Why do people gamble?

People gamble to have fun. But problem gamblers gamble to escape reality. Learn what happens in the cycle of gambling and why people gamble for all the wrong reasons.

minute read

Gambling begins for fun

My first venture into a casino began as entertainment. It was a weekend trip with my husband to attend a new car show in Las Vegas and that weekend I was introduced to the slot machine. The entertainment aspect of the slot machines faded quickly and I became hypnotized by the sounds, colors, and the rapid rolling of the slot machine reels. Each time the reels stopped, I almost won! It was exciting. Before we left the casino that Sunday, I was already planning my next visit.

This type of introduction to gambling as fun is typical. But when does gambling cross the line from being fun to being a problem?

Traumatic events can trigger problem gambling

What began as curiosity and entertainment quickly became a gambling addiction for me. For some people it could be a dare, and from others it would be a means to escape from painful situations. I never realized I was gambling to escape a personal issue I couldn’t handle. When there was a problem in the family, I drove to the casino and forgot the issue.

Gambling was such an innocent way to solve my problems. If someone close to me passed away; sitting in front of the slot machine would take the pain away. If I were disappointed, ignored, bored, or lonely; I gambled. It soon became a way of life and the coping skills I had developed over the early years of my life were forgotten. Some other types of events that can trigger compulsive gambling include:

Ready for help?
Call us today. You don’t need to face addiction on your own.
  • Abuse
  • Fear
  • Loss
  • Pain

These events can trigger the emotional insecurity, need to feel in control or escape from reality that often happen in the minds of problem gamblers. In fact, according to Gamblers Anonymous, immaturity or the inability to handle the responsibilities of life are one of the characteristics of the problem gambler.  Some people also believe the theory that compulsive gamblers subconsciously want to lose to punish themselves. However, this is up for debate.

There is help for problem gamblers

The saddest part of a person who feels compelled to gamble is that s/he can’t stop gambling. S/he has become addicted.

Today, there are ways to stop the addiction to gambling. The senior citizen, the married husband and father, or the thrill seeker who all have unbearable pain don’t have to seek relief at the casino. It will not make you feel better. Compulsive gambling is only the beginning of loss: losing retirement money, homes, and health. To seek help, check out this online Directory of International Certified Gambling Counselors.  Or seek help from a support group like Gamblers Anonymous.

About the author
Marilyn Lancelot is a recovering alcoholic and compulsive gambler with twenty years of recovery. She has authored three books, Gripped by Gambling , Detour, and Switching Addictions. She also publishes a newsletter on-line, Women Helping Women for recovery from gambling. This newsletter has been published for more than 10 years and is read by women and men around the world.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I have read and agree to the conditions outlined in the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

  1. People who gamble think they are special and will be the ONE who outsmarts and beats the house. It’s not about being self-destructive. People who play the lottery really do believe THEY will win the big jackpot. I never gamble or play the lottery because I never have expectations of winning.

  2. Hi , thank you for posting , this Christmas Day December 25, 2013 I was looking for a place to get something to eat and everywhere I go is close,so decided to call taxi company to take me place where is open and they suggested the casino is open 24 hrs for the buffet ,so I ask the taxi driver to take md there as I was spending Christmas alone , and After eating I become curious about playing some of the machine and start playing and I won a jackpot for the first time going in there..and I remember the lady sitting beside me saying u should take it and go home, don’t be like me, I won and still play and loss , so I took my jackpot money and wall away and never return!!! I had a great Christmas !!! And this article is a learning lesson to everybody ! And just make me happy coz I got to just keep my money and not loosing it!!!

  3. Hello Ron. If things get really bad, you may want to consider a formal or informal intervention. This is when you approach your mother with your concerns, ask her to seek help, and lay out a plan for consequences. Sometimes, it takes multiple interventions before an addict will stop a compulsive behavior. But there is hope and you can consult with a professional before attempting to intervene.

  4. I loved the article. It describes my mom to a tee. She gambles to get away. It is her escape to not have to deal with the pain. Her relationship with my dad is not healthy and her only means of escape is through gambling. She knows she has a problem , but I don’t see her changing or even wanting to at this point. My question is what can I do for her? I mean its her money she worked hard for it and if she wants to blow it at the casino who am I to say stop? I don’t think she would be open for counseling either. I am open for suggestions.

  5. I live with a women who I care about but she always runs to some casino when ever she get any money. like at tax time she spent all her money in two days. then she will say.. well I had fun. I think it is stupid, and now I don’t care as much as I did before for her. she works at a casino as a pit boss in the blackjack dept ..I seen pick her check on payday and spend on her way out i hate casinos now. I think I want to go back home and live like I did before,she says she will not gamble but she always finds ways to gamble.and I find myself sitting in her room all alone waiting for nothing,all that indian casinos do is make them Indians lazy. by the way I am a full blooded native American. and I seen how much that casinos give the members each and every month I seen them guys buy crack so when you go to a native casino remember you are buying crack for crackheads,,

  6. You are so right on .I have had a tough year and used the slots for get away.now I lost more money than I can ever save again at my age,thinking I can make extra the casino just robbed me blind,you will never gain it’s insane to think you will.

  7. If the casinos and the government weren’t so greedy, then people wouldn’t have to drop a thousand dollars a visit, consistently without hope of getting any back, ever. Those games are there for entertainment, not to bleed mentally challenged people dry until they lose everything, especially their will to live.
    I think casinos should be accountable for the lives they destroy. If they didn’t rob people blind then they would be an okay form of escaping our often cruel, stupid and heartless world. But no, the casinos get to take advantage of people to a sickening degree, with the full support of the government. It’s criminal negligence on the part of the government. I’d like to see a mentally ill person take a casino to court and see if they can get back any of their money. I’ve lost over 200 000 dollars to casinos. The casino ALWAYS wins and the people that play are pathetic in many, many, ways.

  8. As the sign post on dangerous roads reads, “Proceed with caution”. Be sure you have a healthy attitude regarding your online games.

  9. Hi,

    I really like this article ’cause it reminded me that I had the same problem 5 years ago, this article is filled with the truth. That’s why 2 years ago i’ve decided to stop going to csinos ans start playing online games for fun without investing a penny in it and i found it really exciting and not really addictive :). Maybe it is substituting one addiction for another but it is less harmful to me I believe.

I am ready to call
i Who Answers?