Seniors & Problem Gambling: Does Your Loved One Need Help?

Have you lost sleep over a senior family member’s gambling behavior? If so, you’re not alone. Problem gambling is a hidden addiction among older Americans, according to presenters at a conference hosted by the Wellspring Center for Prevention and the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey (CCGNJ).

Several speakers highlighted the dangers of problem gambling in seniors, according to a Greater Media Newspapers article. One older speaker was a former mailman and messenger who spent years gambling openly. His gambling became more frequent after retirement. After his wife expressed concern about the behavior, the man became a closet gambler, secretly frequenting Atlantic City casinos. The man said during the conference, “I became a much better liar than a gambler.” He eventually began attending Gamblers Anonymous—and was forced out of retirement to pay off gambling debts.

During the conference, another in recovery from the addiction detailed how he failed to pick up his granddaughter because he was secretly gambling in Atlantic City. “I failed as a grandfather,” he said.

Casino staff members frequently pay special attention to senior gamblers, according to Daniel J. Trolaro, education coordinator at CCGNJ. Some employees will even send cards to seniors who haven’t visited the casino for a while. “They’ll greet you by your first name,” he said. “They’re happy to remember you. You’re getting treated like royalty.”

What to Do if You’re Worried About a Senior You Love

Know the Signs of Gambling Addiction in Seniors

  • Lying about time or money spent gambling;
  • Hiding gambling losses;
  • Gambling alone;
  • Tapping credit cards or dedicated funds, like a life insurance policy, to gamble;
  • Pawning or selling household items or valuables;
  • Lacking money to pay for medications;
  • Withdrawing from family and friends.

Understand Treatment Options

Before talking with your loved one, it’s helpful to understand the paths he or she has to recovery. Every person’s situation is different, so treatment plans may vary. However, in general, compulsive gambling treatment includes talk therapy, in which a trained counselor will help your loved one identify the root causes of their behavior. Then the gambler will learn healthier ways to cope with those negative emotions and unhealthy thought processes.

Treatment may also include self-help meetings, like Gamblers Anonymous. Other components might include, if needed, alcohol abuse treatment, clinical depression treatment, family counseling, or financial counseling.

Have a Conversation

It’s never easy to talk with a loved one about unhealthy behaviors, but it’s critical that you have the conversation. What’s more, it’s important to have it sooner rather than later with senior problem gamblers because he or she has less time to rebuild the financial resources needed to live a healthy life. Find more detailed tips for having the discussion in Living with a Compulsive Gambler-Tips for Family.

Find Help
The Compass Mark team has been helping families find the resources to overcome addiction in Lancaster, PA for 50 years. Call 717-299-2831 or use our easy Gambling Addiction Help Form. We’ll guide you to the right resources for you and your loved one.


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