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More Money Is Never the Solution for Compulsive Gambling
More Money Is Never the Solution for Compulsive Gambling Brett began gambling in college. Poker games, sports betting, even shooting baskets with his friends always involved a wager.

In college Brett won more than he lost, mostly because his friends were not into gambling the way he was.

After college Brett married and settled into a career as a mid-level manager at his father’s business. Increasingly bored with the 9-5 routine, Brett discovered that online poker games and sports betting made life more interesting. With a credit card and computer, Brett could gamble anytime he wanted and not have to deal with the losses until the bill came at the end of the month. After 4 months, Brett had lost more than $20,000.

He finally confessed to his wife but assured her that he would soon recoup the losses because he had now figured out “the system” of online betting. Armed with a new credit card, Brett set out to win his money back. Within 3 weeks he had lost another $15,000.

The mindset of compulsive gamblers

Compulsive gambling is an addictive disease characterized by:

  • denial
  • increasing preoccupation with gambling
  • a need to bet more money more frequently
  • restlessness or irritability when not able to gamble
  • "chasing" losses
  • continuing to gamble in spite of mounting, serious, negative consequences

All compulsive gamblers believe that they can win back their losses, if they just had another opportunity to gamble. While others see their problem for what it is, compulsive gamblers see their problems stemming from a lack of money.

As a result, they become relentless in attaining more money. They make deals with family members, friends or employers to have one more chance to gamble, believing that the next time they will win big and all their problems will be over.

A compulsive gambler’s personal success and self-worth are defined by winning money. The gambler’s marriage, family and career all take a back seat to this self-destructive goal.

The challenge for loved ones

Those closest to the gambler often fall prey to this tactic and give or “lend” money to help the gambler get back on her feet. It’s hard not to. Loved ones see unpaid bills, worry about children, and desperately want to help.

The gambler takes advantage of the charity of others in order to make quick cash so he can gamble. One distraught father told me that he gave his son $5,000 to pay off his gambling debts and get current on his bills. His son paid the $400 electric bill and gambled away the rest.

Giving money to a compulsive gambler is like trying to extinguish a fire with gasoline. It just makes matters worse. This is not to say that a gambler does not need financial help—she does, particularly when others (such as a spouse and children) may be suffering as a result of the gambling losses. But the only way to really get out of debt is hard work and responsible choices.

Suggestions to help

  • Compulsive gamblers must not have more than $10-$20 cash or access to cash. This means no credit or debit cards and no checkbook or checking account in their name. Oil company cards are also risky because gamblers may sell gas at the pump to strangers for cash.
  • A spouse or trusted family member must handle all the money until sound recovery is established and trust is rebuilt.
  • The compulsive gambler should participate in balancing the checkbook and reviewing and paying the bills so she fully understands the financial reality.
  • Paychecks should be directly deposited into an account controlled by the spouse or trusted family member.
  • Financial assistance from other family members should never be in the form of cash to the gambler. Helping to buy groceries or pay bills should be handled through the spouse or trusted family member, or paid directly to the merchant or utility company.

Offering financial accountability is the way to help a compulsive gambler. It is best to have a committee of 2 or 3 accountability partners who encourage responsible choices and are not afraid to say no.

When dealing with a gambler and money, saying no is hard, but it is the most loving thing you can do.

By Drew W. Edwards, EdD, MS
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