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Gambling is risking something of value, such as money or property, on the outcome of something that is determined mostly by chance. Gambling activities include such things as:
  • Playing the Lottery, including instant tickets or “scratch offs”
  • Pull-tabs and raffle tickets
  • Bingo
  • Sports betting
  • Casinos
  • Church or other organization-sponsored “Casino Nights”
  • Slot machines and Video Lottery Terminals (VLT’s)
  • Card and table games such as Blackjack, poker, Texas Hold ‘Em
  • Internet/sweepstakes cafes
  • Horse and/or Dog Racing
  • Internet gambling- poker, bingo sites
  • Gambling on a cell phone
  • Stock market speculation
  • Betting on other games-pool, bowling etc.

Problem Gambling

According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, the term "problem gambling" refers to the urge to gamble, despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to stop.  It is gambling behavior which causes disruption in any major life domain: mental, physical, vocational, educational, social, familial, financial, or legal.

Anyone is at risk of becoming a problem gambler. A person can develop a problem with gambling at any age. Groups that are at high risk of developing a gambling addiction are youth, older adults, and people with substance abuse disorders and/or other mental health issues.

This definition may also include the condition known as "pathological (or compulsive) gambling,” a progressive addiction whereby a person gambles compulsively to such an extent that the activity has a severe negative effect on his/ her job, relationships, mental health and/or other important aspects of life. People who suffer from pathological gambling may continue to gamble even after they have developed social, economic, interpersonal or legal problems as a result of the gambling.

Gambling addiction is sometimes referred to as the "hidden illness" because there are no obvious physical signs or symptoms like there are in drug or alcohol addiction. Problem gamblers typically deny or minimize the problem. They also go to great lengths to hide their gambling. For example, problem gamblers often withdraw from their loved ones, sneak around, and lie about where they’ve been and what they’ve been up to.

Problem gambling is a widespread. Two million (1 percent) of U.S. adults are estimated to meet criteria for pathological gambling in a given year, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling. Another four to eight million (2-3 percent) 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. Based on national prevalence data, in Ohio it is estimated that 264,000 adults and approximately 38,000 adolescents exhibit problem gambling behaviors.

Some facts and figures:

  • Problem Gambling refers to any gambling that goes beyond the “normal” bounds of gambling for fun, recreation or entertainment.
  • Of the 8.8 million Ohioans aged 18 and older, an estimated 3.8 million (43.3%) do not gamble. Of the Ohioans who do gamble, an estimated 4.7 million (53.8%) do not experience any risk factors.
  • The prevalence of at risk and problem gambling among persons 18 years and older in Ohio is 2.8%, which equates to an estimated 246,561 individuals.
  • Compulsive gambling (or pathological gambling) is a recognized and treatable illness.
  • Problem gambling rates among teens and young adults have been shown to be 2-3 times that of adults.
  • Gambling is not a way to solve financial problems. Providing a financial bailout for compulsive gamblers may actually make the problem worse.
  • Children of problem gamblers may be at higher risk for a broad range of health, mental health and school-related problems.
  • 65.6% of respondents believe that is possible to reduce gambling problems through prevention
  • 50.3 % of respondents believe that the community has the responsibility to set up prevention programs to help people avoid gambling problems
  • 51.2% of respondents believe that gambling at a casino is more risky than buying lottery tickets or pull-tabs
  • 23.4% of respondents believe that it is okay for high schools to sponsor casino nights for graduation or prom.
  • Among pathological gamblers, alcohol has been found to be the most common substance of abuse. At minimum, the rate of problem gambling among people with substance use disorders is four to five times that found in the general population.
  • An OSAM study focused on gambling behaviors among active and recovering drug users from throughout Ohio found prevalence rates of 20.9 percent for some problem gambling and 13.3 percent for probable pathological gambling among the surveyed population. The three most common types of gambling were lottery (84.7%), dice/craps/poker (non-casino) (25.1%) and casino gambling (22.2%).
  • About 220,144 (2.5%) persons are estimated to be at-risk for problem gambling, and about 0.3% of persons are estimated to have a gambling problem that meets DSM-IV diagnostic criteria.
  • Approximately 10% of those who need treatment will seek treatment (Cunningham, 2005), suggesting that approximately 2,640 individuals may seek treatment or seek out self-help such as Gamblers Anonymous.


Ohio for Responsible Gambling, http://www.org.ohio.gov/

Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services [ODADAS] (2012). Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network: Co-occurrence of Problem and Pathological Gambling with Substance Use Disorder: A Targeted Response Initiative: January-June 2012.

Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services [ODADAS] (2012). Ohio Gambling Survey Presentation: October 2012.

Warning Signs and Symptons

Common signs of a gambling addiction
  • Bragging about winning, exaggerating wins and/or minimizing losses
  • Spending a lot of time gambling, thinking about or planning to gamble
  • Restless or irritable when not gambling
  • Increasing the frequency of gambling activities
  • Increasing the amount of money gambled
  • Borrowing money for gambling, taking out secret loans, cashing in or borrowing on life insurance polices or retirement funds, maximizing credit cards
  • Hiding time spent gambling or hiding bills and unpaid debts
  • Lying about how much time or money is spent on gambling
  • Gambling for financial gain vs. for recreation
  • Unable to stay within predetermined time or financial limits
  • Using gambling to cope with problems or negative feelings like depression and loneliness
  • Continued gambling despite negative consequences like family problems, missed work
  • Secretive behavior such as hiding lottery tickets or betting slips, having bills sent to work or another address

Symptoms of Pathological Gambling

Compulsive or pathological gambling is currently listed as Impulse Control Disorder in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (IV) of Mental Disorders DSM IV, although it will be moved to the addiction section in the DSM V.  In general, a person must demonstrate persistent and recurrent gambling behavior by meeting at least five of the following criteria:

  • Preoccupation with gambling, such as reliving past experiences or thinking about the next event
  • Betting increasing amounts or more often to achieve desired excitement
  • makes repeated, unsuccessful efforts to cut back or stop gambling
  • Efforts to control gambling, resulting in restlessness, anger or irritability
  • Gambling as a way to escape problems or feelings of depression, guilt or anxiety
  • “Chasing” lost money or returning to gamble to “get even” after losing money
  • Lying to conceal extent of involvement with gambling
  • Committing illegal acts to finance gambling; usually money crimes like forgery, fraud, theft or embezzlement
  • Jeopardizing job, reputation, relationships or an educational or career opportunity because of gambling
  • Relying on others to provide financial relief such as loans, cash advances or emergency bailouts

Self-assessment tool

Are you concerned that you might have a gambling problem? Ask yourself the following questions. do you:

  • Find yourself reliving past gambling experiences, planning the next venture, or thinking of ways to get money to gamble?
  • Need to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to feel the excitement?
  • Become restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling?
  • Gamble as a way of escaping from problems or relieving guilt, anxiety or depression?
  • Often return another day in order to get even or chase your losses after gambling?
  • Lie to family members, friends, therapist or others to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling?
  • Participate in illegal activities (e.g. forgery, fraud or theft) in order to finance your gambling?
  • Jeopardize or lose a significant relationship, job or educational or career opportunity because of gambling?
  • Rely on others to provide money to relieve a desperate financial situation caused by gambling?
  • Attempt to control, cut back or stop gambling but are unable to do so?

If you answered yes to 1-2 questions, you are at-risk for problem gambling; 3-4, you are a problem gambler; 5 or more, you are a compulsive gambler.  

Please consider seeking help by calling the Ohio Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-589-9966 or The National Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-522-4700.

Help and Resources

Gambling Addiction Treatment (Ohio locations)

Health Recovery Services



 Recovery Resources



 Center for Chemical Addictions Treatment (CCAT)






 Meridian Community Care






Ohio Problem Gambling Helpline                                              1-800-589-9966

National Problem Gambling Helpline                                      1-800-522-4700

Ohio for Responsible Gambling: (www.org.ohio.gov) is an initiative aimed at promoting responsible gambling in Ohio. Four State Agencies in Ohio are working together in this effort; The Ohio Lottery Commission (OLC), the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC), the Ohio State Racing Commission (OSRC), and The Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services (ODADAS). 

Problem Gambling Network of Ohio: http://pgnohio.org/ provides a network of support to problem gamblers , their families and the professionals who assist them while bringing awareness to this issue.

Gamblers Anonymous: (www.gamblersanonymous.org) is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from a gambling problem. 

Gam-Anon: (www.gam-anon.org) is a self-help organization for the spouse, family or close friends of compulsive gamblers.

The National Council on Problem Gambling: 202-547-9204 http://www.ncpgambling.org is an organization whose purpose to increase public awareness of pathological gambling, ensure the widespread availability of treatment for problem gamblers and their families, and to encourage research and programs for prevention and education.

National Center for Responsible Gaming: http://www.ncrg.org/ is the only national organization exclusively devoted to funding research that helps increase understanding of pathological and youth gambling and find effective methods of treatment for the disorder.

Your First Step to Change Online Workbook: (http://basis.typepad.com/basis/selfhelp_tools.html)  This guide will help you understand gambling, figure out if you need to change, and decide how to deal with the actual process of change.

Face the Odds: http://facetheodds.org/contact/index.php is a public awareness campaign of Recovery Resources to educate people about the potential dangers of gambling addictions. Their goal is to provide information to people about signs of gambling addiction and where people can go to seek help if they or someone they love is affected by gambling addiction.

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