Problem Gambling in Washington State
Problem Gambling is behavior which causes disruption in any major area of life: psychological, physical, social, or vocational. Similarly to any other progressive addiction, symptoms can range from mild to severe. The most serious form of the condition is called “Gambling Disorder.”
Comprehensive prevalence studies conducted in the late 1990s have shown that 96 percent to 98 percent of adults who gamble in Washington State never develop a gambling problem.
When these studies were conducted, gambling was an $880 million industry in Washington. That has changed. In 2020, Washington’s net gambling receipts exceeded $3 BILLION.
Problem Gambling is a serious health issue affecting between 80,000 and 160,000 Washington State residents, or, 2 percent to 4 percent of adults and 8 percent to 9 percent of adolescents and young adults. The percentage may seem small, but the harm reaches far beyond the individual struggling. It is estimated that for every person experiencing problematic gambling, at least 7 to 11 people (wives, husbands, children, other family members, friends, employers, etc.) are harmed by gambling addiction (in Washington, between 560,000 and 1.12 million people). Research has shown that those struggling with problem gambling have a higher rate of suicide than people struggling with alcohol or drug addiction. Symptoms of problem gambling include severe debt, hiding gambling activity, lying, borrowing, stealing, stress, broken relationships, depression, suicidal ideation or attempts, and more. Occasionally, the individual with the gambling problem may have hidden debt from family members and friends until problems reach desperate levels, such as the possibility of losing their homes, filing for bankruptcy, or committing suicide.
Because gambling has grown significantly in Washington State over the years, and because the consequences of a Gambling Disorder can be so severe, it is important to know all you can about Problem Gambling. At some point in your lifetime, you may know someone struggling with this condition.
Help is available for Problem Gambling
Problem gambling (addiction) is a complex health issue that often requires treatment, counseling, and support. If you cannot walk away when you’ve reached your limit, or if you find yourself pre-occupied with thoughts of gambling or in conflict with others because of your gambling activity, call Washington State’s Problem Gambling Helpline for assistance: 1.800.547.6133. You are not alone. Treatment is available and effective. If you are a family member, friend, or employer impacted by the gambling of someone who may have a gambling problem, help is available for you, too.
Always play responsibly:
- Gamble only for fun, and only if it’s fun
- Set a dollar limit and stick to it
- Set a time limit and stick to it
- Accept losing as part of the game, you are paying to play a game
- Don’t borrow money to gamble, or re-allocate money from necessities to gamble
- Don’t let gambling interfere with family, friends, or work
- Don’t continue to gamble to try to win back losses
- Don’t gamble as a way to cope with emotional or physical pain