The number of casinos across the country is growing, not to mention online gambling, but programs to combat gambling addiction have not kept pace. About 2 million adults meet the criteria for ‘pathological gambling,’ according to estimates.
Before 2005, Sandra Adell had never set foot in a casino. But when a friend of the then 59-year-old professor at the University of Wisconsin—Madison asked Adell to accompany her to the Ho-Chunk casino about 45 minutes away from her home, she obliged. As Adell walked through the casino floor, she thought to herself, “Why in the world are all these people here?” She sat down at a machine, and by the time she got up, she was hooked.
“I thought that the casino had become my personal ATM,” says Adell, author of “Confessions of a Slot Machine Queen.” Early winnings convinced her the casino was where she belonged. She quickly distanced herself from her social circle, foregoing meals with friends and family to spend time gambling. “All I wanted to do was play the slots,” she says; it was all she could think about.
Gambling addiction can grab hold of people and morph them into someone who only cares about their next bet. According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, an estimated 2 million adults in the United States meet the criteria for “pathological gambling,” and 4 to 6 million are considered “problem gamblers.” It’s an addiction found across economic classes, from lower-class Americans playing for their next paycheck to those wealthy enough to gamble away tens of thousands of dollars within a few hours.
By Daniel Bortz / U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT