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.



New Gambling Treatment Options for Some Vets: Telecounseling

Veterans in Minnesota may soon be able to access telecounseling to receive problem gambling treatment. The proposed program is designed to increase care access for military veterans who may need to travel long distances for treatment as well as those who have transportation or childcare challenges.

About 9% of U.S. military veterans experience problem gambling—that’s a rate 2-3x higher than that of the general population. The condition often co-occurs with other serious issues, including depression, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In a Northstar Problem Gambling Alliance article, Roger Anton, MA, LSW, consulting therapist at the Minneapolis Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center, said:

“People with gambling concerns need to have access to someone in a therapeutic environment where they feel comfortable telling their story, expressing concerns and getting professional feedback so they can determine what their next step might be. Telecounseling would be a perfect way to provide that service.”

Anton says counselors will work with a problem gambler in person for the first one or two appointments. If travel is a hardship, the gambler will then be moved into the telecounseling program, where therapists will use phone or video conferencing to connect with the veteran.

The VA, which operates the world’s largest telecounseling network, has used the technology to help vets in Minnesota since 2001.

Treatment for Gambling Problems

Gambling addiction is a progressive condition that requires skilled treatment by professionals. As with other addictions, including substance abuse, people sometimes run into barriers that prevent them from seeking help or complying with treatment plans. Telecounseling may be another tool that guides problem gamblers toward long-term recovery.

Visit Treatment Resources to locate gambling addiction counselors in Lancaster, Lebanon, and the surrounding areas. Compass Mark also offers referrals and guidance to families struggling with compulsive gambling. Call our compassionate team at 717-299-2831 or fill out the online Help Form.


Problem Gambling: 36,000 Active Duty Military Members May Meet Criteria

Overseas slot machines at American military installations generate an estimated $100,000,000 in profits, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG). Yet those 3,000+ machines may have a real-life cost that goes much higher: about 36,000 active duty service members are believed to meet the criteria for problem gambling.

Problem gambling is not a money problem or a matter of “poor” willpower. Gambling addiction is a brain condition that negatively–and often profoundly–impacts a person’s ability to carry on daily life. The inability to control gambling urges affects mental and physical well-being and often causes relationship problems that can lead to estrangement, separation, or divorce.

Gambling Addiction and the Military: Statistics
Find Help for Problem Gambling in Veterans

Gambling addiction is treatable. Contact your local VA medical center or community clinic to learn more about gambling addiction resources and treatment. You can also visit Make the Connection, a Department of Veterans Affairs online resource for problem gambling and other conditions, like alcohol abuse and PTSD.

Compass Mark can also guide you in the right direction. We offer compulsive gambling resources to individuals and families in Lancaster, PA and Lebanon, PA. Call our compassionate team at 717-299-2831 or fill out the online Help Form.

To learn if you or someone you love is at risk for problem gambling, take the quiz on the SafeStakes home page.