I happen to be reading an article the other day in my AARP magazine I receive each quarter. Now I know you are thinking? What does Gambling have to do with AARP right? Well, there was a fantastic article that called slot machines "The New Electronic Crack." It got me thinking about my old days past within my gambling addiction. What was the draw to slot machines for me? Was it all the lights, bells, and whistles? Or was it the disease itself with the constant racing thoughts and triggers and urges abound? Do casinos really pump in oxygen to keep players alert? Well, I'm not sure, but anyone can become a gambling addict.
Through the years of my 10 and half years in recovery, I remember when I first started advocating, blogging and talking loudly about this illness. I actually had people leave comments on "How Stupid" it was for a person to become addicted to slot machines and not horses, cards, or sports betting. Now, in their favor, back in the day, the most common gambling problems talked about was sports and horse betting. Sometimes you'd hear talk about "rolling bones" which is dice games. I took offense to some of the comments as it proved to me first, how ignorant people can be when they are misinformed or have no education about this addiction. And second, that STIGMA was wide spread within this dependency.
Since moving here to Arizona from So. Oregon a few years ago, I was shocked to see how many Indian Casinos are all over this State. Now I know Oregon and California have casinos every as well, but here? IT IS LIKE Drug Addiction! Being the Indian Casinos are selling “Electronic Crack.” But I feel it is time for this "drug, " and the dark side of this addiction be exposed. It is time for the conversation and awareness of the personal and financial hardship this addiction causes. Not only is it attacking our seniors, but it also has reached our kids. There are currently 17+million problem gamblers in just the US alone, HALF of this number are high school and college kids. Another addiction parents have to talk to their children about along with drugs and alcohol. WAKE UP, PEOPLE! Gambling addiction is the #1 addiction killing people by suicide. True! That is over drug and alcohol deaths. Anyone can become addicted to gambling.
When a person walks into a casino? They have YOU. It's why there are no windows or clocks around inside. Ever notice that? And they offer you free drinks and some free alcohol. They send you coupons for free play and discount hotel rooms and meals to keep you there longer. Marketing for casinos is a ploy to get you there and keep your money. Slot machines have the highest odds to the house as well. Which means, you rarely win. And seniors are taking the hit. As the gambling industry booms, aggressive marketing tactics are targeting older patrons. Now, to be fair, not everyone is a problem gambler or becomes addicted. But the expansion and more access can make staying in recovery much harder for those who are.
Some of the past research I did when I wrote a post on my blog, I learned how seniors we becoming the target of predatory casino tactics. I read recently, of the 101 million visitors to America’s casinos in 2014 (the last year for which information was available), nearly half were age 55 or older, according to data from the gambling industry. In 2014, American casinos reported over $66 billion in gambling revenue, and much of that profit came from these older gamblers.
Shared in my AARP article I read, that a study published in the Journal of Gambling Studies revealed that many older adults viewed the casino as a place where they can socialize and escape from loneliness or grief. When we retire, we seem to have more time on our hands. And long gone are the days that you had to go to Las Vegas or Atlantic City to gamble thanks to the boom of the Indian Gambling offerings as of 1988 when the 'Indian Gaming Regulatory Act' which legalized casino development on Indian lands.
That sparked an untightening of state prohibitions on gambling and a nationwide casino building boom. Today, 1,400 casinos are open across 40 states so far. In those states, casinos are especially attractive to seniors who prefer to drive themselves. States with bigger populations of adults over 55, include Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, Ohio, Massachusetts, West Virginia, and where I lived Oregon previously. All of these states now have expanded Indian Casino gambling in recent years and now State Lottery offerings on top of that.
For myself, I know I felt when I would first walk into a casino seeing the lights flashing and the noise and music. I got so excited that I was going to win, let alone what my brain chemicals were doing as I got so euphoric as if I did pop a pill, or stuck a needle in my arm. NOPE. IT WAS ALL Brain and Body doing an inside dance of excitement! So anyone can become addicted to gambling and for many reasons.
"Not All Addictions Are Substance Use Anymore."