Gambling Debt, You are not Alone

By: Nathan Dawson

Whether you prefer the ponies, the greyhounds, or a good ol’ game of cards gambling is a growing epidemic as it becomes more and more accessible through the internet and the availability of over the phone bet placement. Gambling increases blood pressure, heart rate and adrenaline giving people an often addicting buzz. This compulsiveness to gamble is, like any other addiction, a mental disorder that will all too often progress into stress, anxiety, depression, and sometimes leads to suicide. Even more sadly, the effects of a compulsive gambler are felt family wide and can effect a gamblers personal relationships and career.

Recently in the news there have been stories of gamblers really hitting the jackpot and not being help accountable for their debts. For example a California woman who raked up more than $70,000 on a Visa card in online poker games was just released from her debt after counter suing Visa when they brought a suit against her for not paying the bill. She claimed that since the charges to the card were of illegal nature where she lives to begin with she shouldn’t be held responsible for the payment. Not everyone is so lucky to have such a large amount, or any amount of debt for that matter, written off with so little consequence. In fact, up to date statistics are showing that the prevalence of suicide contemplation is significantly higher in those who have raked up a huge amount of debt due to a gambling problem, than those who have problems that are more traditionally viewed as addictions such as drugs and alcohol.

Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that by the time many gamblers have sought help for their problem they are already drowning in debt. Many view gambling as even more addicting than some forms o drugs seeing as how quickly one might move through the three phases of gambling. While in the winning phase one may experience a big win or triumph over a lot of small fortunes leaving them with the same feeling of rush that you could get from a drug. Whether it’s for the money or the boost of energy the gambler often increases the amounts of their bets. The losing phase is sure to follow soon after when the gambler begins bragging about past wins, lies to friends and family about what they are doing in their spare time, borrows money just to gamble, and becomes irritable and withdrawn. In this phase a gambler “turns the corner” and becomes unable to repay debts and adopts the mentality that they need to “chase” their losses in hopes of winning them back. The final phase is desperation when no light can be seen at the end of the tunnel and the gambler is just gambling to recuperate the money they owe other people or to escape the reality of what their problem really means. This phase is commonly marked by an increase in time spent playing and will, at times, be accompanied by regret and shifting blame to others. The hopelessness that characterizes the desperation phase may even lead to divorce, emotional breakdown, and drug or alcohol abuse.

The first step to recovering from gambling debt, or any debt for that matter, is to stop doing it. Stop spending; stop betting, cut yourself off. Though the thought of winning big on one hand and being able to pay off all debts is enticing, it’s not going to happen this way, this is what got you in trouble in the first place. So at this point your best bet is to steer clear of any situation where you may be tempted to buy into even just one hand.

The next step is to contact someone, whether it’s a family member, a friend, or a counseling agency, let someone know about your situation so you can reach out for help. Letting people know about your problem will also force you to hold yourself accountable for your actions hereafter. Let friends know you need help and support if you are going to climb out of the hole you’ve dug.

Finally, contact a counseling service. Any type of support group is going to be beneficial at this point whether it’s a general counseling agency of gambler’s anonymous. Keep in mind though an ideal counselor will offer advice and help in every aspect you problem to help you heal holistically.

The easiest route to finding a counselor that will offer all the services you need is actually just to contact a credit counseling agency, many of which work with debts associated with gambling. The benefit to a credit agency is that a good one will undoubtedly provide you with resources such as debt management plans- to help you pay off the debt you have already accumulated, and money management education- to aid you in making smart decisions in the future.

Gambling debt has many hidden facets as well. It can cause undue stress to family and personal relationships or leave one feeling hopeless with no sign of a finish line in sight. But gambling debt can be a huge problem fro one particular demographic in particular: senior citizens. Working all you life, saving money, and eventually making it to retirement, you deserve a little break in Reno or Vegas. But beware, the temptation of gambling isn’t an age discriminatory factor and can take hold of anyone at any phase in life. Sources show that adults aged 55+ are most interested in playing the slots which have also been cited as one of the more “addicting” forms of gambling. For teens however, the trend to participate in online poker has never been easier to subscribe to. When faced with parents who have been known to gamble, their children will often carry on the habit that offers growing accessibility, even to minors.

The moral of the story: protect yourself, protect your family, and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask someone for some help. Otherwise you may never see the light at the end of the tunnel on your own. Whether you seek help from a credit counselor or not, the chance of success increases ten fold when you enlist the help of a support group such as Gambler’s Anonymous, Gambling Helpline, or No Dice. Compulsive gambling is an illness and not one you have to overcome alone.

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Nathan Dawson writes for a great online source for information on how to get out of your debt due to gambling.

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