Problem Gambling?

Problem gamblers are attracted to different forms of gambling for different reasons. Some are attracted to the sensory stimulation of video games of chance, while others to the perception of skill in cards or sports betting. Still others are drawn to the seemingly easy money of high-risk investments. Many, if not most, pathological gamblers indulge in more than one form of gambling. However, studies of pathological gamblers have found that the most frequently cited games of preference are slot machines, card games, and sports betting. A Minnesota study of 944 gamblers in treatment found that 37 percent listed slot machines as their preferred game and 37 percent listed cards. Lottery games, dice games, and games of skill were each cited by less than 1 percent of those in the study. (Stinchfield and Winters, 1996)

2 million (1%) of U.S. adults are estimated to meet criteria for pathological gambling in a given year. Another 4-8 million (2-3%) would be considered problem gamblers; that is, they do not meet the full diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling, but meet one of more of the criteria and are experiencing problems due to their gambling behavior. Research also indicates that most adults who choose to gamble are able to do responsibly.

Approximately 85% of U.S. adults have gambled at least once in their lives; 60% in the past year. Some form of legalized gambling is available in 48 states plus the District of Columbia. The two without legalized gambling are Hawaii and Utah.

Along with research into this area, CAGE supports and many jurisdictions have established funding mechanisms for responsible play. Some examples include setting aside $250,000 or more for problem gaming hotlines with "1-800" numbers for help lines printed on each ticket or gaming devise like a VLT or lottery machine.

Many lotteries can provide help for compulsive gamblers by helping to finance problem gambling services. From 24-hours help lines to "responsible play" advertising and marketing campaigns, lotteries throughout the world have a history of helping jurisdictions deal with this issue.

Example: Texas

  • State law requires lottery to print a gambling hotline number on the back of all tickets. The toll-free "800" number is established and maintained by the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.
  • The Texas Lottery provides $375,000 each fiscal year to the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse for the purpose of the Compulsive Gambling Hotline.

Example: Florida

  • The Florida Lottery voluntarily funds a 24-hour, toll free, statewide problem gambling referral service through the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling. Additionally, the Lottery prints brochures and other materials for the Council.
  • A Problem Gambling Brochure has been developed and is being printed in partnership with the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling and will be placed at the Lottery’s in-store play stations.
  • The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling’s toll free number is posted in Lottery retailer locations with the warning that "Gambling Can Be Addictive." This number also appears on the Lottery’s web site and on "How To Play" brochures.
  • The Lottery suspends radio ads and instead broadcasts reminders to "Play Responsibly" when the LOTTO jackpots are high.
  • The prevention of underage play is a high priority. Advertising is aimed at 25 and older audiences and retailers can be suspended, lose their licenses and be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor.
  • An underage play message is included in "How To Play" brochures and other game-specific brochures and POS, on the backs of instant and on-line tickets, on-line playslips and on decals at instant ticket vending machines.
  • Special events and promotions are reviewed to ensure that underage audiences are not targeted.
  • "Odds of winning information" is widely available at stores and printed on Lottery materials. Odds of winning information is also included in our advertising, where possible, and on instant tickets.
  • Lottery playslips, tickets and pertinent marketing materials now carry the tagline "Please Play Responsibly".

Many lotteries around the world address the challenges of problem gambling. Studies have shown that lotteries are not a major cause of problem gaming but, as they are state-run, have taken steps to support those players that might have compulsive behavior toward gaming and require some assistance.