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Gambling and Addiction

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A Typology of the Gambler. Joseph A. Scimecca. International Journal of Contemporary Sociology, Vol. 8(1), p56-71, Jan. 1971. This is one of the earlier attempts to systematically classify gamblers based on a range of behavioral and attitudinal characteristics, including the motivation for gambling, the degree of ego involvement, the amount of skill involved, the degree of superstition, and societal reaction. Based on these characteristics, Scimecca identifies seven types of gamblers: the professional gambler, the percentage gambler, the cheater, the compulsive gambler, the economic gambler, the thrill gambler, and the functional gambler. While others have tackled this subject since, Scimecca provides a thoughtful conceptual framework that is still relevant more than 25 years after publication.

Compulsive Gamblers. David Oldman. The Sociological Review, Vol. 26, p349-371, 1978. This article questions the idea of compulsion as a means of theorizing gambling activities of gamblers. Often "lay" accounts referencing "compulsion" in their theories of problem gamblers are made by people having little or no experience with gambling. The "expert" accounts of compulsion, materializing in therapeutic literature, have been based on the self-reports of gambling patients. If compulsion is used to describe gamblers that have reached the end of the road, it is easier to classify them as objects to be treated. An implication of having a defect makes a good legal defense for those on trial for embezzlement or theft because of gambling debts. It also serves a purpose in regard to ideology.

Pathological Gambling: Roots, Phases, and Treatment. Henry R. Lesieur and Robert L. Custer. Annals, AAPSS, 474, p146-156, July 1984. This article traces the roots, causes and phases of pathological gambling. With the establishment of Gamblers Anonymous in 1957, society's view of those who gambled beyond their means began to change from a moral issue to a medical/illness issue. Pathological gamblers were found to exhibit certain physiological traits, such as high energy levels, hyperactivity and high tolerance of stress. The sociological view that pathological gamblers have positive rewards convincing them of the benefits of gambling was supported with evidence of a big win early in the career of the pathological gambler.

Compulsive Gambling and the Medicalization of Deviance. John Rosecrance. Social Problems, Vol. 32(3), p275-284, Feb. 1985. This article traces the history of societal views on gambling and the factors that led to its "medicalization" - the process of determining that the behaviors present are deemed a disease and require social intervention or therapy. Consistent with his other writings, Rosecrance questions the acceptance of the medical model in explaining gambling behavior and deems it more of a social accomplishment than a scientific achievement.

"The Next Best Thing:" A Study of Problem Gambling. John Rosecrance. The International Journal of the Addictions, 20(11&12), p1727-1739, 1985-86. The article questions the traditional model of the problem gambler as being based on gamblers seeking treatment and as such overlooking the vast majority of gamblers. Increases in problem gambling have been explained by the proximity of facilities, ease of entry and social acceptance. In addition to these factors, Rosecrance suggests that the increase in gambling by the white middle class should also be considered in profiling the problem gambler. Due to their inexperience with gambling and access to lines of credit, large debts can accrue leading the troubled gamblers to repayment problems. The new model of problem gambling suggests that total abstinence is not necessary in regaining control over gambling and treatment programs should be varied and geared to meet diverse needs. The commonality amongst problem gamblers is a large loss of money, which is usually preceded by a big "win."

Why Regular Gamblers Don't Quit: A Sociological Perspective. John Rosecrance. Sociological Perspectives, Vol. 29(3), p357-378, July 1986. A two-year field study was conducted through observation of off-track horse race gamblers, sports bettors, and poker players. The results of the data suggest that continued gambling, despite losses, can be explained by the social aspects of the activity. The rewards of the social connection were more important than the losses incurred. Changes in the gamblers lives such as divorce, separation or retirement led to increased gambling activity.

Attributions and the Origins of Problem Gambling. John Rosecrance. The Sociological Quarterly, Vol. 27(4), p464-477, 1986. Rosecrance conducted a one-year study of self-acknowledged horse players. The findings showed that a bad beat (devastating loss) usually led to problem gambling, not a big win as had been previously suggested. It also concluded that problem gambling is reversible and considerable help in this regard can be attained from fellow gamblers.

Gambling Without Guilt: The Legitimization of an American Pastime. John Rosecrance. Brooks/Cole Publishing Company, Pacific Grove, CA, 1988. This book covers the history and extent of gambling in America. Rosecrance combines his 30 years of personal experience with gambling with existing theory on compulsive gambling to arrive at his definition of the problem gambler. He suggests that problem (or inappropriate) gambling is more suitably attributed to the lack of skill/knowledge in gambling, combined with bad finance management, than to any compulsive behavior. As middle class America becomes more adept at gambling and its contingencies through increased exposure, they will increasingly avoid excessive losses and become responsible gamblers.

Pathological Gambling. Richard J. Rosenthal. Psychiatric Annals 22:2, p72-78, Feb. 1992. Pathological gambling is very similar in definition and symptoms to substance dependence. This article discusses the evolution of the DSM-IV criteria for diagnosing pathological gamblers. Various studies of pathological gamblers in treatment reveal that approximately 50 percent have histories of alcohol or drug abuse. In males, the disorder typically begins in adolescence. Females typically start gambling later in life, are more apt to be depressed, and gamble as a means of escaping the depression. It is not unusual for male gamblers to have a history of 20 to 30 years when they seek treatment, compared with three years for females.

Compulsive Gambling. Henry R. Lesieur. Society p43-50, May/June, 1992. This article explores the costs of compulsive gambling to society and to individual gamblers. One study of Gamblers Anonymous members found that pathological gamblers are responsible for an estimated 1.3 billion dollars in insurance-related fraud per year. Children of pathological gamblers were more likely to have gambling problems. Studies of prisoners, alcohol and drug abusing inpatients, Veteran's Administration inpatients and Gamblers Anonymous members found that approximately two-thirds of non-incarcerated and 97 percent of incarcerated pathological gamblers admit engaging in illegal behavior to finance their gambling activities. Surveys indicate that 1 to 2 percent of the adult population are probable pathological gamblers and 2 to 3 percent are problem gamblers.

Review of Research on Pathological Gambling. John B. Murray. Psychological Reports, 72, p791-810, 1993. A review of psychological studies of gambling behavior, the article concluded that a personality profile distinguishing pathological from merely social gamblers has not been discovered. The symptoms of pathological gambling and alcoholism often appear in the same people and often have been treated in similar programs. Although pathological gambling differs from other drug abuse problems in that it is "drugless," gamblers' descriptions of sensations experienced appear similar to those using drugs and alcohol. Gamblers Anonymous, like Alcoholic Anonymous, has proven effective therapeutically for pathological gamblers both nationally and internationally.

Comparing the Pathological and Recreational Gambler: An Exploratory Study. Gary Davis and Dennis Brissett. Minnesota Department of Human Services, Dec. 1995. This study explores the possible personality and life style differences between pathological gamblers and recreational gamblers. No differences were found between the pathological and recreational gamblers on demographic variables including gender, age, marital status and level of education. Although similar in the early stage of their gambling careers, pathological gamblers were very different from recreational gamblers in the latter stage of their gambling careers (when gambling was at its worst) with respect to the effects of gambling on their lives and their reasons for gambling. When their gambling was at its worst, pathological gamblers gambled to make money, to escape, to be in control of life, to feel alive and to relieve depression. Recreational gamblers reported gambling for fun, recreation and novelty. Personality tests showed the pathological gambler to be more unconventional and non-conforming.

Potential and Probable Pathological Gamblers: Where Do the Differences Lie? Dominique Dubé, Mark H. Freeston and Robert Ladouceur. Journal of Gambling Studies, Vol. 12(4), p419-430, Winter, 1996. The SOGS test was given to 1,471 college students in Quebec. The results showed a pathological gambling rate of 2.8 percent overall, with a much higher percentage for males (5.7 percent) than females (0.6 percent). The analysis also differentiated the probable from potential pathological gamblers in Illegal Behaviors, Heavy Gambling, Parentally Modeled/Less Impulsive and Worry factors.

Video Lottery Gambling: Effects on Pathological Gamblers Seeking Treatment in South Dakota. Timothy Morgan, Lial Kofoed, Jerry Buchkoski and Robert D. Carr. Journal of Gambling Studies, Vol. 12(4), p451-460, Winter, 1996. Fifty-eight pathological gamblers receiving treatment for addictive illness in two South Dakota hospitals were grouped by gambling activities. The results showed that video lottery was the predominant gambling activity for this group, suggesting an association of video lottery stimuli and severity of addiction.

Problem Gambling and Experiential Avoidance: Experiential Avoidance as a Functional Process of Problem Gambling. Jeffrey Marotta & Duane Varble. 10th International Conference on Gambling and Risk-Taking, Montreal. University of Nevada, Reno, June, 1997. This article explores the theory (experiential avoidance) that "a proportion of problem gamblers follow a pathway from experiencing a critical life-event, to experiencing discomfort, to engaging in emotional avoidance as a coping mechanism, to discovering gambling as a vehicle for emotional avoidance, and finally, to developing problem gambling behaviors." The paper also discusses historical literature on compulsive gambling and treatments concluding that pathological gambling, in comparison with other addictions, has received very little attention.

The Impact of Gambling Opportunities on Compulsive Gambling. F. Campbell and D. Lester. The Journal of Social Psychology, 139(1), p 126-127. 1999. The authors examined the relationship between legalized gambling availability and pathological gambling by looking for correlations between gambling expenditures and the number of Gamblers Anonymous groups in Louisiana parishes. They found very small levels of association between the number of groups (and groups per capita) and per capita spending on video poker, enough of a relationship to explain only 8 percent of the relationship. They found no correlation with lottery expenditure.

 Strange bedfellows: a critical view of pathological gambling and addiction. Howard J. Shaffer. Addiction (1999) 94(10) pages 1445-1448. In this editorial, Shaffer explores whether pathological gambling is an addiction in the same sense as substance abuse. The difficulty, he believes, lies more in our understanding of addiction than in our understanding of gambling. This lack of understanding stems from the inability to distinguish between an impulse that cannot be controlled and a habit that simply isn’t controlled. An addiction, Shaffer argues, is the “consequence of overwhelming and uncontrollable impulses, compromised biobehavioral regulatory mechanisms, or a combination of both.” The importance of understanding whether a problem gambler truly suffers from an addiction or is the victim of intemperate but controllable behavior lies in the possibility that each may benefit from a different treatment regimen.