Gambling Disorders 'Just the Basics'

Throughout the training we will be showing several videos. Please be advised that some sections in these videos can be a trigger to someone with a Gambling Disorder. Feel free to skip the videos and take care of yourself when you need to.

The Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling has a  24-hour Helpline: 1-800-GAMBLE-5,
Text for Help: 1-850-888-HOPE, and Chat line at www.wi-problemgamblers.org that provides information and referrals for gamblers. The Helpline also extends help to family members, concerned friends or employers. The WCPG has a database of qualified treatment providers, Gamblers Anonymous and Gam-Anon chapters to which callers can be referred. Informational packets of literature can also be mailed to callers.

Segment 1 - History of WCPG

Mission Statement
The Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling provides resources, public awareness, and education on gambling disorders while maintaining strict neutrality on the issue of legalized gambling.

The Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling, an affiliate of the National Council on Problem Gambling, is a non-profit organization created in 1993. The primary mission of the WCPG is to educate and promote public understanding of problem gambling and the disorder of compulsive gambling. WCPG maintains neutrality on the issue of legalized gambling. Its efforts are focused on:

  • Promoting public education and awareness of problem and compulsive gambling.
  • Advocating quality assistance for all individuals who may be adversely affected by gambling problems.
  • Identifying "high risk" groups for problem and compulsive gambling and promote prevention activities.
  • Providing training to professional counselors in the treatment of compulsive and problem gamblers.

WCPG was formed in 1993 by a group of counselors, recovering compulsive gamblers, educators, and concerned citizens. While it is located in Green Bay, it has a statewide membership, a statewide Board of Directors, and a statewide mission. In January 1994, WCPG became one of 35 councils currently affiliated with the National Council on Problem Gambling, Inc. of Washington, D.C.

In 1995, WCPG received a one-time $25,000 challenge grant from the Cornerstone Foundation in Green Bay to help pay costs of establishing and operating a statewide, toll-free 1-800 Helpline for problem gamblers and their families. Callers to the Helpline can receive printed gambling specific information and can be referred to area Gamblers Anonymous Meetings and referred to area providers that are trained specifically in treating the addiction of compulsive gambling.

During 1996, training programs were developed to train professionals in the treatment of compulsive gambling and to enable them to become a referral source for the WCPG Helpline. The year 1997 showed an increasing need for the services provided by the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling. Calls to the Helpline increased as well as the requests for public speaking and educational trainings.

The State of Wisconsin provided the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling a grant in 1998 to implement a public awareness campaign on the issue of compulsive gambling. The WCPG continues its compulsive gambilng awareness programs.

The WCPG…
is the only organization in the state of Wisconsin that is dedicated solely to helping those impacted by problem gambling.

Segment 2 - What is Compulsive Gambling?

Compulsive gambling, also called gambling disorder, is the uncontrollable urge to keep gambling despite the toll it takes on your life. Gambling means that you're willing to risk something you value in the hope of getting something of even greater value in return.

Gambling can stimulate the brain's reward system much like drugs or alcohol can, leading to addiction. If you have a problem with compulsive gambling, you may continually chase bets that lead to losses, hide your behavior, deplete savings, accumulate debt, or even resort to theft or fraud to support your addiction.

Compulsive gambling is a serious condition that can destroy lives. Although treating compulsive gambling can be challenging, many people who struggle with compulsive gambling have found help through professional treatment. - Mayo Clinic

The compulsive gambler can be a male or female of any age, race, income or religion. He or she may gamble on dog races, card games, slots and dice, sports events, lotteries, bingo, the stock market, or any situation which provides the gambler with "action".

Video Doubling Down: From jackpot to compulsive gambler
Video Tony

Some ways to Gamble:

  • Cards
  • Sports betting
  • Betting on games of skill
  • Dice games
  • Board Games
  • Bingo
  • Raffles
  • Lottery
  • Online
  • Slots and Video Poker

Often referred to as a "hidden illness" gambling addiction has no obvious physical signs or symptoms that can be quickly or easily spotted. Problem gamblers often go unnoticed for many years before the signs of the addiction finally become evident even to close friends and family members. In fact, because many gambling addicts are able to control their behaviors the majority of the time, it could be very difficult to spot a gambling addiction unless you physically go with the gambler into a situation in which they are actually gambling; then you may quickly realize that they are out of control. - addictions.com

Signs of Problem Gambling:

  • Talking only about wins, not losses
  • Lying to family and friends about the extent of gambling
  • Hiding gambling losses
  • Chasing losses
  • Unsuccessfully attempting to cut back or stop gambling
  • Gambling alone
  • Gambling as a means to cope
  • Gambling in spite of consequences
  • Selling household or personal items for money to gamble
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Being unable to meet living expenses that were previously met
  • Depleting financial reserves
  • Suffering increased health problems
  • Feeling bored when not gambling and claiming there's nothing else to do
  • Considering gambling to be the only form of recreation and socialization
  • Cashing in insurance policies
  • Gambling on credit
  • Giving up effort to form new friendships and interests after a geographic move

Video Start the Conversation Voices

Segment 3 - The Types and Phases

Three Different Types of Gamblers:

  • The social gambler is someone who can plan to gamble, have fun gambling and when the money that they put aside for gambling is gone, they leave.
  • The problem gambler is someone who plans to gamble, gambles more money than they plan to gamble with and gambling is affecting their life, but they can still walk away from gambling.
  • The compulsive gambler is the same as the problem gambler, but they cannot walk away. Compulsive gambling is where someone is gambling and they cannot stop. It takes over their lives and has an affect on their family, job or school.

Three Phases of Gambling:

The First Stage: The Winning Phase
The gambler may experience a winning streak and begin to feel invincible. "Winning" creates the illusion that the outcome of the game is influenced by one's own action instead of by sheer luck. Losing is explained as the result of natural or external causes: "had bad luck" or "the slot system is wrong." During the transition from recreational to problem gambling, a gambler spends too much money and begins to borrow small amounts to continue playing. At this stage, the gambler will pay off debts with winnings, gamble the rest away and try to borrow again to get back in the action. All the loans have only one purpose: to continue playing. The gambler who borrows to play is no longer a recreational gambler.

The Second Stage: The Losing Phase
The next step occurs when the gambler's financial situation is compromised by involvement in the gambling. Personal resources are often completely exhausted and borrowing money becomes the norm. Money is borrowed from the bank or withdrawn from the gambler's business. Loans are often hidden from partners, parents, spouses, other relatives and friends. To cut losses and pay back loans, the gambler spends more and more time on gambling. Normal daily activities become a burden and a gambler's performance at work suffers from carelessness and neglect. When the gambler borrows even more money from friends and family, the isolation and secrecy increase and the gambler's social circle begins to collapse. As this gambling obsession increases, the losses become heavier. It becomes more and more difficult to return to recreational gambling or to stop. The gambler is now "chasing their losses." This is one of the most obvious signs of problem gambling.

The gambler is now looking for the "big win" to recover all losses and does not recognize the futility of this effort. At this point, the gambling problem not only leaves a mark on the daily life of the gambler, but the gambler's family as well. In this stage, the gambler still assumes that they can pay everything back. Again and again, the gambler promises to stop gambling. Confrontations on this promise lead to regular domestic and professional conflicts, particularly when the gambler is found to have resumed gambling. A gambler can lose a job because of absenteeism, embezzlement or other fraudulent behavior. Some problem gamblers begin to move from job to job in search of one which allows more time to gamble. In this losing phase, a problem gambler begins to think of gambling as a solution to an increasing variety of personal, professional and financial problems.

The Third Stage: The Desperation Phase
In the third stage, the gambler becomes desperate. Gambling ultimately becomes a full-time activity. Partners or parents react by showing their contempt. Families also become desperate at this point. They try to enlist the aid of other people, because they find that all their own efforts to help have failed. The gambler will perform a job with increasing carelessness, finding it more and more difficult to concentrate or focus on work. If the job means working for an employer where money is handled, they are at an increased risk for embezzlement to occur. If the problem gambler owns a business, it can become the source of funds which can lead to bankruptcy.

It is at this point that the gambler's optimism for that big win finally fades. If a gambler has reached this point, and has moved outside the law to support his/her addiction, restlessness sets in. The gambler will be quick to anger and very nervous. Sleep disorders may also become apparent. Even food loses its appeal as the gambler watches the joy of living disappear. In this stage, the gambler may have a winning streak, but this leads to even heavier gambling and greater losses.

In the desperation phase, the gambler becomes a physical and emotional wreck--desperate and helpless. Creditors, threatening letters and financial crises become a fact of life. A compulsive gambler will react physically and emotionally in much the same way as an alcohol or drug addict. The problem gambler may become completely isolated from family and friends. Divorce and broken relations often result. Heavy attacks of depression occur.

In this final stage, gamblers often see only four solutions:

  • professional help
  • running away
  • admitting all frauds with the risk of going to jail
  • or, as a last resort, suicide

- This information was made available from Casino Regina in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Consequences of Problem Gambling:

  • Family and school problems
  • Loss of friendships, jobs
  • Debt
  • Crime
  • Depression
  • Suicide

Segment 4: High Risk Group

Adolescent:
Problem gambling behavior exists in 6-20% of the adolescent population. In fact adolescents are 2 to 4 times more likely than adults to have this problem. Because social gambling quickly moves to problem gambling, and wagering is thought of as an adult privilege, adolescents are more susceptible to developing this behavior. Approximately 2 out of 3 adolescents gamble.

Women:
There are two types of women gamblers--those seeking escape and those seeking excitement. Those seeking escape are able to enter a "dissociative state" when gambling, and therefore temporarily avoid unpleasant circumstances or even become a different person. There is a high incidence of depression among women who gamble compulsively, and distress over relationships seems to be an equally common factor. Problem gamblers have 2 to 3 times higher incident rate of substance misuse than other women, and may substitute one problem for another. - "Women and Problem Gambling." The Women's Addiction Foundation

Older adults:
Many adults begin gambling more frequently later in life. It is important to know the difference between social and problem gambling. It becomes a problem when it has a negative effect on one's life and the lives of people close to them. Not all gambling is problem gambling. It may be merely an occasional social activity. However, this may lead to problem gambling. Gambling may also be used as a coping mechanism. Older adults are often widowed and frequently suffer losses of lifelong friends; may be geographically separated from loved ones; or may be simply bored or unhappy with retirement. Many older adults are unaware of the problems excessive gambling may cause and the potential for addiction.

Article to Read: The Gambler
Adam Resnick grew up well-off in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and says his parents took him to his first casino when he was six.  At 14, he says he got his first real gambler's rush while on a family cruise. Playing blackjack at the ship's casino, he turned a $500 holiday gift into nearly $8,000.

Segment 5: Resources for Help

The Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling has created a statewide database of qualified Treatment ProvidersGamblers Anonymous and Gam-Anon chapters to which callers can be referred. Written information on problem gambling is also sent on request.

WCPG's Lending Library is open to the General Public! The Council has a variety of books and videos that can be loaned out for up to two weeks at a time FREE of charge. The topics vary from educational to biographical. There is something for every age group!

Are you a compulsive gambler? Gamblers Anonymous 20 Questions.  Most compulsive gamblers will answer yes to at least 7 of these questions. If you answered yes to 7 or more, you may want to seek help for a gambling problem. Call 1-800-GAMBLE-5 or Text 1-920-888-HELP or Chat www.wi-problemgamblers.org

Gamblers Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experiences, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from a gambling problem.

The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop gambling. There are no dues or fees for Gamblers Anonymous membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. Gamblers Anonymous is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any cause. Our primary purpose is to stop gambling and to help other compulsive gamblers do the same.

-Taken from: http://www.gamblersanonymous.org/ga/node/1

What is Gam-Anon? The self-help organization of Gam-Anon is a life-saving instrument for the spouse, family or close friends of compulsive gamblers.

It is hoped that the program will help members:

  • learn acceptance and understanding of the gambling illness.
  • use the program and its problem-solving suggestions as an aid to refuse to be responsible for the gambler's behavior.
  • assume responsibility only for that which is theirs.

In Gam-Anon, participants hear about appropriate ways of relating to the gambler as an equal rather than as a caretaker. The heavy load of responsibility for the gambling problem is lifted and the agonizing guilt in regards to failures is gradually alleviated. The energy wasted in attempts to stop loved ones from gambling can be channeled into more useful methods of problem solving. They are shown how to deal with the anger and resentment that builds after having dealt with a compulsive gambler. Gam-Anon groups are warmly accepting and offer members the opportunity to express their feelings and understand them. Remember, like other addictions, gambling is treatable.
-Copyrighted info reprinted with permission of the Gam-Anon International Service Office Inc. PO Box 157, Whitestone, NY 11357, 718-352-1671, fax 718-746-2571.

This training is for informational purposes only. It is not designed for those counselors who are or plan to be working with problem gamblers and their families in a clinical setting. For more information about the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling Training/Conference opportunities, visit our website at www.wi-problemgamblers.org.

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