Military Members May Be At Risk for Problem Gambling

The U.S. military may not be doing everything it can to diagnose gambling disorder, suggests the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The report, which based its findings on Department of Defense (DOD) data, said the military has only diagnosed about .03% of its service members with the disorder each year. The GAO noted that the DOD doesn’t specifically target gambling abuse for screening, which means service members with the condition may be likely to go undiagnosed.

The GAO offered several recommendations, including the addition of problem gambling questions to the military’s screening processes. However, the DOD rejected that recommendation, arguing that it was “impractical to screen for every low prevalence disorder.”

It’s worth noting the DOD currently operates 3,141 slot machines—1,159 of which are on Japanese bases. The machines generated nearly $539 million in revenue from 2011 to 2015.

What We Know About Problem Gambling & Military Veterans

Previous research suggests problem gambling is an issue that impacts active-duty and retired veterans. For example, nearly 10% of U.S. vets struggle with disordered gambling, a rate that’s 2-3 times higher than that of the general population. In addition, about 17% of veterans with PTSD show symptoms of problematic gambling.

Researchers have also found that military experiences and post-deployment stress are associated with higher problem gambling rates among American veterans.

What to Do When a Service Member or Retired Veteran Gambles Too Much

Gambling becomes a problem when it has a negative impact on life. That impact can take the form of money arguments with a partner, lack of money to pay for necessities, or losing track of time while gambling. A problem gambler might seemingly gamble all the time or they might gamble in binges.

Take the quiz to find out if you or someone you love is at risk.

Veterans can find help by contacting their VA medical center or clinic. Make the Connection, by the Department of Veterans Affairs, also shares mental well-being resources for active-duty or retired service members.

For Lancaster or Lebanon resources, call the Compass Mark team at 717-299-2831.



Problem Gambling in Veterans May Have Links to Military Experiences, Other Factors [Research]

Researchers have found that military experiences and post-deployment stressors may be associated with higher rates of problem gambling in U.S. veterans.

The researchers collected secondary data from 738 American military veterans who had participated in the Survey of the Experiences of Returning Veterans (SERV) study. The veterans answered questions about their psychiatric health, gambling behavior, and military service history. In addition, they responded to questions about post-deployment stressors, including legal or financial issues and violent encounters, as well as post-deployment support.

The findings, which were analyzed by WAGER, revealed that 4.2% of the veterans reported at-risk or problem gambling. Other key findings include:

  • Those with at-risk or problem gambling were more likely to report PTSD, panic disorder, depression, and substance abuse.
  • Those with at-risk or problem gambling scored higher on non-sexual harassment during deployment and post-deployment stressors, and they scored lower on post-deployment support.
  • Those with at-risk or problem gambling and those who gambled socially were more likely to report Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

This research supports previous findings that show military veterans are at risk for gambling problems. They also suggest a connection between service-related experiences, both during and after deployment.

Unhealthy gambling is a problem for many in our nation’s military. The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) estimates about 36,000 active-duty service members may be at risk for problem gambling—an issue not helped by the fact that American military installations overseas are home to at least 3,000 slot machines.

How to Get Help for Problem Gambling

If you’re a veteran concerned about your gambling behavior, contact your VA medical center or community clinic. You can also check out Make the Connection, an online mental well-being resource from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

To find additional gambling addiction prevention and treatment resources in Lancaster, PA or Lebanon, PA, contact the Compass Mark team at 717-299-2831 or fill out our simple Help Form.


Problem Gambling Rate Among Veterans Nearly 9% [Research]

A U.S. admiral was recently reprimanded and fined after being found guilty of charges related to a gambling probe, according to a Reuters report. The former deputy commander of U.S. Strategic Command is believed to have used fake gambling chips while playing poker at an Iowa casino; he was convicted of lying to an investigator about the incident.

This story shines yet another spotlight on the issue of problem gambling among the nation’s military, notes a report on The WAGER (The Worldwide Addiction Gambling Education Report). Recent research shared on the site reveals that nearly 9% of military vets struggled with at least 1-4 symptoms of problem gambling during their lifetime. Furthermore, veterans with substance abuse disorders were 3 times more likely to have a gambling addiction, while those with a mood disorder were about 2.5 times more likely to have it.

A Growing Problem

Increasing evidence suggests problem gambling is a serious and often under-recognized condition among those who serve our country. Research funded by the Veterans Administration found gambling addiction is more prevalent among military veterans than the non-military population. In addition, it showed vets are developing the condition earlier in life than the general population.

Learn more in Veterans and Gambling Addiction: Facts for Families and Employers.

Reasons Veterans are at Higher Risk

For many people, games like poker, blackjack, and slots will always be a harmless form of entertainment. Others will develop an addiction in which they can no longer control the urge to place bets or chase the next big win. As with substance abuse, problem gambling is a complex brain condition, and many factors contribute to its development. A veteran may be at higher risk if he or she has:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Serious physical injury
  • Mental health conditions, such as PTSD or depression (diagnosed or undiagnosed)
  • Substance abuse, including alcohol, prescription drugs, or illicit drugs
  • Difficulty readjusting to civilian life
  • Family history of addiction
Learn if you or a loved one is at risk by taking the quiz on our homepage.

Problem Gambling Needs Professional Treatment

Don’t underestimate the power of gambling addiction; it’s a condition that ruins the lives of the gambler and his or her loved ones. A person in the grip of addiction is capable of irrational, illegal, or, in some cases, dangerous behavior. Pathological gamblers have stolen money from family and embezzled funds from employers. Some have gone into casinos so desperate to play that they left young children alone in parked cars. What’s more, problem gambling has among the highest suicide rates of any addiction, likely because its victims often suffer in silence.

Are you a veteran worried about your gambling behavior? Contact your local VA medical center or Compass Mark, a Lancaster-Lebanon organization dedicated to helping people break free from the destruction of addiction. Submit the simple help form or call (717) 299-2831.

Are you concerned about a family member, friend, or employee? The Compass Mark team will direct you to area help resources. Our assistance is free and confidential. Call (717) 299-2831 or fill out a help form.


Veterans and Problem Gambling- FAQs

Are you a veteran losing sleep because you’re worried about how you’ll explain the $500 you lost on poker? Have you used gambling as a way to feel better when you’re anxious or sad? Have you forged a check or pawned belongings so you could gamble? Problem gambling is a real condition that affects about 8% of American veterans, about double the rate of the general population.

Why are vets at higher risk?

For some, it starts as a harmless game. For example, military members may play poker or blackjack to pass the time during active duty. This provides more opportunity for a veteran to, over time, develop problem gambling behaviors. In addition, vets sometimes continue to gamble after active duty is done because it provides excitement, something they may feel is missing when not engaged.

A veteran may also be at higher risk if he or she lives with a condition that contributes to problem gambling, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or substance abuse. Among the general population, more than 13% of pathological gamblers in treatment also struggled with PTSD. Depression is a factor as well, affecting as many as three-quarters of non-military problem gamblers. In addition, one study found that 43% of veterans with compulsive gambling had been alcohol dependent.

Can problem gambling be treated?

Yes! You can be treated no matter how old or young you are; and it doesn’t matter if you’re newly addicted or you’ve had a problem for years. Compulsive gambling is treated with a combination of therapy, support groups, and, if needed, prescription medication. Find out more in Gambling Addiction- What Are Your Treatment Options?

If you have other disorders, like PTSD, depression, or substance abuse, it’s important to seek treatment for those as well. The symptoms of untreated mental health conditions make it more likely you’ll relapse in the future.

In addition, your problem gambling counselor may recommend other therapies, such as anxiety management, family or marriage counseling, or problem-solving skills training. You may also need the assistance of a professional financial planner. He or she will assess your current situation and help lay the foundation for re-establishing financial stability.

What is self-exclusion and will it help me?

Self-exclusion is voluntarily placing yourself on a list that prohibits you from gambling at licensed gaming facilities, like casinos or racetracks. Each state has a different process; learn more about Pennsylvania’s self-exclusion list here.

Placing yourself on a self-exclusion list will help, but it’s only one tool for overcoming this addiction. Professional therapy and support groups offer the best chance for living without the burden, strain, and conflict of problem gambling.

Where can I get help?

Contact Compass Mark at (717) 299-2831 or fill out a help form. Our team will point you to problem gambling resources in Lancaster County and Lebanon County. The information is free and the conversation is confidential.

Another option is to contact your VA healthcare provider. While the VA system currently doesn’t have widespread resources for treating gambling addiction, your provider may be able to share more info regarding what is available.