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.


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.


The Holiday Gifts You Shouldn’t Give to Your Kiddos: Problem Gambling Prevention

Got your holiday shopping wrapped up yet? (Pun intended!) Well, if you’re still hunting down presents for your younglings, there are a few ideas you may want to avoid: gambling-related toys and games.

What harm can gambling toys & games do to kids?

These types of gifts can increase a child’s potential for developing problem gambling, a diagnosable condition that impacts the gambler and their loved ones emotionally, physically, and financially.

Children and teens who begin to gamble at an early age are at higher risk for gambling problems later in life. However, a specific type of game may be putting even more kids at risk: gambling apps. Many kids’ wish lists include tablets or other mobile devices that give them access to games, including those with gambling themes.

Research suggests that youth who play simulated gambling games—those that don’t require actual money to play—are more likely to report gambling problems. Experts believe this is because gambling-type apps reinforce winning behavior without exposing kids to the real-world consequences of losing. Learn more in Simulated Gambling May Be a Gamble for Kids.

If you give tech gifts this year, engage parental controls to ensure your child can’t access gambling apps.

Other holiday gift ideas can reinforce unhealthy gambling behavior, too. Avoid giving kids gifts like:

  • Casino-themed card or board games, such as toy roulette sets;
  • Gambling-themed items, like slot machine piggy banks;
  • Scratch-off lottery cards.

Signs of Problem Gambling in Children & Teens

Now and throughout the year, stay alert for red flags that suggest your child or teen may have a gambling problem. Signs include:

  • Experiences mood swings based on whether they’ve won or lost;
  • Neglects school or work responsibilities to gamble or play gambling-type apps;
  • Begins hanging out with a new set of friends;
  • Steals or lies for money;
  • Sells prized possessions;
  • Shows a sudden interest in sports stats or scores (in those addicted to sports gambling).

A counselor trained to work with problem gamblers can assess and diagnose at-risk or addictive gambling behavior in a child or teenager. Call Compass Mark at 717-299-2831 for confidential guidance or visit Gambling Treatment Resources in Lancaster and Lebanon.


Gambling Addiction- The Red Flags You Need to Know

Do worries about gambling debt dog your sleep at night? Have you argued with a spouse about his/her wagering behavior? Are you stressed about an aging parent who’s suddenly playing gambling-type apps, seemingly all the time?

While many people can gamble safely, it turns into an addiction for up to 5 million Americans, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling. Here are just some of the warning signs that you or a loved one may be at risk for developing gambling addiction:

  • Trouble controlling the frequency or dollar amount of bets;
  • Continuing to gamble after the money’s gone;
  • Dipping into dedicated savings, like college funds or retirement accounts, to play;
  • Borrowing money to pay everyday bills, like rent or utilities;
  • Lying or being evasive about gambling;
  • Gambling to relieve stress, anxiety, loneliness, or boredom;
  • Arguing with loved ones about gambling and/or its impact on the family;
  • Spending increasing amounts of time playing gambling-type apps.

For more information about individual risk, take the simple quiz on the SafeStakes home page.

Gambling Addiction: Preventable & Treatable

Compass Mark will direct you to compulsive gambling help and treatment resources in Lancaster, PA or Lebanon, PA. Contact our team at 717-299-2831, or fill out this simple Problem Gambling Help Form. Our guidance is free and confidential.


Does ADHD Put Your Child At Risk for Gambling Addiction?

If you know or love someone with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you understand it brings a set of challenges that affects the one living with the condition as well as those around him or her. For some with ADHD, problem gambling may be one of those challenges.

What is Gambling Addiction?

Problem gambling is a condition in which a person’s gambling behavior becomes out of control, making a serious negative impact on their life and the lives of loved ones. It’s not a money problem, and it’s not a matter of willpower. Rather compulsive gambling is classified as an addictive disorder because it impacts the brain in ways similar to substance abuse.  Problem gamblers are at higher risk for depression, substance abuse, and suicide.

Research on the Problem Gambling-ADHD Link

Studies suggest people with ADHD may have a higher risk for developing gambling addiction. For example, young adults who’d participated in an ADHD study as children were assessed for problem gambling. The researchers found that 19% of those with ADHD that persisted into adulthood met problem gambling criteria, compared to just 5% for a non-ADHD group and 5% for a group that showed ADHD symptoms as children but not as adults.

In another study, 21% of young adult problem gamblers showed probable signs of ADHD. Additionally, the researchers also saw a link between those gamblers with probable ADHD and an earlier onset of problematic gambling.

Prevent Gambling Addiction  

Risk factors are just that: factors that may play a role in development. Just because a child or teen has been diagnosed with ADHD does not guarantee he or she will develop problem gambling. Parents, caregivers, educators, and health care professionals can take action to guide youth as well as educate them about the potential dangers of gambling:

Be wary of allowing kids and teens to play casino-type apps. While gambling apps are relatively new, emerging research suggests these games could prime the brain for addiction by introducing players to casino-like excitement and the allure of a potential big win. Check out Are Your Kids Playing Gambling Apps? What Parents Need to Know.

Start a conversation about gambling. Hopefully you’ve already started having age-appropriate discussions about alcohol and other drugs. It’s time to add gambling to the topic list. Find out what your child or teen knows about gambling, and then talk about any misperceptions they might have, like the idea that gambling is a way to make money. Learn more in Teen Gambling- 3 Talking Points Parents Need to Know.

Watch for signs of possible problem gambling:

  • Declining grades that can’t be otherwise explained
  • Becoming secretive about what they’re doing on a computer or smartphone
  • Increasing preoccupation with game scores, stats, and outcomes (in those gambling on sports)
  • Selling or pawning possessions
  • Stealing or lying to get money
  • Borrowing money from relatives or friends

For more information about gambling addiction education resources or for help with treatment referrals, contact Compass Mark at (717) 299-2831 or fill out the simple help form.


Want to Gamble Less? Resolution Do’s and Don’ts

The New Year holiday is a time when many people look to make a fresh start, from cutting calories to spending more time with family. Some folks will resolve to gamble less—and if you’re in that group, these do’s and don’ts will help you get started.

Do’s and Don’ts for Cutting Back on Gambling

Do understand your risk for gambling addiction.
Compulsive gambling is a brain condition, and, as with other addictions, several factors contribute to its development. Take the risk quiz on the SafeStakes home page, or take into consideration that your risk might be higher if you:

  • Have a family history of problem gambling or other addictions;
  • Abuse substances;
  • Have past or current conditions like clinical depression or anxiety disorder;
  • Are going through a major transition, such as divorce, job loss, or the death of a loved one;
  • Have experienced abuse or trauma.

If you’re an at-risk person, consider protecting your well-being by choosing not to gamble at all.

Don’t play casino-type apps.
Research suggests that gambling apps—even those utilizing free play modes or virtual money—may prime a player for developing problem gambling. For example, one study found that free play/practice mode games offer much higher payouts than real money games, potentially giving players a false sense of skill. Learn more in Gambling Apps- FAQs.

Do stay sober while gambling.
Hangovers are bad. But a hangover and a $500+ loss? Ouch. The atmosphere at casinos and other wagering facilities makes it easy to consume too much. As a result, you might make poor decisions about when to call it a night. If you’re going to bet, stay sober.

Don’t continue gambling after the fun money is gone.
Think of gambling as a form of entertainment, like going to see a movie or visiting an amusement park. Gambling is never a way to make money—the odds are always in favor of the house. So set a reasonable budget, and when the money is gone, it’s time to stop.

Do play with cash only.
Credit and debit cards make it easier to play past your limit, setting you up for big losses you won’t be able to recoup. Keep the plastic at home and stick to cash to help you stay within a budget.

Do find help if you can’t cut back on your own.
If your attempts to cut back or quit gambling are unsuccessful, seek professional help. A therapist trained to treat problem gambling will assess you and, if needed, develop a treatment plan.

Compass Mark is a Lancaster/Lebanon-area addiction education, prevention, and treatment resource center. If you’re worried about yourself or someone else, let us help. Fill out this help form or call (717) 299-2831. Our guidance is free and confidential.


Gambling Apps: Tips for Parents Giving Kids Tech for the Holidays

Tablet? Smartphone? Laptop? What’s on your child’s holiday list this year? Tech is always a hot item, especially among tweens and teens. As a parent or caregiver, you’ve probably already considered the potential downsides of giving a device to the same kid who can’t remember to throw their dirty socks in the hamper. But there may be an additional trouble spot you haven’t considered yet: gambling apps.

The Problem of Problem Gambling

The earlier in life a child starts to gamble, the higher their risk for later developing gambling addiction, a debilitating condition in which a person cannot control the urge to bet. Researchers have found that the brains of compulsive gamblers show activity similar to that of those addicted to drugs. From relationships to finances, the condition affects every aspect of the gambler’s life—and the lives of his or her loved ones. Learn more in What is Gambling Addiction?

Why Gambling Apps Should Be On Your Radar

Apps for gambling introduce kids and their still-developing brains to the excitement of gambling. One recent study found teens that played simulated gambling games were at higher risk for problem gambling.

Casino-type games, including slots and poker, are easily accessible through smartphones, tablets, and other devices. While game designers and marketers say these apps are not intended for children, few games have effective age-verification systems in place, making it simple for kids to download and play them.

Tech Tips for Parents

  • Know how to use the device’s parental controls. Make time to get familiar with monitoring or blocking features, and learn how to set the controls. If the device doesn’t have them installed already, download blocking or monitoring software.
  • Understand that free-play apps aren’t necessarily safer. Gambling apps that don’t require the use of real money might also contribute to unhealthy behavior. Research suggests that gamblers who play in free-play or demo/practice mode place higher bets later when they wager with real money.
  • Talk with your child about gambling, even if you’re utilizing parental controls. Just because a child or teenager can’t access gambling apps through their own device doesn’t mean they won’t access them through friends’ tech. So just as you’d have a conversation about using alcohol and other drugs, have a discussion about the potential danger of casino-type apps and problem gambling. Make sure you have this conversation with your college-age kids, too!

Learn more so you can help your child make healthy decisions about gambling. Check out:

How to Prevent Teen Gambling—A Parent’s Guide

Gambling Myths—Are They Getting a Teen You Know Into Trouble?

4 Tips for Talking with Your College Kid about Problem Gambling

For additional problem gambling prevention or treatment resources in Lancaster or Lebanon, call Compass Mark at (717) 299-2831 or submit this simple help form.