John, who grew up in Scotland, dreamed of winning the lottery. “I bought a lottery ticket every week, “he says. “It cost me just a small amount of money, but that ticket gave me hope of gaining everything I ever wanted.”
Kazushinge, who lives in Japan, loved horse racing. “Gambling at the racetrack with my friends was a great deal of fun, and I sometimes won large sums of money,” he recalls.
“Bingo was my favorite game,” says Linda, who lives in Australia. “This habit cost me about $30 a week, but I loved the thrill of winning.”
John, Kazushige, and Linda viewed gambling as a relatively harmless form of entertainment. Hundreds of millions of people around the world share that viewpoint. A 1999 Gallup poll showed that two thirds of Americans approved of gambling.
In 1998, American gamblers spent about $50 billion on legalized gambling –more than they spent on movie tickets, recorded music, spectator sports, theme parks, and video games combined
According to a recent study, during a one-year period, more than 80 percent of Australian’s population gambled at least once, and 40 percent gambled each week. Adults in that country, on average, spend more than $400 (U.S) annually on gambling, about twice the amount spent by Europeans or Americans, making Australians among the most avid gamblers in the world.
Many Japanese are addicted to pachinko, a pinball-like game, and spend billions a year betting on the game. In Brazil, at least $4 billion is spent each year on gambling, much of it on lottery tickets. But Brazilians are not the only ones who love lotteries. The Magazine Public Gaming International recently estimated that there are “306 lotteries in 102 countries.” Gambling is truly a global fascination –a fascination, some say, that brings great benefits.
Sharon Sharp, a representative of the Public Gaming Research International, says that in the United States from 1964 to 1999, lottery proceeds “account[ed] for about $125 billion of state budget dollars, with the greatest part of this revenue coming in since 1993.”
Much of this money was earmarked for public education programs, state parks, and the development of public sports facilities. The gambling industry is also a major employer, and in Australia alone, it employs about 100,000 people in over 7,000 businesses.
Thus, advocates of gambling argue that in addition to providing entertainment, legalized gambling creates jobs, provides tax revenue, and improves depressed local economies. Many people would there- fore ask, ‘What is wrong with gambling?’ The answer to this question, which is discussed in the following articles, may well change your view of gambling.
DO I HAVE A GAMBLING PROBLEM?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, the following criteria guide diagnosis of pathological gambling (sometimes called compulsive gambling). Most authorities agree that if you manifest several of the following behaviors, you are a problem gambler, and if you experience any one of these behaviors, you are at risk of becoming a problem gambler.
1. PREOCCUPATION: You are preoccupied with gambling –wanting to relive past gambling experiences, planning the next venture, or thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble.
2. TOLERANCE: You need to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement.
3. WITHDRAWAL: You are restless or irritable when attempting to cut down on or stop gambling.
4. ESCAPE: You gamble as a way of escaping from problems or relieving feelings of helplessness, guilty, anxiety, or depression.
5. CHASING: After losing money gambling, you often return another day in order to get even. This behavior is known as chasing one’s losses.
6. LYING: You lie to family members, therapists, or others to conceal the extent of your involvement with gambling.
7. LOSS OF CONTROL: You have made repeated unsuccessful efforts to stop, control, or cut back on gambling.
8. ILLEGAL ACTS: You have committed illegal acts, such as fraud, theft, or embezzlement, in order to finance your gambling.
9. RISKED SIGNIFICANT RELATIONSHIP: You have jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, an education or career opportunity, or a job because of gambling.
10. BAILOUT: You have relied on others to provide money to relieve a desperate financial situation caused by gambling.
GAMBLING AND THE SUPERNATURAL
In a report to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, researchers at Duke University alluded to a link between the way gambling is advertise and belief in the supernatural. The report states: “Many [lottery] ads are unabashedly materialistic.
Yet this is not the materialism of hard work and perseverance but rather of genies and magnetic lamps, rooted in hopes, dreams, and superstition. And every lottery manager knows that many of his or her best customers base their bets on personal superstitions, astrological tables, self-styled seers, and the venerable ‘dream books’ that list numbers corresponding to names, dates, and dreams.
Rather than emphasizing that all numbers have the same probability of being selected and that playing popular numbers will reduce a person’s expected payoff in pari-mutuel games, lottery agencies have chosen to encourage players to choose ( and stick with) personally significant numbers.
“Gambling did not affect my physical health, and always controlled how much money I spent on gambling. But I admit that whenever I played a lottery game, I always chose what I considered to be my lucky numbers.” –Linda.
Many gamblers develop a belief in lucky numbers or lucky charms. They might not think that they take their superstitious beliefs very seriously, but they may persist with them nonetheless. Some gamblers even offer prayers to God, asking that he help them win their chosen game.
Many people view gambling as a socially acceptable pastime. But is gambling harmless entertainment? Or is it a deadly snare?
EVERY HOME A CASINO
At a fraction of the cost of building new gambling establishments, gambling organizations now build Web sites that can turn any home with an internet connected computer into a virtual casino. In the mid-1990’s, there were approximately 25 gambling sites on the internet.
In 2001 there were more than 1,200 sites, and revenues from on-line gambling have been doubling each year. In 1997, gambling sites made $300 million on-line. In 1998 they made a further $650 million. In 2000, internet gambling sites earned $2.2 billion, and by 2003 that figure grew to $6.4million. Children of compulsive gamblers have an increased risk of becoming problem gamblers themselves.