What about gambling addiction?


I thought I would write to suggest that you consider writing a book specifically upon gambling. This is a very rapidly growing area in Australia.  I believe New South Wales has one tenth of the world’s poker machines!- a doubtful honour.

Alan Soares

Dear Alan:

You know, I am not a person who believes in “control of supply” as the best answer to addiction.  But, in the US, we have the strangest situation.  Gambling is being expanded and promoted everywhere — very often by the government — since the States either get a big cut from casino gambling, or else run various lotteries themselves.  Gambling in New Jersey, where I live, is limited to Atlantic City (where it is THE major industry).  Nonetheless, gambling casino operators are tremendously powerful forces.  There is now legislation afoot to permit electronic gambling machines in bars.

Yesterday (December 6), the New York Times had a long first page article about a man called Steve Wynn who it claims may be the most powerful man in America.  He is a casino owner and operator in Las Vegas who realizes that getting political connections is the key to success/expansion of his gambling interests.  He not only spends a great deal on political campaigns nationwide (so that no politician dares go against him), he runs his own telephone interviewing banks so that he can stay abreast of political issues and the public’s opinions, as well as giving information to favored politicians.

My point is this — can one realistically hope to combat gambling addiction when people — including governments — are aggressively pushing gambling into every corner of the country/globe?  I actually think that gambling, as an addiction or as a way of life, will be far more the mark of the 21st century than are drugs.

As an example of government’s role in promoting gambling, consider its constant media bombardment.  I view New York television, where the lottery promotes itself through a weekend program hosted by a respected minority weatherperson.  This show offers portraits of lucky lottery winners — as though this is a prospect the typical viewer should contemplate seriously.  The program seems intended to offset the accusation that minorities are more disadvantaged by the lottery.

Lottery ads depict people who are looked down upon by others who suddenly turn the tables on those who despise them after they win the lottery.  These and other ads are geared towards making people feel that they have a realistic chance that their lives will be transformed by the lottery — exactly the wrong message for those who are least successful in dealing with society’s challenges.  Indeed, this appeal is directly to the addictive aspects of gambling.

Advertising encouraging addiction on a massive scale will always outweigh whatever small pittance the lottery program devotes to dealing with those poor unfortunate compulsive gamblers.  The entire appeal of gambling to the population at large is to addictive values — ones that make people feel they can overcome their deficiencies and poor prospects by some magical solution.


Stanton Peele

Stanton Peele , recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts by The Fix, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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