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Gambling: The Silent Addiction

Online betting has become very popular. Photo courtesy of Freepik

By PJ Martin


The Herald-News


There is a nationwide campaign held every year, in March, to educate the public on the problems of gambling addiction and to help promote prevention, treatment, and recovery. It’s called Problem Gambling Awareness Month.

Most adults who gamble don’t have a gambling disorder and don’t even take gambling seriously. They think of it as a game or just fun, not realizing that it can be addictive and harmful much like drugs.

The few who develop a gambling addiction face very serious problems. An addicted gambler may empty their savings to finance the habit, lie to cover the addiction thus destroying or damaging their relationship with their spouse, family, and friends, and have problems at work or even lose their job. People with a gambling disorder may feel guilt or shame and may even experience withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness and irritability when they try to stop gambling.

The Herald-News spoke with someone we will refer to as Lucy, who has first-hand knowledge of gambling addiction and what it can do to your life.

When we asked how her addiction started she replied, “What got me started was a few years back, I would go maybe once a month (casinos) and then the first time I hit, I hit $26,000. That’s when it began.”

We then asked Lucy if she started gambling every weekend and what other things she did in response to winning that first big jackpot.

Lucy explained, “I definitely did start going every weekend. Every afternoon. Every time I had a chance and was free I went. Any extra money I spent it there. My savings gone, I began taking money that was intended for bills and spending thinking I was going to hit one more huge time.”

When asked if she lost her home or her family she responded, “I lost my home, my job, my kids quit talking to me, I got in major debt.”

As easy as it was for Lucy to get addicted to gambling with one big win, this is a classic situation and most people don’t want to talk about it.

According to Mike Stone, Executive Director of the Kentucky Council on Problem Gambling, Inc. (KYCPG), “In Kentucky, a stigma is still attached to problem and addicted gambling. People are fearful of self-identifying due to anticipated derision and embarrassment. This is why gambling addiction is in part viewed as a hidden addiction,”

What is a gambling disorder? A condition in which gambling becomes a compulsive urge, just like it did with Lucy. An addiction overpowering other needs and interfering with a person’s daily life. When something of value is risked in the hope of gaining something of greater value. Gambling is most often thought of as involving the wagering of money, but can include material goods or property as well. Gambling can occur in the form of online or casino games (e.g. poker or roulette), lottery tickets, scratch cards, and betting (e.g. sports, fixed-odds, virtual, spread).

Signs and treatment include:

  • Increased risk-taking.
  • Signs may include borrowing money, liquidating investments, and work/relationship problems
  • Treatments include medications, psychotherapy, and support groups
  • Involves Psychiatry

Perhaps the most concerning issue is the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports disordered gamblers have the highest suicide rate among all addictive disorders.

In Kentucky, there are three types of legal gaming, charitable gaming received over $531 million in gross receipts during 2022, which constitutes approximately 6.09 percent of the dollars wagered. Kentucky horse racing had the largest amount of gaming revenue, capturing over $8 billion (75.1 percent) in gross receipts, while the Kentucky Lottery had receipts of over $1.5 billion (19.18 percent). These numbers are taken from the official 2022 Annual Report from the Kentucky Department of Charitable Gaming.

The problem of gambling disorders became more widely known when Kentucky started legal sports betting in September 2023. One very positive part of the legislation that allowed gambling included a provision that established the Problem Gambling Assistance Program funded by 2 1/2 percent of the taxes the state receives from sports gambling.

The Problem Gambling Assistance Program is administered by the Kentucky Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities (DBHDID) Division of Behavioral Health.

According to the Kentucky Council on Problem Gambling (KYCPG), the Kentucky government receives more than $300 million in taxes, fees, and transfer payments each year from the more than $2 billion annually gambled legally in Kentucky.

That total includes the lottery, horse racing, including simulcasting and historical horse racing, and charitable gaming, including bingo and electronic pull tabs.

  • The global gambling market grew from $449.04 billion in 2022 to $702.45 billion in 2023 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 56.4%. According to the casino statistics, the casino and online gambling sector worldwide were estimated at roughly 207 billion U.S. dollars in 2021
  • There are 4,305 online casinos and online gambling businesses as of 2023, an increase of 7% from 2022. In 2021, the number was 3,683, and in 2020 – even fewer, 3,328 businesses
  • Mobile devices accounted for 70% of online betting revenue in 2020
  • Around 26% of the population gamble globally
  • 1.6 billion people worldwide are gamblers
  • 4.2 billion people gamble at least once every year
  • About 6% of students reported gambling in the past month

If you think you might have a problem with gambling you can find information on problem gambling awareness and self-assessment at this site

Statistics of Charitable Gaming in Kentucky for 2022
Gross Receipts
Bingo Gross Pull Tab Gross Raffle Gross
$774,286 $6,874.128  $38,134
Bingo Payout Pull Tab Pay Raffle Payout
$972,818 $5,124,094 $24,597
Supplies/Equip.      Rent Janitorial Security
$330,471  $69,000 $23,400  $12,952

Statistics courtesy of the Kentucky Department of Charitable Gaming


Chart Courtesy of Casino Hunter Research Hub









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