A 20-horse field for the Kentucky Derby results in high odds on some capable thoroughbreds. It also creates an exciting race with overtones of a desperate calvary charge. As if that were not enough stimulation, the removal of the supposed prohibitive favorite or a late scratch injects more uncertainty, more excitement and more risk. The normal or casual horse race fan sees this as an exciting event, with the chance for a little reward for picking the winning horse. The problem gambler pays little attention to the potential reward -- the money to be won from the best bet. It is the excitement and the risk that motivates the problem gambler and stimulates him or her to place a bet. With money on the line, the problem gambler obtains the action he or she craves. It is the problem gambler’s opportunity to feel alive. As researchers study whether problem gambling is a result of brain chemistry or a learned habit, talking to recovering pathological gamblers makes it clear that the money only is a means to make another bet, to gamble some more, to stay in action.
“When trying to explain problem and pathological gambling, I think the hardest thing for most people to understand is how little money means to the problem or pathological gambler,” Michael R. Stone, executive director, Kentucky Council on Problem Gambling (KYCPG) explained. “It is the stimulation, the excitement, of putting that money at risk on an uncertain outcome that is the continuing goal of the problem or pathological gambler. When I came to understand the true motivation of the problem gambler is when I grasped the reality and severity of this addiction.
“What I have discovered in interviews with problem gamblers -- and this is supported by research -- is when they are not in action, they posses qualities we often admire in people,” Stone continued. “They are productive on their jobs. They care for others. They are responsible. Of course, that does not excuse their irresponsible gambling behavior. They
are out of control, as is any person in the grip of an uncontrolled addiction. “But it explains their behavior and shows the need for awareness, education and treatment. Everyone needs to understand the real nature of the addiction. Everyone needs to know the basic warning signs. Most importantly, problem and pathological gamblers need access to help. Evidence shows with professional counseling and self-awareness through Gamblers Anonymous sustained recovery from a gambling addiction is more than possible. It can happen,” Stone added. “Addicted gamblers are not just dumb people trying to find a lazy way to get rich. Their addiction demands help.” Studies indicate pathological gamblers have high rates of suicide, bankruptcy and abusive behavior Many are in debt and commit crimes to obtain money. Fortunately, pathological gambling is a treatable disorder. A simple two-question test may indicate whether an individual has a gambling problem. Answering “yes” to either question indicates further assessment by a counselor or clinical professional is recommended.
1. Have you ever had to lie to people important to you about how much you gambled?
2. Have you felt the need to bet more and more money?
If gambling becomes more than a game or entertainment, there is help. Call 1-800-GAMBLER.
Or in Nebraska call 1-800-522-4700. (this sentence was added)
“To support anyone who needs help, on Derby Day or any other day, KYCPG provides the 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537) helpline,” Stone said. “The last survey of Kentucky citizens indicated there are 9,000 active pathological (addicted) gamblers in Kentucky, with another 50,000 problem gamblers and an additional 190,000 at risk of developing a gambling problem. Gambling addiction costs the state an estimated $121 annually. Those needing help or those who are concerned about an individual’s behavior and wish more information can call the helpline, speak with a trained telephone counselor, obtain referrals to Gamblers Anonymous or certified gambler counselors, or request more information on the addiction.”