Indiana University Bloomington
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IPGAP: Indiana Problem Gambling Awareness Program

Older Adults

Older adults who are going through major life transitions such as retirement, loss of a loved one, moving, or health problems may be particularly vulnerable.

Older adults are a major target for marketers of gambling and account for a substantial portion of the money spent on gambling in the United States each year.

  • Many senior gamblers are on fixed incomes and more vulnerable to financial devastation than younger gamblers.
  • Older adult problem gamblers are less willing to seek timely help for addiction
  • Surveys indicate casino outings are the most popular type of day trip for retired Americans. Bingo outings are another popular activity.
  • Many older adults are gambling without being educated about the risks and resources available.
  • As people reach retirement, vulnerability toward compulsive behavior intensifies.
  • Older adults now form the largest group of annual visitors to Las Vegas
  • 65% of the $3.7 billion hauled in by Atlantic City casinos in 1997 came from the pockets of people age 60+
  • Between 1975 and 1998, the age group 65+ experienced the greatest increase in gambling, both for lifetime (from 35% to 80%) and for past-year (from 23% to 50%)
  • Some older adults may have cognitive impairment that interfere with
  • their ability to make sound decisions

  • Opportunity and Availability – Casinos and lottery are legal in Missouri; some form of gambling is accessible to the majority of older adults, regardless of where they live.
  • Boredom – Abundance of leisure time with limited availability of social activities or finances.
  • Loneliness – Following loss of a loved one, lack of visitors, geographic separation, etc.
  • Escape – Gambling can provide a temporary escape from reality.
  • Excitement/Social Interaction – Many older adults find gambling exciting at a time in life when opportunities for excitement may be limited.
  • Perception of Easy Money – Some view gambling as a possible means of supplementing retirement income.
  • Perceived as a Safe Place – Security guards are on duty during casino operating hours.

  • Progressive preoccupation with gambling (gambling more often, with more money, for longer periods of time).
  • Talks only about wins, not losses; hides gambling losses; chases losses.
  • Lies about gambling – directly or by omission.
  • Gambles as a means to cope - to escape worries, frustrations or disappointments.
  • Neglect of personal needs, such as food, utilities or medical assistance - unable to meet living expenses that were previously met.
  • Bored when not gambling; loss of interest/participation in normal activities with family and friends.
  • Gambles alone.
  • Withdrawal from friends and family.
  • Changes in attitude and personality.
  • Borrowing from family/friends.
  • Unexplained absence of household and personal items.
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut back or stop gambling.
  • Withdrawal/depression, decline in health – can be due to loss of self-esteem and elevated stress from loss of savings/security for retirement.

  • Bingo
  • Pull tabs
  • Scratch-offs
  • Lottery
  • Slots
  • Raffles

  • Gamble for fun.
  • Think of the money you lose as the cost of entertainment.
  • Set a dollar limit and stick to it.
  • Set up a time limit and stick to it.
  • Accept losing as part of the game.
  • Don't borrow money to gamble.
  • Don't let gambling interfere with family, friends, or work.
  • Don't gamble to win back losses.
  • Don't use gambling as a way to cope with emotional or physical pain.
  • Know the warning signs of problem gambling.