Do Casinos Enable Problem Gamblers? [Gambling in the News]

What role do casinos play in the development or enablement of gambling addiction? John Rosengren recently investigated in How Casinos Enable Gambling Addicts.

The article, published in The Atlantic, begins with the story of a gambling-addicted man on the brink of suicide after his behavior triggered criminal charges for alleged theft from his employer.

Rosengren’s reporting then reveals that casinos have developed a way to calculate the “predicted lifetime value” of an individual gambler. Repeat gamblers who lose lots of money are called “whales.” He reports that casinos often cater to “whales” to get their repeat business. In one case, the article recounts, an Iowa casino reportedly upped one frequent gambler’s limit on some slot machines and even gave her the opportunity to be the first to play a new slot machine the casino had installed.

The article also describes the potential danger of virtual reel slot machines, which use technology—not mechanics—to determine where the wheel stops. Furthermore, virtual slots create “near misses,” which give the player the impression he or she almost won—a tantalizing catalyst to bet even more. (Get more info on how gambling machines are addictive by design.)

Rosengren’s article is heartbreaking and worth the read.

Gambling addiction is a complex condition, and, while the role of casinos is certainly a factor to consider, specific risk factors also increase the chance of developing it. A few risk factors include:

  • Starting to gamble at an early age;
  • Having a history of impulsive behavior;
  • Having a family history of addiction;
  • Having a personal history of addiction;
  • Experiencing trauma.

If you’re concerned about your gambling behavior or that of someone you love, take the assessment quiz on our home page. You may also want to check out a list of Gambling Addiction Treatment Providers in Lancaster, PA and the surrounding area. For additional help, use our online help form.


#ExtraGive to Help Prevent Problem Gambling in Kids

Would your child know what to say if someone asked him or her to gamble? Every day, whether it’s at home or school, children in the Lancaster, PA community face tough choices about unhealthy behaviors–and gambling is one of those.

Many adults are able to gamble without negative consequences; however, children and teens who gamble are at higher risk for developing gambling addiction later in life.

Problem gambling is a diagnosable condition that can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or financial status. It’s been connected to an increased risk of substance abuse, depression, and suicide.

Learn more in 5 Problem Gambling Myths Exposed.

Help Kids in the Lancaster Community Make Healthy Choices About Gambling

Since 1966, Compass Mark has helped individuals, families, educators, and others prevent addiction in our community. We serve over 17,000 people each year through substance abuse and problem gambling education, youth development, and information / referral services.

We offer a youth gambling and addiction prevention program called We Know BETter to schools in Lancaster and Lebanon. This curriculum, aimed at students in grades 4-8, incorporates age-appropriate activities to help youth learn practical refusal skills and improve coping strategies.

Donate to Compass Mark on Friday, November 18, 2016 during The Extraordinary Give. Your investment in the Lancaster community will help our team continue to teach kids and teens the life skills they need to  make healthy decisions. For more information about this event, visit Extra Give.

Virtual Reality Gambling: A Risk to Problem and At-Risk Gamblers?

Imagine a Pokémon-like game combined with gambling in a virtual reality setting. That’s precisely what one company is now trying to deliver to players. One of the leading providers for real-money, skill-based gaming, Gamblit Gaming, announced a partnership with another company to produce a location-based real-money gaming experience.

Gamblit’s website styles its products as “Gaming meets gambling, and everybody wins.” In the new game, players will fight virtual monsters as well as wager on their success. Spectators will also be able to watch and bet on players. The game uses HTC’s VRC (Virtual Reality Cube) and offers “room-scale VR and true-to-life” interactions.

It’s true that many Americans will likely be able to enjoy this or similar games without negative consequences; however, this technology also presents one more potential pathway to gambling addiction for those at risk.

Compulsive gambling is a diagnosable condition that has a devastating impact on the 6-9 million Americans estimated to meet the criteria. It’s been linked to an increased risk for substance abuse, domestic violence, depression, and suicide.

As gambling becomes increasingly available via tablets, smartphones, and other devices, it’s critical for individuals, families, educators, and healthcare providers to become more aware of this addiction, which often flies under the radar. The addition of a virtual reality component to wagers is troubling considering that research suggests the environment surrounding gambling, such as casino lights or sounds, spurs riskier bets.

Finding Help and Resources for Problem Gambling in Lancaster and Lebanon

Whether you’re an educator worried about a student’s gambling or a healthcare provider in need of a patient referral, visit Compass Mark’s Gambling Resources for links to articles, journals, and other help resources.

If you’re struggling with gambling or you’re worried about your behavior but aren’t quite sure if you have a problem, contact our team at 717-299-2831 or use our simple Help Form. We’ll share confidential guidance and resources to help you find a healthier path.


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.


Gambling Prevention Tactic Spurs Gambling in Women [Research]

Pop-up gambling warning messages on simulated poker machines triggered increased betting in women, revealed an Australian study.

Volunteers gambled on simulated poker machines, and received pop-up play-related messages that were positive, negative, or challenging, according to an Australian Broadcasting News article. For example, a player might see: “Gambling at lower speeds leads to greater enjoyment. Did you know your play speed has increased? You’re playing at similar speeds to most problem gamblers.”

Although older volunteers and male volunteers were more likely to slow the rate of their spins after the messages, women tended to increase the rate of wagering or bet more persistently. As a result, those female gamblers experienced greater losses.

Implications for Problem Gambling Prevention

Gambling addiction prevention and treatment continues to evolve. While this study was relatively small, with about 200 participants, it suggests that this type of problem gambling prevention may trigger unhealthy behaviors–rather than curb them–in some populations. The researchers noted that future studies might focus on variables like the messages’ content and how the messages are delivered.

Problem Gambling Prevention & Education in PA

Compass Mark offers the We Know BETter gambling prevention program for kids in grades 4-9. For more information, contact Jean Gerdes at or 717-299-2831. Our team can also direct you to Lancaster, PA and Lebanon, PA resources and guidance for gambling education and prevention for high school and college students.

New Program Gives Gamblers In-Play Budget Reminders

Casino-goers in Massachusetts can now budget and monitor their slots play with the new Play My Way program from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC).

Play My Way is designed to allow slot machine players to voluntarily pre-set a gambling budget, according to a Digital Trends article. The player then receives regular onscreen notifications as they approach or reach their limit.

Although the tool will not cut off gamblers who have reached their limit, it’s believed the increased awareness will help players make healthier decisions about money spent on slots. Its creators say Play My Way is a prevention initiative, rather than one aimed at those already struggling with serious gambling problems.

The gambling addiction prevention program was introduced in June 2016 at the only operating casino in Massachusetts. So far, it’s garnered more than 3,200 enrollees, about 7.4% of the casino’s regular player population. If the program is proved effective, it may be implemented at two new state-regulated casinos underway.

MGC says this is a first-of-its-kind initiative in the United States. Similar systems are already in place in other countries, such as Australia, Norway, and Sweden.

Gambling Addiction Prevention in Lancaster, PA & Lebanon, PA

No such in-play prevention programs exist yet in Pennsylvania, however you can access gambling education and prevention resources by contacting Compass Mark at 717-299-2831.

In addition, if a person suspects or knows they have a gambling problem, Pennsylvania offers a Self-Exclusion List. A gambler can voluntarily add his or her name to the list to be barred from gambling at any state-licensed facility. Those violating self-exclusion may be arrested and prosecuted for trespassing.

Self-exclusion isn’t a cure for gambling addiction, but it can provide an additional consequence that nudges a person in recovery toward healthier decisions about gambling. Learn more in What is Self-Exclusion?

Program Warns Seniors of Problem Gambling Dangers

Seniors at Hazleton Active Adult Center are learning about the potential danger of gambling addiction thanks to a program by Pathway to Recovery.

The Hazleton-area non-profit, which opened in 1977, offers addiction education, prevention, and counseling services. Its senior program is designed to educate older residents about problem gambling, a diagnosable disorder. Participating seniors watched a video featuring older problem gamblers telling the stories of their gambling addictions. The group also listened to prevention specialists.

Seniors may be more likely to struggle with gambling addiction.

Education programs like this one can alert seniors–and their families—to the danger of unhealthy gambling behaviors. While gambling problems can occur in a person of any age, gender, or ethnicity, some groups, including seniors, are more vulnerable than others. Why might seniors be at higher risk?

  • Major life transitions: From retirement after a decades-long career to the deaths of loved ones, older Americans transition through several significant life changes—sometimes in a relatively short period of time. This often triggers stress and anxiety, driving some seniors to seek out gambling as a way to “relax” or alleviate negative emotions.
  • Loneliness: Social circles may become smaller as seniors become less able to get around easily and as they experience the loss of friends and family. Casinos go out of their way to make lonely seniors feel accepted—all in an effort to earn their gambling dollars. It’s not unusual for a senior gambler to receive comps or even birthday cards from casino outreach staff.
  • Money concerns: Fixed income worries dog many older Americans, leading some to try gambling as a way to fix their financial situations. They may believe that skill or a “lucky streak” guarantees them a big payout, when the truth is that the house always wins. Always.

If you’re losing sleep over your gambling behavior or if you’re worried about a senior you love, take the gambling risk assessment quiz on our home page. To find Lancaster/Lebanon-area education, intervention, or counseling resources, contact the Compass Mark team at 717-299-2831 or fill out our Help Form.


College Gambling: Facts for Parents

The July 4th holiday is only a few weeks behind us and already stores are packing aisles with back-to-college supplies, from bed sheets to notebooks to tech toys. As you prepare your nearly-adult child to head off to the world of higher education, take time to open up a conversation about the dangers of problem gambling.

Fact: 75% of college students gamble.
The campus environment already presents potential dangers to kids, from sexual assault to alcohol to other drugs. Gambling is a risky activity as well. While many Americans can gamble without negative consequences, others develop problem gambling, a diagnosable condition that impacts every aspect of life, including relationships, physical health, substance use, and finances.

Fact: 6% of college students have a life-impacting gambling problem.
This rate is about double that of the general population. Students who struggle at this level also struggle to live their lives. Signs of a gambling problem in college include:

  • Falling grades;
  • Declining class attendance;
  • Failing relationships with family, friends, and significant others;
  • Mood swings related to wins and losses;
  • Increasing debt;
  • Stealing or lying to get money;
  • Pawning or selling possessions;
  • Increased risk of substance use;
  • Increased risk of depression and suicide.

Fact: You can influence how your college-age child makes decisions.
It can be scary to consider that the little boy or girl you seemingly just cradled in your arms is now moving into a world in which you’ll have far less control over the environment. The best tool for success that you can give your child is to start an open and non-confrontational discussion about risky behaviors, including gambling.

  • Find out whether the college has a gambling policy; if it does, discuss it with your adolescent. Gambling may be barred on campus, so make sure you and your child review the school’s policy and talk about potential consequences. Consider also that student athletes, in particular, may be prohibited from gambling at the risk of lost playing time or scholarships.
  • Find out the gambling laws for the state where your child will attend school.
    If your college student is under the state’s legal gambling age, let him or her know that gambling is illegal for them. In PA, the legal gambling age is 21 for casinos and 18 for racetracks.
  • Talk about the financial dangers of gambling.
    It’s likely school-related debt is already at the top of your family’s collective mind. Remind your student that gambling debt can add significantly to what is already a daunting obligation.
  • Have a conversation about drinking and gambling.
    Alcohol lowers inhibitions and reduces the ability to make rational decisions about many things, including wagers. Chat with your college kid about avoiding the supersized physical and emotional hangover that comes from gambling while drinking—there are few worse ways to start the day than to realize you lost $200 last night betting on how many shots a classmate could drink.

For more information about college problem gambling prevention and treatment resources in Central PA, contact Compass Mark at 717-299-2831 or fill out our Help Form.


Making Problem Gambling Screens More Accurate [Research]

College campus health care professionals may soon be able to more easily and more accurately identify student-athletes with a potential gambling problem.  Research, which was reviewed by the Worldwide Addiction Gambling Education Report (WAGER), found that three specific screening questions were particularly useful in identifying male student-athletes with a problem gambling disorder.

Researchers used information from the 2008 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) study, which examined gambling behavior among student-athletes.  They discovered 88% of male student-athletes who met full diagnostic criteria for disordered gambling were correctly identified by their answers to three questions on the gambling screen:

  • “Have there been periods in the past year where you spent a lot of time thinking about gambling?” (to assess preoccupation with gambling);

  • “Have you needed to gamble with larger bets in order to obtain the same feeling of excitement in the past year?” (to assess tolerance to gambling);

  • “Do you gamble as a way of dealing with personal problems, or to relieve uncomfortable emotions such as nervousness or sadness?” (to assess gambling as a coping strategy).

Why This Research Matters

The Brief Biosocial Gambling Screen (BBGS) is a three-question survey health care professionals already use to identify those in need of treatment. However the research above found the questions that correctly identified problem gambling among the student-athletes weren’t the same questions the BBGS uses to identify problem gamblers in the general population.

The WAGER team notes the BBGS questions successfully assess problem gamblers using the criteria withdrawal, lying, and relying on others (for financial assistance). In contrast, the student-athletes were correctly assessed by questions dealing with the criteria preoccupation, tolerance, and using gambling as a coping strategy. This suggests different subsets of the population may benefit from different brief screens.

Gambling Addiction Prevention & Treatment Resources

Resources for Health Care Professionals & Educators
Problem Gambling News, Resources, & Help Tips
Treatment in Lancaster, PA and Lebanon, PA

Need prevention resources but you’re not sure where to start? Contact Compass Mark at 717-299-2831. For 50 years, we’ve guided health care professionals, educators, religious organizations, and concerned individuals to the resources they need to build a healthy community. Let us help you!


Does a Senior in Your Life Need Problem Gambling Help?

It’s no big deal when seniors gamble…or is it? Gambling can be a fun diversion for many older Americans; however, some seniors are at risk for developing problem gambling, a brain condition that can seriously impact emotional and physical well-being. March is National Problem Gambling Awareness Month, so it’s an ideal time to consider whether a senior in your life needs help for unhealthy gambling behavior.

What are the signs of problem gambling in seniors?
  • Increasing preoccupation with gambling;
  • Betting with increasing amounts of money;
  • Becoming irritable or frustrated when he or she can’t gamble;
  • Using gambling to ease sadness, loneliness, boredom, or stress;
  • Lying or acting evasively when asked about gambling;
  • Declining levels of self-care (not bathing, not taking needed medication, etc.);
  • Pawning or selling possessions, valuables, or heirlooms;
  • Unusual cashing out of retirement accounts or life insurance policies.

Learn if your loved one is at risk by taking the quiz on our home page.

Can seniors be treated for gambling problems?

Yes! Your family member or friend is never “too old” or “too set” in his or her ways to start healing from gambling addiction. Therapists trained to work with this condition offer the resources to help seniors.

While anyone struggling with problem gambling will benefit from professional treatment, seniors in particular need help sooner rather than later. For instance, unhealthy gambling behavior causes a significant amount of stress that can strain an existing heart condition, putting your loved one’s physical health at risk. Learn more in 5 Reasons to Get Problem Gambling Help for a Senior—Now.

Where can I find gambling treatment in Lancaster, PA and Lebanon, PA?

Check out these area Treatment Providers trained to work with gambling-addicted people. Compass Mark also offers information and referral guidance. Our team can even conference call with your loved one and his or her health insurance provider to sort out treatment/insurance-related questions. Call us at 717-299-2831.

For more in-depth information, join Compass Mark for Start the Conversation: Fantasy Sports Gamble on Wednesday, March 30, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. This session, held at the Blair Room, 630 Janet Avenue, Lancaster, is worth 2 CEU credits.