Compulsive and Problem Gambling: A National Problem

As for its ubiquity well, where isn't it? Only a few short decades ago, legalized gambling was relegated to one state and the horse and dog tracks of only a handful of others. Now all states but three Utah, Hawaii, and Tennessee allow legalized gambling of some sort within their borders. Thirty-seven states plus the District of Columbia offer lotteries; casinos legally operate in 28 states; and you can bet on the horses or the dogs in 43. It is now possible to pull slot machine handles or punch electronic video poker machines in restaurants, bars, truck stops, or convenience stores not only while driving through Nevada, but in a host of other states as well. So much has gambling been de-stigmatized that " Monte Carlo nights" are a staple for many charitable fund-raisers and even for after-prom gatherings of high school kids. In short, when the itch to "test your luck" comes over you in 21st century America, you don't have to travel far to scratch it.

At some point, we Americans are going to have to sit up and take notice of this new national obsession and determine what it means for our health, both corporate and individual. We will have to learn "more rather than less, sooner rather than later," to quote a popular presidential saying of the late 1990s, about our nation's gambling "problem." And we will have to deal with its many attendant issues.

But there is a larger issue than merely what gambling does to us as a nation. And that is what it does to us as individuals and as families. For the sad truth of "gambling fever" is that many who catch it end up ruining their lives. Like alcohol or drugs, gambling can become addictive, and many who succumb to its lures put at risk their families, marriages, and financial solvency.

Not a few gamblers, in addition to squandering their finances and destroying their families, end up forfeiting even their lives indeed, 2 of every 10 gambling addicts attempt suicide.

Compulsive gambling is the dark underbelly of our national infatuation with games of chance. It's the side people don't notice when standing on the sidewalk gawking at the fire and smoke spewing from a 40-foot exploding volcano on the Las Vegas Strip, the part they don't think about while waiting in line for their daily Powerball "fix," when popping an extra buck or two into the one-armed bandit on their way to or from the $4.99 buffet and the element the gambling industry wishes you didn't know about. The fact is, this "harmless pastime," so promoted by the potentates of gaming, is not so harmless after all for millions of Americans. Accompanying our headlong plunge into sanctifying gambling activities across our land is an attendant and shocking rise in the rate of problem and compulsive gambling.

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Other Things to Consider

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Relationships:  Anger