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.


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.


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.


Problem Gambling Linked to Mental Health Disorders in U.S. Tribal Communities [Research]

American Indian (AI) and Alaskan Native (AN) community members with low- or at-risk gambling behaviors were more likely than non-gamblers to have had a psychiatric disorder, according to researchers studying the tribal communities.

The study, which was reviewed on The Worldwide Addiction Gambling Education Report (WAGER),  looked for connections between problem gambling and a range of other diagnosable conditions, including anxiety, mood disorders, substance abuse, and personality disorders.

In addition, it revealed “AI/AN adults had 20% increased odds of being a low-risk gambler versus a non-gambler, when compared to white/Caucasian adults,” according to WAGER. However, the tribal populations were not more likely to be at-risk gamblers than the white/Caucasian group.

These findings show yet another connection between problem gambling behavior and other conditions related to mental health. Over the years on our gambling blog, we’ve looked at this addiction’s connection to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, substance abuse, and suicide.

WAGER also suggests the research underscores the idea that customized intervention strategies may be needed for some problem gamblers—in this case, tribal community members who may feel oppressed in their daily lives and historically traumatized.

Problem Gambling Help Resources for Professionals in Lancaster & Lebanon

If you’re a counselor or other healthcare professional in Lancaster, PA or Lebanon, PA who would like additional gambling addiction prevention, intervention, or treatment resources, contact Compass Mark at 717-299-2831.



What to Do When Your Parent or Grandparent Gambles Too Much

Maybe your aging mom has started going on weekend casino binges. Perhaps your grandpa’s so wrapped up in slot machine apps that he now neglects his home or personal hygiene. You sense—or know—there’s a problem, but what do you do next?

Educate yourself.

Compulsive gambling isn’t about lacking willpower or making bad decisions. It’s a diagnosable condition with roots in the brain’s biology. What’s more, some people may be more vulnerable to it than others. Risk factors include starting to gamble at an early age and having a family history of addiction. There’s an additional risk factor for some seniors as well: certain drugs commonly used to treat conditions like Parkinson’s disease can negatively affect impulse control, raising the risk for, among other things, gambling addiction.

Understand that gambling addiction is treatable at any age.

Don’t push aside your concerns because you think your loved one is too old or too set in her ways to change. Professional therapists who are trained to work with gambling-addicted people will offer the tools and resources your parent or grandparent needs to start down the path to recovery.

Don’t preach.

Accusations and heated arguments won’t help your senior loved one realize they may need treatment for gambling addiction. Express your concern using “I” statements. For instance, you might say “I’m worried you won’t have money to pay for your heart medication because of the gambling.”

Seek help sooner rather than later.

Problem gambling is so much more than a money problem, yet there’s no question that money is crucial for supplying necessities like food, shelter, and medication. Younger problem gamblers in recovery may have decades to rebuild their financial security before retirement; in contrast, a senior may already be retired and unable to rebuild the nest egg—and that affects their quality of life. The longer a senior waits to find help, the harder it will be to regain financial stability. Need another reason to get help sooner instead of later? The stress of problem gambling can be the catalyst for serious health issues, including high blood pressure and heart disease.

Take care of your own well-being.

Does your loved one’s addiction to gambling make you angry? Frustrated? Embarrassed? Sad? Those negative emotions can have a big impact on your own life, so don’t ignore them. Talk with a professional counselor. He or she will assess your well-being and provide techniques for dealing with the stress of a loved one’s addiction. In addition, consider going to meetings at Gam-Anon, a group focused on helping gamblers’ family members find comfort and hope.

Take the quiz on our home page to find out if an older loved one is at risk. Then, talk with the Compass Mark team for confidential guidance and gambling resources in Lancaster, PA and Lebanon, PA. Call 717-299-2831 or fill out the very simple Gambling Help Form.

Learn more in 14 Financial Warning Signs for Problem Gambling and 5 Reasons to Get Problem Gambling Help for a Senior–Now.


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.


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.


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.


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 


Warning Signs of Problem Gambling [Infographic]

How do you know if you or a loved one is struggling with problem gambling? The signs of compulsive gambling aren’t always crystal clear (which is why it’s sometimes called the hidden addiction), but there are red flags that suggest it’s time to seek out professional help.

Gambling addiction is a diagnosable condition that impacts every aspect of life—not just the bank account. The stress and strain of this addiction affects physical and emotional well-being. It’s been linked to substance abuse, clinical depression, and increased suicide risk.

Check out this warning signs infographic from Ohio for Responsible Gambling. (If you need to view it at a larger size, right click on the image and choose “open image in new tab.”) Then take the simple assessment quiz on our home page to find out if you or someone you know is at risk for compulsive gambling. If you need additional help, a counselor trained to work with gambling addiction can conduct a thorough assessment and, when necessary, develop a treatment plan that points you toward recovery.


Learn More
Support Your Compulsive Gambling Recovery: Do’s and Don’ts
Is a Loved One Addicted to Gambling? 5 Tips for Family, Friends
Gambling Addiction Treatment Options in the Lancaster/Lebanon Area

Get Help
For 50 years, Compass Mark has been helping individuals and families discover help and hope for addiction disorders. Don’t wait until “rock bottom” to seek help.  Call our team for confidential guidance at 717-299-2831 or use the Compulsive Gambling Help Form.