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Skidmore College
Counseling Center

Gambling Addictions

Gambling takes many forms from horse to dog tracks, lotteries, slot machines, card games, and the stock market but it always involves playing a game of chance for stakes. For some people gambling can turn into an addiction and become a progressive disease known as pathological gambling. Pathological gambling has negative effects not only on the gambler but on everyone with whom he or she has significant relationships.

There are three phases of gambling addiction: the winning phase, the losing phase, and the desperation phase. During the winning stage, gamblers have a big win or a series of wins that leave them with unrealistic optimism that their winning will continue. This can lead to increased amounts of gambling or increased bets while gambling. The losing phase, gamblers are no longer winning but still brag about the winnings they have had, start gambling alone, become increasingly unhappy, have problems with family or friends, and start gambling more to win back their losses. During the desperation phase, even more time is spent gambling but it is accompanied with remorse, blaming others, and alienating family and friends.

 Gamblers may experience feelings of hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, alcohol or drug abuse problems, arrests, or an emotional breakdown.

Pathological gambling is often a hidden disease. You cannot tell if someone has a problem just by looking at him or she and the gambler will usually hide their lottery tickets, etc. from family and friends. Gambling addiction is a progressive disease but fortunately it can be diagnosed and treated. All compulsive gamblers can stop on their own… for a while. But most people need professional help to quit for life.

Internet gambling is an industry that is rapidly expanding. In 2003 revenue from internet gambling was over $4 billion dollars. For most people, internet gambling is a recreational and leisurely activity but for others it can become a serious addiction. One of the most problematic issues of internet gambling is that you can use credit cards to place bets. While most gamblers do not experience problems, there is a small percentage whose gambling does become problematic. Internet gambling addictions are just as serious as all other forms of addiction and should be addressed with the assistance of a professional.

If you would like help for your gambling problem, or if you would like to help a friend with a problem, you can make an appointment at the Counseling Center by stopping by the office on the first floor of Jonsson Tower or calling 518-580-5555.

You can also visit the New York State Council on Problem Gambling site.