Exposing the Dark Side of Gambling Addiction


By Annie Mueller
For Casino Watch Foundation

For casinos, the ideal customer group is one with few commitments and little accountability. 

The casinos have found their ideal customer group: your parents and grandparents. And they have targeted them. “For the retirees, like scores of others making similar pilgrimages each day around the country, the casino offered free transportation, free food, free drinks... the casinos pay tour companies to organize trips for the elderly and to deliver busloads of them.” ("Casino Gambling a Favorite Pastime for Older Americans"/By BRETT PULLEY/ The New York Times Company/7.2.98)

Welcome to the world of the elderly gamblers. They have no work deadline to meet or children's softball game to attend. Their only time constraint is the bus schedule. The targeting is working. “The number of U.S. seniors visiting casinos has more than doubled since 1975, according to a federal survey.” ("Seniors gambling at escalating pace National trend worries some, keeps casinos hopping"/By Tim Martin,CHRIS HOLMES/Lansing State Journal/8.11.01) But too many of the “new customers” are becoming addicts with no way to recover financially once the money is gone. In New Jersey, for example, out of the 75 percent of senior citizens who gamble, 23% have a gambling disorder. (“Poll: 23 Percent Of N.J. Seniors Have Gambling Problem”/The Daily Record, Morris County, NJ/6.15.06)

Imagine your life as an elderly widow: fixed income, few visitors, and your children busy with teir own lives. You live the same life day after day with no excitement and no hope of change. One day the casino's bus is outside your window. You see your neighbors, giddy with excitement, climbing on. Just this once, you think, maybe you will go too.

You climb off the bus at the casino entrance and are dazzled. Young men in uniforms open doors and look really pleased to see you walking into their castle. Suddenly you are part of a club again. You forget how lonely you are. Someone pulls out a chair for you, and you pull out your carefully folded bills and forget everything but making this lovely feeling last as long as it can. When you finally get back home, off the last bus back, your regret is not the money gone but that you did not have more of it to give.

Who is to blame when you become a full-blown gambling addict? Should you have known better? Probably. Perhaps, if the employees had not remembered your name, if the food had been more expensive, if the discounts were less generous and the transportation more difficult, you would have.

Annie Mueller is a graduate of Mississippi State University, a wife, mom, homemaker, and writer with diverse interests. More of her articles can be found at www.joeandannie.us.