Gambling Resources

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What is problem gambling?

According to the Council on Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania, problem gambling is any gambling, betting, or wagering that causes family, financial, legal, emotional, or other problems for the individual, their family, or others. Gambling problems can be mild, or quite severe, and can worsen over time.

Often recognized by the term ‘Gambling Disorder’, and previously known as compulsive gambling or pathological gambling, this issue was first recognized as an ‘Impulse Control Disorder’ by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980 as a result of the pioneering work of Robert Custer M.D.

Gambling Disorder is now classified in the “Addiction and Related Disorders” category in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, fifth edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association. This disorder is identified as a persistent and recurrent problematic gambling behavior that has led to clinically significant impairment or distress.

While millions of Americans, and hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians experiencing gambling related problems, it is important to know that help is available.

If you are concerned about a teen or a young adult experiencing problems related to gambling, gambling resources are available call our helpline at 800.848.1880, or 1.800.GAMBLER®, for more information and resources.

Warning Signs
  • Gambling more frequently or for longer than intended
  • Lying about where money goes
  • Declining work or school performance
  • Borrowing money to gamble
  • Increasing preoccupation with gambling
  • Distancing or isolating from family or friends
  • Unable to pay bills or cover expenses
  • Chasing losses, or returning the next day to win back what was lost
  • Committing/considering committing a crime to finance gambling
  • Making repeated unsuccessful efforts to control or stop gambling

Source:  Council on Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania

Effects Of Problem Gambling
  • Those impacted by gambling problems may resort to criminal activity to pay gambling debts, or to fund gambling. In many situations, these crimes are often non-violent, or “white collar” crimes, and may include writing bad checks, forgery, credit card fraud, theft, embezzlement, or tax related crimes.
  • Depression is one of the most common co-occurring disorders among those experiencing gambling related problems, presented by very high percentages of those being diagnosed.
  • Very high rates of suicide ideation and attempt are present among those with gambling problems. Research suggests as many as 20% have made suicide attempts.
  • Children of those with gambling problems may be victims of abuse and neglect because of their parents gambling.
  • Studies also indicate adolescents whose parents gamble excessively have higher rates of gambling and participation in other high-risk behaviors.
  • Research also indicates higher rates of abuse among the spouses of problem gamblers.

Source: Council on Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania

Youth Gambling

According to the American Psychiatric Association, 10–15% of young people asked, have significant gambling problems; 6% of the teens who have tried gambling have become pathological gamblers.

Reasons Adolescents May Gamble

  • Escape problems
  • Loneliness, depression, or boredom
  • Peer pressure
  • Think it is a quick way to get rich
  • To impress others
  • To be the center of attention
  • Think of it to make friends
  • Winning provides an instant, temporary boost of confidence
Possible Adolescent Indicators
  • Unexplained absences from school
  • Sudden drop in grades
  • Changes in personality (irritability, impatience, criticism, or sarcasm)
  • Large amounts of money in their possession; bragging about gambling wins
  • Shows an unusual interest in newspapers, magazine or periodicals having to do with sports, horse racing, etc.
  • Intense interest in gambling conversations
  • Exaggerated display of money or other material possessions (car, clothes, jewelry)
  • Change in behavior (behavior problems, tardiness, or absences at school)
  • Gambling language in their conversation (5-timer, bookie, loan shark, point spread, underdog, favorite, etc.)
  • Exaggerated use of the word “bet” in their vocabulary
  • Illegal acts to pay or gamble more, including stealing or shoplifting, selling drugs or bookmaking, embezzling or employer theft, family theft

Source: Council on Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania

More Gambling Resources

Council on Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania

Phone: 215.643.4542


National Council on Problem Gambling

Phone: 202.547.9204


International Center for Responsible Gaming

Phone: 978.338.6610


International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviors