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Gambling Addiction in the US

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There’s no question Americans love to gamble. It’s the chance to turn a few bucks into thousands that drives the growing multi-billion dollar industry in the US. For most people, the enjoyment of putting on a nice outfit for an entertaining night, playing slots, and table games are what brings them to the casino. Unfortunately, the scene is a bit more sinister for the nearly 3% of the population that purportedly have a gambling addiction.

The people suffering from addictive gambling behaviour

The North American Foundation for Gambling Addiction Help estimates that nearly 10 million people in the US have an addiction to betting. The way the human brain responds to lights, sounds, and winning produces a hit of dopamine. Surprisingly enough, it’s the same chemical released during substance abuse.

The problem can grip people from all walks of life and age groups, but college students are one of the leading groups of compulsive bettors. They are well-knowledged in online and mobile gambling platforms and often place wagers unknowingly funded by their parents. Many experts suggest these bad habits start in their teenage years with freemium gaming apps.

Men are more likely to get addicted to gambling and at an earlier age. One could speculate that the atmosphere of camaraderie or the accessibility to sports betting knowledge sets males up for failure. Women aren’t in the clear, however. Although they seem to get into gambling later in life, they become hooked more quickly.

What does responsible gambling look like?

Enjoying the thrill of the casino floor doesn’t automatically translate into addiction. When gamblers set limits and place bets in moderation, they can safely have a gratifying time.

The cardinal rule is never wagering money one cannot afford to lose. The house always has an edge, so inevitably, losses are more common than wins. Setting a realistic bankroll and even a time limit or max bet helps people manage their money responsibly. When bettors attempt to supplement their income or chase the high of a win, they find themselves in a downward spiral.

Second to setting a spending limit, finding the right venue to play games and wager is a top priority for safety. Untrustworthy bookies are known to scam people with no recourse, so researching and reputability are essential in sports betting. Each year, millions flock to destination locations like Vegas or Atlantic City. Although now, many are avoiding travel and choosing to stay home, as there is a vast array of responsible sites to play casino games online.

Most importantly, gamblers should try to maintain a positive attitude and know when to walk away. A healthy viewpoint is to look at gambling as a game where winning is sometimes a lucky side effect, rather than setting out with the goal to win.

Telltale signs of gambling addiction

Most people place legal bets so they don’t feel like they have an issue. If you or someone you love exhibits any of the following symptoms, it may be time to seek help.

  • Constantly thinking about the casino or next sports game to bet on
  • Irritated or angry when losing a bet
  • Borrowing or stealing money to place wagers
  • Violence when others address an issue
  • Always upping the ante
  • Wagering bill and food budgets
  • Betting more to recoup losses

Don’t Become a statistic

Gambling addiction is a global problem. It can be easy for people to fall into bad habits, especially when they hit a few wins early on. It is a dangerous delusion that a losing streak means a payout is soon coming. This misconception is called the gambler’s fallacy: an irrational belief that the odds of the next round have changed because of the previous rounds’ outcomes. 

Gambling addiction is expensive and can lead to broken relationships and even crime or violence. When you start to see the early warning signs in yourself or someone you love, reach out and get help. Hotlines, rehab centres, and therapy can help nip an issue in the bud before it becomes a problem.


Ashley Grasse is an avid traveller and has enjoyed more than a few nights in casinos around the US. She is currently employed by OUSC as a writer.

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