Gambling Addiction and Its Behavioral Effects

Gambling addiction is a serious mental health disorder, which can be identified in two ways: a person either a) continuously bet on things using money or objects that hold value even though negative consequences arise as a result, or, b) they cannot stop gambling even if they desired to. People suffering from gambling addiction often display a strong urge to bet on a wide-range of gambling mediums-from sports games to poker, to choosing lottery numbers and throwing dice. And although friends and family members of compulsive gamblers don’t see the symptoms physically, like they often do with alcoholics or drug abusers, the consequences gambling addiction has serious implications on their lives as well as the lives of their friends and families. Not realizing its severity or taking it too lightly can be devastating for the addicted gambler in the long run. Gamblers can reach a point of literally losing everything, from cars, to homes, to businesses, and even respect from those they care about.

It’s well-known that Florida is notorious for providing “the hotspot” for gamblers all over the world, as well as its residents. But how many gamblers actually endure financial problems? A recent survey by the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling shed light on card playing, reporting that 70% of these people had trouble paying their bills. But here’s the worst part, which is known to be a side-effect of excessive gambling–1 in 3 of these card players admitted to having participated in illicit activities in order to finance their gambling. Playing cards isn’t as harmless as we thought; criminal activity is still a cause for concern.

Gambling addicts are not always obvious about their situation; sometimes they don’t even realize it themselves. They don’t dwell on what has been lost as a result of their destructive activities and behaviors. Instead, compulsive gamblers only focus on the gains, or the supposed investment aspect of the games they play. And unlike drug or alcohol addiction, a person addicted to gambling will not display symptoms such as heavy fatigue, sickness, loss of energy or dizziness; instead, other factors are apparent, such as falling into deep financial trouble, losing quality time with the ones they love, and heightening the chances of entering into drug or alcohol addiction.

It’s difficult to establish who has a gambling problem and who doesn’t. Where is the threshold between social gamblers, and abusive gamblers? Are there any red flags? The answer is yes. Pathological gamblers often display one or more of the following signs: negligent of family get-togethers, acts on criminal behavior in order to acquire more stuff to bet on, would rather gamble then hang out with friends, talk excessively about gambling and winning money, use drugs or alcohol to distract them from wanting to gamble more, become irritated when not gambling, neglect vital responsibilities for gambling time, and lying to family and friends about going out gambling. A combination of these signs should be a red flag when identifying a compulsive gambler. But remember, none of these signs mention the amount of times a person gambles in a period of time. It’s not about “quantity.” A person can gamble every day and it may not affect his life. Also, gambling addiction isn’t OK if you’re wealthy; rich gamblers can still have issues like neglecting their loved ones and other vital responsibilities.

Florida is well-known for its casinos, entertainment arenas and cruise ship gambling. But environmental factors such as these may cause people to be more susceptible to the development of gambling addiction. Gambling addiction isn’t a problem that stands alone-it may lead to criminal behavior, psychological distress and depression, and fuel other more dangerous addictions. As stated earlier, a person may fall into drug or alcohol addiction in order to supplement or replace their gambling behavior. The combination of multiple addictions can be devastating and more difficult to treat; it would be like tangling a web of loose strings and trying to unravel them all at once.

Addiction specialists and counselors use a variety of methods in treating gambling addiction effectively, including: helping the addict understand what drives him or her to gamble, replacing their betting habits with more productive activities, understanding how it affects the people they care about, and finally, strengthening one’s will to live a more productive lifestyle. If you notice warning signs that you or your loved one is suffering from gambling addiction, it is crucial to intervene and find treatment before it is too late. Doctors treat gambling addiction as a serious brain disease, and people suffering from it are also prone to drug addiction. The importance of acquiring immediate treatment can be the difference between losing everything, and saving someone’s life.

When The Fun In Gambling Is No Longer Fun

Gambling is all fun and games until you hit the point where you cease seeing the fun in it, or you become irredeemably addicted.

Admittedly, most people do not see it coming. They start gambling for very noble reasons including,

1. The need to take time away from work and family pressures
2. Escape route from depressing thoughts on other issues.
3. Hopes of winning a fortune and living lavishly ever after
4. To bring a tinge of excitement into their otherwise dull lives
5. A chance to go out there, socialize and make new friends.

As you can see from the above points, no one anticipates that gambling will grow into the Frankenstein that now threatens to push them off the sanity cliff. A lot of people are able to keep their gambling under rein. They do it for fun, to pass some time and to socialize. Others lose it completely. They become slaves to online and offline gambling. It throws their lives off-balance. They start putting more time and money into gambling, and they gradually neglect other aspects of their lives.

At this point, problem gamblers look back at their lives and get surprised at how and when it happened. For a lot of people, the problem starts with a shift in mentality. A big loss or a big win, and you are hooked. You start gambling more money than you had planned to spend on gambling, you invest a lot of time in the casinos and before you know it, you are a slave to gambling. You can’t eat, sleep nor breathe without thinking gambling.

To help you understand how gambling addiction works, I have analyzed some of the most common factors that pull people deeper and deeper into addiction.

1. Illusion that You Can be in command of Chance
No one can control chance. It doesn’t favor anyone, smart or otherwise. Unfortunately many problem gamblers think that they can manage to overturn their luck on the tables through sheer power of the mind. They have this skewed illusion that they can win if only they can learn the tricks of the game. They spent hours on end in the casinos trying to perfect their game. They fail to acknowledge the fact that gambling is 100% chance and not something to be learned. There are no tricks and knowledge that will all of a suddenly overturn the tables to your favor.

2. The Lure of the Jackpot
Winning a few hands on the tables can make you feel unconquerable. Everyone loves winning, and science has proved that people remember their victories more than they remember their losses. Fortunately, or probably unfortunately in this case, new gamblers have what is commonly referred as ‘beginner’s luck’. They begin their gambling hobbies on the right foot. They become obsessed with the idea of winning the jackpot.

3. Faith of Changing Luck
In life, we are encouraged to get up after every fall. We will make it in the end. We will accomplish our goals if we do not quit. After all, who wants to quit while the gold vein could be just a few inches away. There is only one place where this advice does not apply. If your quests are governed by pure luck, there is very little chance that you will ever make it. The statistics are open for anyone who wants to take a look. Gambling only ends up in massive losses, debts and frayed social relationships. There is no better time to quit than now. Lady Luck will not smile at you anytime soon.

How To Know If You Are Addicted To Gambling
Although there are clear pointers that indicate you are going down the addiction lane, it can be extremely difficult to identify them if you do not know what they are. This is probably the saddest thing about addiction. We never know we are addicted until we take a step back and look at ourselves in hindsight, at which time the damage has already been done.

In this section, we will discuss the 5 major red flags to watch out for.

1. You Just Can’t Stop
Remember the wise Gambler who Kenny Rogers sings about? Every wise gambler knows when to hold and when to fold. Compulsive gamblers on the other hand do not have limits. They will gamble everything they have thinking that they are having bouts of fun, when in actuality they are driven by compulsions beyond their control.

2. Gambling with Money Not Meant for Fun
Problem gamblers will gamble with money that they can’t stand to lose. They do not have a set gambling budget and will often risk money meant for important things such medical bills and other utility bills.

3. Gambling to Win or to Recover Losses
If you find yourself gambling more for the sole purpose of hitting the jackpot than for fun, you need to reevaluate yourself. Same case applies if the main driving force behind gambling is to recover losses that you had suffered earlier.

4. Obsessively Thinking about Gambling
If you eat, drink and sleep thinking about gambling, you might already be too deep in the trench.

5. Borrowing to Finance Gambling
Have you ever borrowed money to finance gambling? Chances are if you have, things are not looking so good.

What other key pointers do you think indicate a problem with gambling? I believe that you know them better. You know what triggers that red flag and siren at the back of your mind. A lot of gamblers realize the symptoms that point to problematic gambling in their lives, yet stopping becomes a quagmire.

Online Gambling

Internet Casinos Inc. (ICI), the world’s first online casino, started operating from August 18, 1995, with 18 different games. Since then more than 1,400 websites, mostly domiciled in small Caribbean islands, have given rise to an industry that grosses over $3 billion a year. In fact no business on the Internet earns more revenue than online gambling. Out of the estimated 14.5 million online gamblers, almost 30 per cent are from Asia.

A bet can be placed in minutes. Anyone with a credit card can set up an offshore currency account with a gambling site, leaving them free to place bets on sporting events like Wimbledon, cricket, horse racing and Formula One, or join a virtual casino to play slot machines, roulette, blackjack, poker etc. Companies like Flutter and Betmart accept bets on anything from who is going to win the Nobel Prize to whether Madonna is getting a divorce or not. Bets can range from a nickel to thousands of dollars and according to whether you win or lose the amount is automatically adjusted to your account. The final balance can then either be mailed to you or left for future bets.

The law relating to online gambling in India needs to be understood within the country’s socio-cultural context. At the outset, gambling, although not absolutely prohibited in India, does not receive express encouragement by policy makers. The Indian organized gambling industry is estimated to be worth around US$8 billion. While stringent laws have checked the proliferation of casinos and high street gaming centres as in many other countries, barring the state of Goa, the lottery business remains the most post popular form of gambling.

Though gambling is not illegal, it is a highly controlled and regulated activity. Modern India is a quasi-federal Constitutional democracy and the powers to legislate are distributed at the federal as well as the state levels. Gambling features in List II of the Constitution of India, this implies that the state governments have the authority to enact laws in order to regulate gambling in the respective states. Thus, there is no single law governing gambling in the entire country. Different states have different laws governing gambling in addition to the laws that have an application across the country. While some states have banned lotteries, other states allow state government lotteries marketed and distributed in other lottery playing and promoting states through private entities.

Regulation of gambling

The courts have defined gambling as ‘the payment of a price for a chance to win a prize’. The dominant element of skill or chance shall determine the nature of the game. A game may be deemed to be gambling if the element of chance or luck predominates in deciding its outcome. As a result, Indian courts have held that betting on horse racing and a few card games are not gambling. The right to undertake the business of gambling and lotteries is not considered as a fundamental right protected by the Constitution of India. It may however be pointed out that the state government run lotteries make significant contributions to the state exchequer of several state governments and the Union government, and hence there is a resistance to complete prohibition.

The following legislation is pertinent to gambling:

The Public Gaming Act, 1867

This Act provides punishment for public gambling and for keeping of a ‘common gaming house’. This Act also authorises the state governments to enact laws to regulate public gambling in their respective jurisdictions. The penal legislations in respective states have been amended in accordance with their policy on gambling. However, this legislation does not have any direct impact on online gambling unless a wide interpretation is given to the definition of common gaming house so as to include virtual forums as well.

The Indian Contract Act, 1872 (ICA)

The ICA is a codified umbrella legislation that governs all commercial contracts in India. Under the ICA, a wagering contract is the one which cannot be enforced. The Act lays down; ‘Agreements by way of wager are void, and no suit shall be brought for recovering anything alleged to be won on any wager or entrusted to any person to abide by the result of any game or other uncertain event on which any wager is made’. Gambling, lottery and prize games have held to be wagering contracts and thus void and unenforceable. While a wagering contract is not illegal, it cannot be enforced in a court of law. Thus, the courts will not entertain any cause of action that arises out of a wagering contract.

Lotteries (Regulation) Act, 1998

This Act provides a framework for organizing lotteries in the country. Under this Act, the state governments have been authorized to promote as well as prohibit lotteries within their territorial jurisdiction. This Act also provides for the manner in which the lotteries are to be conducted and prescribes punishment in case of breach of its provision. Lotteries not authorized by the state have been made an offence under the Indian Penal Code. Several non-lottery playing states, like Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, have prohibited the sale of other state-government lotteries under this Act.

Indian Penal Code, 1860

Section 294A deals with keeping lottery office. It says that whoever keeps any office or place for the purpose of drawing any lottery not being a State lottery or a lottery authorised by the State Government, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both.

And whoever publishes any proposal to pay any sum, or to deliver any goods, or to do or forbear doing anything for the benefit of any person, on any event or contingency relative or applicable to the drawing of any ticket, lot, number or figure in any such lottery, shall be punished with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees.

Internet gambling

The law related to gambling is also applicable to online gambling. All gambling contracts are considered to be wagering contracts and it is not possible to enforce such contracts under the ICA, detailed above.

As pointed out earlier, the online lottery is the most popular form of internet gambling in India. Most companies marketing and distributing or conducting state government-sponsored lotteries through the internet are not allowed to sell their services in the states that banned lotteries. In most cases, these marketers and distributors limit their online services to consumers who are residents of the states where a lottery is permissible. Notwithstanding the fact there has been no reported case of breach by any company promoting online lotteries, most of these companies (as a safeguard) seek an undertaking from their consumers relating to their residence.

There have been instances where one state has banned the lottery of other states, including online lotteries. In a recent case, the Karnatka High Court upheld the decision of the Karnataka government to make itself a ‘lottery free zone’ by imposing a ban on lotteries of all other states, including online lotteries under the Lotteries (Regulation) Act 1998. The state government, in this case, directed the closure of the terminals and kiosks selling the online lotteries.

Enforcement over foreign jurisdictions

If the websites are hosted and operated from outside India, it may be difficult for the Indian authorities to issue any directive to close them down or prohibit their access without using its blocking powers under the ITA. The authorities have little to worry about, as Indian foreign exchange laws do not permit remittances outside India for gambling related activity, such as the purchase of lottery tickets, football pools and sweepstakes. As a result, a gambling website hosted outside India aiming at receiving money from within India cannot do so through legal channels.