For many people gambling is a recreational activity and the loss of money is considered the price of the entertainment. For about 150,000 Michigan residents, according to a prevalence study carried out by David J. Hartmann, PhD at Western Michigan University, it has become an addiction. When gambling becomes an activity to make money or chase loses then it can lead to many changes which can result in harm to the individual and others. Most gamblers often fall into one of two groups; action gambling or escape gambling. Action gambling includes games of skill such as horse racing, sports betting, card games and stock trading. This type of gambling typically follows a 3-10 year progression. Co-occurring disorders such as ADHD and OCD are common among this population.

Escape gambling includes random games or games of chance such as lotteries, scratch tickets, slot machines, bingo and pull tabs. This type of gambling typically follows a six month to three year progression. There may be co-occurring disorders such as depression, chronic pain, history of trauma and loss. Twenty-four to forty percent of problem escape gamblers have attempted suicide. Both action and escape gamblers may require treatment for alcohol or drug dependence, cognitive distortion and dual disorders.

Some of this material is taken from printed material from John Howard Society; Problem Gambling Awareness Project. There is help available. By calling the Michigan Gambling Helpline, 1-800-270-7117, the gambler or family person may be referred to the closest gambling trained therapist and Gamblers Anonymous meeting. It is difficult to make that call but it may be life saving.

A trained gambling treatment therapist will help the gambler set up a treatment plan but it is up to client whether they select a goal of abstinence or harm reduction. Out of control gambling effects all relationships and for every problem gambler there are twelve people adversely affected. Gamblers Anonymous requires a choice of abstinence. The gambler may decide at first to limit the harm and then discover that it isn’t working and a goal of abstinence is necessary.

Following are some hints for how you might limit your loses. Some people can bring their life back into balance without the help of therapy and GA. The best chance for recovery, according to research, is gambling specific therapy and attending GA meetings.


Gamblers Anonymous 20 questions

The following questionnaire is provided for information purposes only. If you are experiencing a medical emergency or crisis, please go to your local emergency department.


Answer all 20 questions below and view your score based on your answers. (Reproduced with permission of Gamblers Anonymous).

1) Did you ever lose time from work or school due to gambling?
2) Has gambling ever made your home life unhappy?
3) Did gambling affect your reputation?
4) Have you ever felt remorse after gambling?
5) Did you ever gamble to get money with which to pay debts or otherwise solve financial difficulties?
6) Did gambling cause a decrease in your ambition or efficiency?
7) After losing did you feel you must return as soon as possible and win back your losses?
8) After a win did you have a strong urge to return and win more?
9) Did you often gamble until your last dollar was gone?
10) Did you ever borrow to finance your gambling?
11) Have you ever sold anything to finance gambling?
12) Were you reluctant to use "gambling money" for normal expenditures?
13) Did gambling make you careless of the welfare of yourself or your family?
14) Did you ever gamble longer than you had planned?
15) Have you ever gambled to escape worry, trouble, boredom, loneliness, grief or loss?
16) Have you ever committed, or considered committing, an illegal act to finance gambling?
17) Did gambling cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?
18) Do arguments, disappointments or frustrations create within you an urge to gamble?
19) Did you ever have an urge to celebrate any good fortune by a few hours of gambling?
20) Have you ever considered self-destruction or suicide as a result of your gambling?



Some Reasons why Seniors Gamble:

Boredom: Due to an overabundance of leisure time after retirement, limited availability of other social activities, general physical limitations.

Loneliness: Often caused by relocation after retirement or the loss of a spouse, child or lifelong friend.

Escape: Usually stemming from an inability to cope with loss or other emotional and physical traumas associated with the later stages of life.

Excitement/Social interaction: Many seniors find gambling an exciting activity at a time when excitement may be very limited. Others find it an opportunity to socialize.

Safety and convenience: The casino provides transportation and a facility with guards and other watchful eyes.
Why Do Teens Gamble?

Gamblers Anonymous list of ten questions for teenage gamblers.

  • The action of the game/excitement
  • Loneliness/boredom
  • Competition
  • To win money
  • To gain attention from peers
  • Problems at home
  • Low self-esteem
  • Peer Pressure
  • Avoidance of pain and stress

Help is available by calling 1-800-270-7117, 24/7. You will be asked some confidential questions. The help line receiver will direct you to the nearest trained counselor for gambling recovery. You will also be directed to the nearest GA (Gamblers Anonymous) meeting. You have taken an important step. Youth are at high risk for developing out of control gambling behavior. Don’t bet with your life.

Gamblers will increase their likelihood of recovery by attending a minimum of sixteen sessions (call 1-800-270-7117) with a Michigan Paneled Provider (approved by the State of Michigan) and GA meetings as many times a week as possible. Family and significant others’ may become involved in the gambler’s therapy by taking over the finances. Honesty about how the gambler has financed his/her habit is an important part of the therapy.

To locate the GA and GamAnon meetings closest to you go to www.gamblersanonymous.org and www.gam-anon.org

To see a list of Michigan Paneled Providers, click here


If your phone is registered in a state other than Michigan you will be redirected to the Michigan Gambling HelpLine by calling this number 800-522-4700.

If you live elsewhere in the United States, go to the National Council on Problem Gambling website for treatment options:  National Council on Problem Gambling

The Gamblers Anonymous website Gamblers Anonymous lists support groups by state and location.

If you live outside the United States, we direct you to the Gamblers Anonymous website for support and further treatment referral:

Gamblers Anonymous International