Gambler’s Fallacies More Common in Online Poker Players [Research]

Online gamblers appear more prone to believing common gambling fallacies, according to a recent study reviewed on WAGER (The Worldwide Addiction Gambling Education Report).

The researchers, who analyzed 111 online poker players and 167 players at live card tables, asked each participant to complete an inventory surveying their belief in four common gambler’s fallacies, including examples such as:

  • “If you are having a losing streak, you should keep gambling.”
  • “Staying at a machine increases your chances of winning.”
  • “A winning attitude will improve my chances in gambling.”
  • “If I use special rituals, I can avoid bad luck.”

Those in the online poker group were significantly more likely to agree with the distorted statements than those who played offline. What’s more, the researchers found the online group was more likely to rate their own poker skills higher than the offline group did, even though both groups were assessed as having the same empirical skill level.

Why did the online players more readily believe in gambler’s fallacies? As noted on WAGER, one potential reason is that online poker players may be more likely to play in isolation, without as much opportunity to trade ideas, tips, or information with a network of other players.

Problem gambling is treatable.

Fallacies, or misperceptions about gambling, are considered a cognitive distortion that contributes to unhealthy or compulsive betting behavior. Treatment, often in the form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can retrain the brain to be aware of these misperceptions to better control the urge to bet.

You or a loved one can heal from problem gambling. Professional therapy is considered the foundation for problem gambling treatment, however there are a number of additional ways to support recovery and reduce the urge to gamble, including support groups (like Gamblers Anonymous), positive lifestyle changes (such as reducing stress or anxiety), and family/marriage therapy.

To find out if you or a loved one is at risk for developing this addiction, take the quiz on our home page.

Visit our Treatment Resources to locate a provider trained to work with gambling addiction in Lancaster, Lebanon, and the surrounding areas.

For compulsive gambling prevention, education, or confidential help, contact Compass Mark at (717) 299-2831 or fill out the easy online help form.


Living with a Problem Gambler- Do’s and Don’ts

Are you losing sleep because your husband bet–and lost–the mortgage money on a basketball game? Do you and your spouse argue frequently about how much time she spends gambling online? Gambling addiction is a brain condition that impacts the gambler and his or her family. Here are do’s and don’ts for living with a problem gambler:

Do find professional help for yourself.
You may feel anger, frustration, sadness, helplessness, or guilt over the situation. A professional therapist can help you identify negative emotions and learn how to cope with them in a healthy way. You might also benefit from a self-help support group, like Gam-Anon, which is made up of family members affected by a loved one’s gambling addiction.

Don’t pay off the gambler’s debts.
Problem gambling isn’t simply a money problem—and your loved one won’t stop betting because the debts have been paid off. A compulsive gambler experiences brain changes that make it very hard to resist the urge to bet. Your loved one can recover, but he or she will need the guidance of an addiction therapist skilled in working with compulsive gamblers. Find Lancaster- and Lebanon-area treatment providers.

Do leave if the situation is abusive.
Gambling addiction increases the risk of marital abuse and child abuse. If you or other family members, including children or aging parents, are in danger from the addicted gambler, reach out for help immediately:

Don’t neglect your financial well-being.
The economic fallout of a gambling addiction can destroy a family. Separate assets as soon as possible to take control of your financial situation. For example, open a separate bank account for your wages only—and don’t allow the gambler access to it. A non-profit debt counselor or certified financial advisor can help you make better sense of what can be overwhelming circumstances. Find more strategies in Living with a Problem Gambler- Tips for Protecting Your Finances.

Do learn to say “no.”
Perhaps you’ve given money to a gambling-addicted loved one, or maybe you’ve called her employer to cover for her absence after she’s been on a gambling/drinking binge. Enabling unhealthy behavior allows him or her to stay mired in the addiction. A therapist can help you learn to say “no” with confidence.

The Compass Mark team offers addiction education and treatment guidance in Lancaster County and Lebanon County. Call 717-299-2831 or use the simple help form.


Is the Path to Gambling Addiction Faster for Men or Women? [Research]

Does gender make a difference when it comes to how quickly an addiction, like compulsive gambling, progresses? For years, study results suggested women were likely to move from initial use or experience to addiction more quickly than men. However, the findings of a recent study now suggest that men may develop problem gambling faster than women.

Telescoping is a term that describes the fast rate at which a person or group transitions from first use to full-blown addiction. For example, studies have found that while women often start out using lower amounts of alcohol than men, they tend to progress more rapidly into abuse and addiction. Previous research suggested that women had a tendency to telescope in gambling disorder as well.

Emerging research, however, suggests telescoping affects men. This study, which was shared on WAGER (The Worldwide Addiction Gambling Education Report), examined data from the Australian Twin Study. Research authors found that men seemed to progress from initial gambling experience to weekly gambling to gambling disorder faster than women.

Why were these findings different than those of previous studies?

As noted in the WAGER article, one possibility is that previous research drew conclusions from those already seeking treatment. In contrast, the new study was based on a sample from the community, which may have been more representative because many gambling-addicted people don’t seek treatment.

Compulsive gambling doesn’t discriminate based on gender, age, economic status, or ethnic background. Learn more by checking out:

Find prevention resources or help for problem gambling in PA.

If you’re in Lancaster or Lebanon and need help finding gambling addiction resources, contact the Compass Mark team at 717-299-2831 or use our simple online help form. Our assistance is confidential and judgment free.

7 Tips for Problem Gamblers’ Families

So you’re worried your spouse, partner, parent, or another loved one has a gambling problem—now what? While there are no quick fixes or simple solutions when it comes to any addiction, there are steps you can take to start your own path toward healing:

1. Learn about the condition. Gambling addiction is a medical condition that affects the brain. Educate yourself about the disorder so you have a foundation for understanding what’s happening to your loved one. Start with Can Gambling Become an Addiction? and What Are the Treatment Options?

2. Talk with your loved one. Let him or her know you’re concerned about the behavior you’ve seen and how it affects the gambler and everyone else in the family. Start the conversation with “I” statements: “I feel worried about you and I’m starting to lose sleep because of the time I see you spend playing gambling apps.” Avoid lectures or accusations that may cause the gambler to become more defensive—and perhaps more resistant to seeking treatment.

3. Say “no” to money requests. Money will not cure a gambling problem. Giving or loaning money, whether it’s to pay the rent or cover a gambling debt, does nothing more than give him or her the resources to continue gambling. It’s a tough way to show love, but it’s necessary if you want to give your family member a chance for long-term recovery.

4. Find help for yourself and, if needed, other family members. Problem gambling is an issue that hurts everyone around the addicted person, including children, parents, and siblings. It’s common for loved ones to feel anger, frustration, guilt, or shame over what’s happening. Seek a professional counselor who can help you work through those emotions, or attend a self-help group, like Gam-Anon.

5. Take care of yourself. Along with counseling or self-help groups, lifestyle changes will help lower the stress of loving an addicted person. Find ways to nurture your spirit: participate in yoga classes, take painting lessons, learn woodworking, or enjoy a walk every day.

6. Get information and guidance for your own money situation. If you share finances, your loved one’s addiction may have a significant impact on your ability to pay bills and on your credit rating. Consult a professional financial planner or non-profit debt counselor to assess the situation, minimize further damage, and plan to rebuild financial security.  Learn more in Living with a Problem Gambler—Tips for Protecting Your Finances.

7. Be patient. Recovery from gambling addiction is a process, and there are no overnight cures. The gambler may resist treatment at first or have relapses along the way. The most important thing you can do is support the person with love, kindness, and compassion. Your family member is facing a tough battle—and they need you.

Problem gambling is treatable. Compass Mark offers free, confidential referral guidance to individuals and families in Lancaster and Lebanon. Call our team at (717) 299-2831 or submit a help form. You can also find a list of specialized counselors in the area by visiting our Treatment Page.


Are Your Kids Playing Gambling Apps? What Parents Need to Know

Over the next week, kids in Lancaster and Lebanon will be loosed upon the world to whine that age-old mantra “I’m bored.” Some children and teens will solve that problem by reaching for games on a tablet or smartphone. No big deal—most of us probably played video games of some sort and we turned out fine, right? The problem is that apps for gambling-type games are increasingly popular.

How is That a Problem?

The excitement of play, allure of prizes, and fast pace have the potential to combine and prime a child or teenager for gambling addiction, a condition that impacts far more than the bank account. Compulsive gamblers are at higher risk for substance abuse, depression, and suicide. The condition impacts every aspect of life, from relationships with family to employment status. Learn more in What is Gambling Addiction?

Casino-type apps, which offer games like slots, blackjack, and video poker, can easily be downloaded to smartphones, tablets (including Kindle Fire), and other devices, such as the iPod Touch. Some apps incorporate themes attractive to kids; think fairy tale characters or cute animals. There’s even a Bible-themed app offering slots based on the stories of Noah, David and Goliath, and more.

Game manufacturers often state the apps are designed for players 18 and older. However, while some games require the gambler to enter their age before downloading, there’s little in the way of robust age verification. Any resourceful child or teenager can figure out how to enter a false date of birth. In other instances, a child doesn’t even need to download the app him/herself—a parent or older sibling may have already done so.

Free-to-play (“practice mode”) apps aren’t necessarily safe either. Research suggests free-play leads gamblers to bet higher amounts when they later play for real money, perhaps because success in practice mode creates a false sense of skill for what is ultimately a game of chance.

Resources to Help You Protect Kids

Teen Gambling- 3 Talking Points Parents Need to Know

Could Candy Crush & Similar Games Lead to Gambling Addiction?

Gambling for Kids? There May Be an App for That

Tips for Parents of Teen Online Gamblers

Find Treatment Resources

If you suspect your child or teen is becoming increasingly preoccupied with gambling apps, contact Compass Mark to learn more about help resources in Lancaster and Lebanon.  Call (717) 299-2831 or fill out this help form.


Parents: Could Candy Crush & Similar Games Lead to Gambling Addiction?

Even if you don’t play social media games, like Candy Crush, you likely know someone who does. While plenty of people are able to harmlessly enjoy these apps, some experts worry that teens who play them are being primed for problem gambling.

What’s the big deal?

Candy Crush and other social games typically offer a free-play mode as well as pay-for-access features. However, regardless of whether the game is free or paid, these activities may introduce youth to the perceived rewards and excitement of gambling. Mark Griffiths, director of Nottingham Trent University’s International Gaming Research Unit, said in an interview shared by Mail Online, “When you start winning, you start thinking that if I was playing with real money, I could be doing quite well.” He also noted, “Games like Candy Crush have a moreishness quality, a bit like chocolate. You say you’ll just have one chunk and you end up having the whole lot. So you say, ‘I’ll just play for 15 minutes’ and you end up still there four or five hours later.”

Protect kids & teens from being primed for problem gambling.

Research suggests that the earlier youth begin gambling, the more likely they are to develop compulsive gambling later in life. You can take action—right now—to reduce the chance your child will gamble away their future.

  • Talk with your children and teens about gambling. It’s not enough to monitor what your kids do on your/their devices. Children and teenagers don’t fully understand how much gambling can impact their relationships, academic success, and financial future, so give them the information they need to make healthy decisions. Get tips for starting a conversation in Teen Gambling- 3 Talking Points Parents Need to Know.
  • Prohibit or limit playing time. Limiting screen time is always a good idea, but it’s extra important to be vigilant with games and apps. Use blocking software or parental controls to block gaming websites/apps or limit game-playing time.
  • Monitor activity. Know what he or she is doing with a smartphone or tablet. Regularly check devices, social media activity, and financial accounts to make sure they’re not playing restricted games or spending real money to play.
  • Watch for signs of gambling addiction. Be on alert for declining academic performance, unexplained school absences, borrowing money from others, and mood swings related to game success or failure. Learn more red flags in Gambling Addiction and Kids.

If you’re concerned your child  or teen already struggles with a gambling problem, seek professional guidance. Compass Mark helps families in Lancaster, PA and Lebanon, PA break free from addiction. Our assistance is judgment-free and confidential. Call our team at (717) 299-2831 or fill out this simple help form.

Would you like to see gambling prevention and education in your child’s school? Compass Mark offers a free program for children in grades 4-8. The We Know BETter awareness curriculum uses kid-friendly, age-appropriate activities to help students learn about addiction, practice refusal skills, and improve coping strategies. Ask your child’s school to contact us to learn more.

4 Reasons to Get Problem Gambling Help

Worried about how much you lost playing slots at a Pennsylvania casino last weekend? Concerned about a loved one’s online gambling behavior? If you’re reading this, you already suspect a problem.  But how serious can gambling too much be? Actually, quite serious—and not just in terms of money lost. Here are 4 reasons problem gambling deserves professional treatment:

1. Problem gambling isn’t a money issue—it’s a medical condition.

This is not about being bad with money or having no willpower. It’s a behavioral addiction; the person’s high comes from the thrill of the game and the allure of the next Big Win. The addiction alters the gambler’s decision-making process and makes him or her unable to control the urge to bet.

If you fractured an arm, you’d seek medical care. If a family member became addicted to heroin, you’d try to get him or her into treatment. Likewise, a person with compulsive gambling also deserves treatment from a trained professional.

2. Compulsive gambling is a friends-and-family problem, too.  

A mom becomes so wrapped up in a casino app that she doesn’t notice her toddler has slipped out the front door…an older man sells his wife’s valuable family heirlooms to get slot machine money…a gambler “borrows” a friend’s ATM card and PIN so he has money to bet the ponies.

It’s easy to think “I’d never do that” or “My husband/wife wouldn’t even consider acting that way.” Yet compulsive gambling affects a person’s ability to make reasonable decisions—and often the decisions made in the heat of addiction hurt the physical, emotional, or financial well-being of loved ones.

3. Problem gamblers are at higher risk for suicide.

An estimated 17-24% of problem gamblers have attempted suicide, a rate higher than that of other addictions. A compulsive gambler often suffers in silence, feeling as though there’s nowhere to turn for help, especially after money and other resources run out. What’s more, there are few outward signs of addiction—no slurred words, no stumbling—to suggest to others that there’s a problem. Learn more in Suicide and Problem Gambling- FAQ Guide.

4. Addicted gamblers have higher rates of substance abuse and mental health conditions.

Researchers estimate 25-44% of problem gamblers struggle with an alcohol abuse disorder. Despite the wide range in estimates, it’s clear that many who have disordered gambling also live with alcohol abuse, which carries an additional—and serious—physical and emotional impact. Furthermore, problem gamblers have higher rates of mental health conditions, such as depression or bipolar disorder, both of which have their own set of concerns requiring treatment.

Problem gambling is treatable. Compass Mark guides individuals and families to addiction help resources in Lancaster and Lebanon. Call (717) 299-2831 or fill out the online help form. Our assistance is free and confidential.


Licensed Online Gambling- 4 Ways It Raises the Risk for Problem Gambling

For many people, gambling on the Internet can be a fun form of entertainment. For others, however, a few hands of online poker turn into a few more…and then a few more…and before anyone realizes what’s going on, an entire weekend has disappeared—along with the rent money.

Problem gambling affects millions of gamblers and their friends, families, and co-workers. About 2-3% of Americans engage in gambling behaviors that directly impact their lives, while about 1% struggle with gambling addiction, the most serious form of the disorder.

Pennsylvania residents have access to gambling through licensed facilities, like casinos and off-track wagering centers. While the state hasn’t yet licensed online gambling, New Jersey and Delaware have, making it likely only a matter of time before PA lawmakers consider granting permission for the state’s facilities to offer Internet gaming to residents.

The challenge is that online wagering offers additional risks for people vulnerable to developing problem gambling behavior:

  • Alcohol-Gambling Mix: Casinos and wagering facilities serving alcohol can cut off visibly intoxicated patrons. In addition, a person drinking at a licensed facility is more likely to be in the presence of friends able to say, “Let’s go, we’ve had enough.” Online gambling allows a person to play while intoxicated, from the isolation of home, a car, or workplace desk. Drinking impacts the ability to make reasonable and healthy decisions, which means that mixing alcohol and wagering can result in serious and continued losses.
  • Speed of Play: Gamblers playing at licensed locations may wager at a more leisurely rate.  A person might stop to watch a friend play a few hands or walk the floor looking for a better table. In contrast, online gambling enables a person to sit in front of the screen, uninterrupted, for hours at a time. Furthermore, Internet gaming sometimes offers auto-play, a feature that lets the player place wagers without actually pressing a button—a computer quickly places bets for the gambler, making it potentially easier to lose more in a shorter period of time.
  • Lack of Spending or Time Limits:  Licensed online gambling may not have limits stringent enough to protect those vulnerable to problem gambling. For example, New Jersey currently allows a person to place monthly limits on his or her online play, but the system is voluntary.
  • Potential Availability to Children & Teens: Many parents know all too well how easily some kids navigate around safety measures. While licensed Internet gambling is supposed to be available only to people of legal gambling age, it’s possible some children and teens will find ways around established safeguards. This can be especially harmful because children who start gambling early in life are more vulnerable to developing gambling addiction as adults.

If you’re an educator, employer, or mental health professional who would like more information about problem gambling prevention and treatment in Lancaster County or Lebanon County, call Compass Mark at (717) 299-2831. We have the resources to help you help your students, employees, or clients.


Compulsive Gambling Research Round-Up and News, Part 3

It’s time for Compass Mark’s regular round-up of research and news in problem gambling prevention and treatment. Here’s the latest:

Level of Parental Supervision Linked to Gambling Risk

Stronger supervision by parents during early adolescence may lower the risk of problem gambling in young adulthood, suggests a study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. According to researchers, kids who had poor parental supervision at age 11, and declining supervision over the next 3 years, were much more likely to have developed problem gambling by age 22 than those with strong, consistent supervision levels. This study is the first to identify parental supervision as a way to reduce problem gambling behaviors in youth. (PsychCentral)

Learn more about kids and gambling in How to Prevent Teen Gambling and 4 Tips for Talking with Your College Kid about Problem Gambling Dangers.

Research IDs Factors in Problem Gambling Relapse

Recovering gambling addicts were more likely to relapse when they felt more gambling-related urges, had trouble with work and social adjustment, and retained false beliefs about gambling (such as their level of control over the game). The study, from researchers in Australia, highlights the need for addicted gamblers to work with a licensed gambling counselor able to provide care that addresses all relapse risk factors. (WAGER)

Check out Gambling Addiction- What Are Your Treatment Options?

Online Gambling Comes to NJ

New Jersey has begun testing its new online gambling websites, and, if the tests go well, the sites are expected to go live this week. New Jersey is one of several states, including Delaware, to allow its gambling facilities to offer online play. The sites will use geo-location software to verify players are within the state’s borders. New Jersey’s gambling industry has seen revenue fall over the last few years, and it sees online poker and casino games as a way to revitalize itself. However, legalized Internet gambling allows residents to play anytime, anywhere, raising the risk that some will develop a devastating gambling addiction. (Business Insider)

Learn more in Online Gambling FAQs.

Say What?

It seems the phrase “problem gambling” means different things to different people. Ohio’s problem gambling hotline found that 54% of callers weren’t looking for info to overcome a gambling addiction. Instead, more than half of calls were from gamblers seeking lottery numbers or info about casinos and racetracks. (

Compulsive gambling is a problem that has real consequences for gamblers and their loved ones. Contact Compass Mark for addiction help resources in Lancaster and Lebanon.  Whether you need help for yourself or for someone else, we’ll point you to the right place. Use our help form, or call our team at (717) 299-2831.



2 Ways Problem Gambling Can Trigger Suicide

Gambling addiction has too many effects on too many people. It causes relationship problems. It can contribute to domestic violence and child abuse. It creates problems in the workplace. The addiction sparks big-time financial issues as well, especially when the actions of one person deprives loved ones of money needed to pay rent, insurance, and other bills. However, we can’t overlook the fact that excessive gambling can also end in suicide.

This week, September 8-14, 2013, is National Suicide Prevention Week. It’s a good reminder for compulsive gamblers, loved ones, educators, and health professionals that those who struggle with this condition have higher rates of suicide than those addicted to drugs or alcohol. Estimates vary, but researchers put the suicide attempt rate among problem gamblers between 17% and 24%. Additionally, studies suggest that suicide rates are higher in cities with casinos than in demographically similar cities with no such facilities.

2 Ways Compulsive Gambling Can Lead to Suicide

1. One reason is that the addicted person often suffers in silence. Unlike substance abuse, problem gambling doesn’t often reveal itself in apparent physical ways: no needle marks… no slurred speech…no stumbling or falling. There are also typically no signals from the body that it’s time for change. For example, a heroin addict’s body might only handle so much drug abuse before the person overdoses or ends up in the hospital. In contrast, a compulsive gambler can wager—and lose—money as long as he or she can scrape together the funds, even if it means stooping to fraud, forgery, or embezzlement.

What’s more, secretive behavior by excessive gamblers makes it harder for loved ones to identify the problem and guide the addicted person into treatment. For instance, technology provides anytime, anyplace access to gambling via laptops, tablets, or smartphones.  A person could bet hundreds or thousands of dollars online while watching their child’s basketball practice. The gambler can lose everything and feel like there is no possible way out.

2. Overall, people who struggle with problem gambling have higher rates of conditions like depression and substance abuse. Each of these challenges on its own raises the potential for suicide—when combined with gambling addiction, the result can destroy emotional health and well-being.

Suicide and Gambling Addiction Resources

Reach out for help now if you are thinking about suicide. Call CONTACT Lancaster Helpline at (717) 299-4855 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Call 911 or emergency personnel immediately if a loved one is in danger of attempting to take his or her life.

For more information about suicide or about suicide and its link to problem gambling, visit:

National Suicide Prevention Week Facebook Awareness Page

Is Gambling Addiction Causing Suicidal Thoughts?

Suicide and Problem Gambling- FAQ Guide

To learn more about preventing or treating excessive gambling, call Compass Mark at (717) 299-2831 or fill out our online help form. We direct individuals, families, counselors, employers, and educators to prevention and treatment resources in Lancaster, PA and Lebanon, PA. Our help is judgment free and confidential.