Financial Stress and Problem Gambling: The Hole Grows Deeper and Deeper

September 15, 2020
The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, Inc.

OUR 888-ADMIT-IT CONFIDENTIAL, MULTILINGUAL PROBLEM GAMBLING HELPLINE IS ACCESSIBLE 24/7 AND AVAILABLE FOR ANYONE WHO IS AFFECTED BY A GAMBLING PROBLEM. WE OFFER VARIOUS RESOURCES, TOOLS, AND REFERRALS, TO HELP REGAIN CONTROL OF YOUR FINANCES IN A HEALTHY AND SUSTAINABLE WAY. IT ONLY TAKES ONE CALL.

The burden of financial problems can be overwhelming for many of the individuals who contact the HelpLine. In these unprecedented times with high unemployment rates, layoffs, and a slow economy, smart financial decisions may be what everyone needs to stay afloat. For individuals who suffer from a gambling disorder however, this may not be possible, and this additional financial stress could be their breaking point, as the urges to bet will not stop, despite their financial situation. With online gambling on the rise and always accessible, it is improbable that the current financial situation our country finds itself in will stop gamblers from gambling.

Money is the drug that fuels the action of the gambling; gamblers are addicted to the action, not necessarily the money, but the money is what is required to stay in the action. Access to credit funds much of problem gamblers money needs, and gamblers may have large numbers of creditors and high debts due to gambling. When the money to gamble runs out, the gambler often convinces themselves that the next time they gamble they will win it back and so instead of paying the rent or mortgage or car payment or utility bill, they place “just one more bet” in effort to get even or improve their financial situation. As a result, it is not uncommon to hear reports on the HelpLine as reflected in this year’s data, of problem gamblers having difficulty paying household bills (67%), gambling away savings, equity or retirement monies (65%), and even selling or pawning assets to get more money when necessary so that they can continue to gamble (50%, reflecting a 7% increase from last year’s data) [1].

Problem gambling can fool those affected into thinking that the end of these financial worries is just one bet away, while the hole grows deeper and deeper.

The average reported household income of problem gamblers this year was $47,051, with 30% reporting the gambler earning less than $25,000 annually, and 10% reporting income of less than $2,500 per year (many indicated they were unemployed or retired) [1].

Particularly troubling and indicative of many of the COVID-19 related problem gambling impacts seen in the final few months of this fiscal year, more than one quarter (26%) of problem gamblers were homeless or staying with someone (such as friends or family) due to financial consequences experienced from the gambling problem. Of these specific HelpLine contacts almost 1/3 were 50 years of age or older (30%) with average household incomes of $25,786, average gambling losses of $83,681, and gambling related debts in excess of $10,000+ [1].

Due to the high volume and dollar amounts of gambling related debts common amongst those struggling with addiction, amounts of debt common with gambling addiction, it is not surprising to also find that 17% of this year’s HelpLine contacts (up from 15% the prior year) reported that the gambler filed bankruptcy at least once or has a bankruptcy case pending currently as a result of the gambling problem. In addition, 11% (up from 9% the prior year) stated bankruptcy had been filed due to gambling related financial difficulties more than once [1].

Further indicative of the seriousness of the financial consequences associated with problematic gambling, are the direct impacts on basic needs, such as living expenses like rent, mortgage, and utility payments, with 2% of gamblers seeking help this year advising they were homeless due to their gambling, and 24% were staying with someone (such as family or friends) due to the gambling. It is worth noting that the COVID-19 pandemic and associated job losses and furloughs potentially placed additional strain on these gamblers’ already stressed finances [1].

[1] 24-Hour Problem Gambling HelpLine Annual Report., 2020 ed., The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, Inc., 2020, 24-Hour Problem Gambling HelpLine Annual Report.