambling symptoms in the past year.
  • Studies of people who are arrested show problem gambling rates are 3-5 times higher than in the general population.
  • Adult problem gamblers are 5 times more likely to have co-occurring alcohol dependence, and 3 times more likely to struggle with depression.
  • People with problem gambling have higher rates of past-year unemployment, divorce, and poor physical health.
  • Teens with problem gambling are 2 times as likely to binge drink than teens without the condition.

Using real-life stories to build recovery-supportive communities

Building a new narrative around addiction and mental health through National Recovery Month helps people in recovery and their loved ones by removing the stigma surrounding these conditions. The result is the creation of supportive communities, one of the four components people in recovery need to support long-term success, according to SAMHSA. All four components include:

  • Health (overcoming or managing symptoms);
  • Home (a stable and safe place to live);
  • Purpose (a sense of meaning through activities like work, school, family caretaking, or creative endeavors);
  • Community (social support systems that provide love, friendship, and hope).

Find a Recovery Month event near you or learn how to promote Recovery Month.

For gambling addiction education, prevention, intervention, or recovery resources in Lancaster or Lebanon, contact Compass Mark at 717-299-2831 or fill out our Help Form.


Get Inspired at the Addiction Recovery Walk and Rally August 28th

The Lancaster County Recovery Alliance (LCRA) Annual Recovery Walk and Rally is this coming Sunday, August 28th. Hear inspirational stories from people in addiction recovery, do some yoga, create something at our sign-making station, listen to music, and more!

The rally starts 9:30 a.m. Sunday in the front parking lot of the stadium, with Tim Stoddart, founder of Sober Nation, as featured speaker.

The Walk for Recovery is 1.8 miles and kicks off around noon, winding around the Franklin & Marshall College area. It begins and ends at Clipper Magazine Stadium.

If you’d like to stay for the Lancaster Barnstormers game, special Recovery Day tickets with all-you-can-eat Hess’s BBQ are ON SALE NOW! They must be purchased in advance–these tickets *will not* be available on event day. Contact Amy Sechrist at

The LCRA’s mission is to promote recovery from a range of addictions as well as addiction awareness and community outreach in Lancaster County. The group also works to remove the stigma of addiction–a stigma that makes it harder for recovering people to become engaged community members. The LCRA is made up of community members, including people in recovery, friends and family members, service providers, legal/law enforcement, church/faith-based organizations, corrections, the business community, and other allies. Learn more: Battle Addiction’s Stigma, Transform Recovery on LCRA’s Agenda.


Alcohol Abuse and Gambling: How to Break the Cycle

Gambling addiction isn’t a money problem. It’s a serious, progressive condition that’s connected to a host of other serious problems, including alcohol abuse. Here’s what you need to know about the alcohol abuse-gambling addiction cycle and how to break it:

Research suggests nearly 75% of people with the most serious form of gambling addiction abuse alcohol too. About 44% of those who struggle with at least some problem gambling criteria abuse alcoholic substances as well.

Why Do Alcohol Abuse and Problem Gambling Co-Occur So Frequently?

The significant stress and strain of living with an often hidden gambling addiction compels some people to turn to alcohol as a way to relieve those feelings. In other people, alcohol abuse leads to problem gambling. Alcohol lowers inhibitions–a factor that potentially results in anything from driving under the influence to betting too much at the blackjack table.

Regardless of the origin, these behaviors reinforce each other, and the result is frequently a cycle of drinking and gambling heavily. For some people, the behaviors are frequent, perhaps daily; for others, they occur in binges.

In addition, research suggests that substance abuse and behavioral addictions, like gambling, share some of the same biological foundations and risk factors.

Alcohol Abuse and Problem Gambling: Relapse Dangers

It’s also critical for anyone struggling with either condition to be aware of the potential impact of the other behavior on recovery. Gambling can provide a pathway toward relapse when someone is recovering from alcohol abuse. For example, alcohol is an ingrained part of casino and racetrack environments. An alcohol abuser in recovery might find it hard to resist cravings in a gambling atmosphere. The reverse is also true: a recovering problem gambler can find that alcohol lowers his or her inhibitions, making it harder to overcome gambling cravings.

You Can Break the Cycle.

Treatment and lasting recovery are possible! If you or someone you love struggles with both behaviors, it’s time to find specialized treatment that supports recovery from alcohol abuse and gambling addiction. Find a Treatment Provider, or contact Compass Mark for confidential guidance to help resources in Lancaster County and Lebanon County. Call our team at 717-299-2831 or use the Compulsive Gambling Help Form.

Learn More:

When a Loved One is an Alcoholic and Compulsive Gambler: Guide for Families
Trading Alcohol Abuse for Problem Gambling: 4 Facts for Loved Ones 


New Gambling Treatment Options for Some Vets: Telecounseling

Veterans in Minnesota may soon be able to access telecounseling to receive problem gambling treatment. The proposed program is designed to increase care access for military veterans who may need to travel long distances for treatment as well as those who have transportation or childcare challenges.

About 9% of U.S. military veterans experience problem gambling—that’s a rate 2-3x higher than that of the general population. The condition often co-occurs with other serious issues, including depression, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In a Northstar Problem Gambling Alliance article, Roger Anton, MA, LSW, consulting therapist at the Minneapolis Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center, said:

“People with gambling concerns need to have access to someone in a therapeutic environment where they feel comfortable telling their story, expressing concerns and getting professional feedback so they can determine what their next step might be. Telecounseling would be a perfect way to provide that service.”

Anton says counselors will work with a problem gambler in person for the first one or two appointments. If travel is a hardship, the gambler will then be moved into the telecounseling program, where therapists will use phone or video conferencing to connect with the veteran.

The VA, which operates the world’s largest telecounseling network, has used the technology to help vets in Minnesota since 2001.

Treatment for Gambling Problems

Gambling addiction is a progressive condition that requires skilled treatment by professionals. As with other addictions, including substance abuse, people sometimes run into barriers that prevent them from seeking help or complying with treatment plans. Telecounseling may be another tool that guides problem gamblers toward long-term recovery.

Visit Treatment Resources to locate gambling addiction counselors in Lancaster, Lebanon, and the surrounding areas. Compass Mark also offers referrals and guidance to families struggling with compulsive gambling. Call our compassionate team at 717-299-2831 or fill out the online Help Form.