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:

  • 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.
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