Problem gamblers may be so addicted they don't realize they may be just one step away from jail.
March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month. Most people think of the problem gambler as one who sinks himself or herself and the entire family into economic destruction. OneNewsNow talked with National Council on Problem Gambling executive director Keith Whyte, who says statistics show it goes much deeper than just a financial problem.
"As well as financial issues, there are also emotional, personal, even physical health problems," says Whyte. "We know people with gambling problems have much higher rates of disorders such as stress, depression, heart problems, diabetes, and other things that can be both the cause and effect of an addiction."
The social cost of problem gambling is estimated at about $7 billion a year, only part of which has to deal with healthcare costs.
"Surveys of Gamblers Anonymous, which is a self-help group for problem gamblers, reported 70 percent of [its] members report committing a white-collar crime to finance their addiction," Whyte notes. "Those are typically people with very, very severe problems, but we know the more severe your gambling problem is the more likely you are to commit a white-collar crime to finance your gambling."
That's where jail comes into play for some of them, but there is help for gamblers and their family members. The National Council on Problem Gambling, which offers resources on its website, also fielded 323,000 calls to the national help line last year; roughly 30 percent of such calls are from family members.