Flashy signs and parking lots packed to capacity 24/7 is a typical casino scene. Inside, the colorful, musical machines easily turn an hour of fun into a bleary-eyed all-nighter. According to AARP, this 40 billion dollar industry, has a reputation of targeting seniors due to this demographic having more time, and wealth to spend gambling. In fact, in 2014, statistics showed half of those visiting casinos were age 50 and older. Casinos sell themselves as an attractive option for retirees looking for something to do, are lonely or looking to escape the confines of a health problem.
Older adults are especially vulnerable to gambling addiction and are at greater risk of not recovering financially. Casinos have ATM’s at the ready making it far too easy to retrieve cash and keep going back for more. Unless they have a comfortable “nest egg,” most seniors are surviving off of pension, and social security income making gambling a potentially dangerous past time. It’s not to say everyone that frequents a casino will become addicted, but depleting the funds one has spent their working years saving is a serious concern.
Gambling doesn’t only affect the pocketbook but can damage physical, and mental health. An article published by ABC News compares the effect gambling has on brain chemistry to that of cocaine. The bright lights and crowded atmosphere keep people going back again, and again. Being sedentary for hours on end, consuming alcoholic beverages, and indulging in on-site restaurants increases the risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Those who gamble to ward off depression or chronic pain often find themselves feeling worse but unable to break away.
If addiction is suspected, people should know they are not alone. Toll-free gambling hotlines are available to those seeking help. The National Problem Gambling Helpline: 1-800-522-4700 is a private, secure resource for anyone looking to take back control of their life.