Only 31 when she took her life with a lethal over-dose, she joins the growing number of Canadian problem gamblers in the Maritimes who have chosen suicide as an escape from gambling debts. She had sold everything she could and borrowed thousands of dollars from her supportive grandmother. Like most problem gamblers who become suicidal, she was deeply depressed over her gambling losses on Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs).
Records on the underlying causes of suicides are not collected by most Canadian provinces. But from the statistics that are available it is estimated that 1 of every 12 to 30 suicide victims is a problem gambler.
In 2002, two-thirds of all adult Canadians gambled. Of these it is estimated that 5% (some 1.2 million adults) had the potential of becoming, or already were, problem gamblers. Of those who play VLTs, one in four is at risk according to cbc.ca/fifth estate.
Fortunately, some problem gamblers seek and receive help. A family man from Nova Scotia was lying and stealing to feed his addiction to VLTs. When he received his family tax refund for $825 he went straight to a VLT and gambled it away. The good news is that he is a recovering gambler now.
In Alberta a wife asked her recovering problem-gambler husband, “How can you put thousands of dollars into a machine and get back nothing in return?” A good question! One that poses the thought: Shouldn’t we learn how to make life work instead of seeking solutions through gambling machines?
The seriousness of gambling mania is illustrated in these statistics. Two thirds of adult Canadians gave government revenues and VLT owners $11.8 million in 2003—up 5 times in 10 years. Of this number some 5% became problem gamblers. And 18% of these problem gamblers contemplated or committed suicide.
Is it fair to say that governments also are addicted to a problem—gambler citizenry because of the huge revenues they collect? Attempting to regulate government backing of VLTs and casinos is, as one university expert put it, “Like asking a major petroleum company to self-control their pollution impact on the environment.”
According to William Spain (Investors.com), the appetite for gambling grew much the same in the United States as in Canada in 2003. The American Gaming Association trade group found that bettors made 310 million trips to the nation’s 443 commercial casinos, generating about $27 billion worth of gross gambling revenue, more than double the figure of 10 years ago.
In addition to the monetary disasters caused by gambling, consider the damage to a nation’s citizens. Gambling victimizes the poor and produces a wrong attitude toward work. Many problem gamblers struggle with personal debt, gambling away essential income in the hope of recouping their losses.
Professor Kindt of Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa, commented in the Drake Law Review : “In Deadwood, South Dakota, after two years of casino gambling, child abuse cases increased 42%. Domestic violence and assaults increased 80%” (Vol.43, 1994).
Woman’s Day magazine (February, 1996) asked: “Where does it all end? Divorce, loss of custody of children, jail, or suicide? According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, 20% of those treated for compulsive gambling have attempted suicide—and 80% to 90% have considered it.”
Robert Goodman, Professor at Amherst, Massachusetts, and author of The Luck Business records that in 1994 Jeffrey Bloomberg, a South Dakota state attorney, told a Congressional committee: “We have seen individuals who, prior to their exposure to gambling, had no criminal history, who were not junkies or alcoholics, many of whom had good jobs, who became hooked on slot machines and, after losing all their assets and running all credit resources to their maximum, began committing some type of crime to support their addiction.”
Some researchers call gambling the fastest-growing teenage addiction. Howard Shaffer of Harvard Medical School Addiction Studies explains: “Young people are the only constituency who has experienced gambling that is both state sponsored and culturally approved for their entire lifetime.”
No matter the country, gambling addiction is a growing problem that is corrupting the lives of many people. Who can salvage these problem gamblers? Who will rescue our youth from this insidious addiction?
Maybe you should prepare yourself to help such an individual should the opportunity arise—at the same time adding to your understanding of how to make life work for you.
We would like to give you a free booklet that will go a long way to help. The booklet covers the proper foundation of personal success, how to be a responsible person and how to truly make life work. A section on page 19 addresses the particular topic: “Financial Security and Peace of Mind .”