How Gambling Addiction Impacts Your Workforce

Gambling addiction is becoming more common. With easier accessibility and billion-dollar ad spends to promote online casino and sports betting apps, it’s no wonder. But when does it go from a fun game of chance to a compulsive gambling disorder? Learn the signs, how it can impact your employees, and how your EAP can help.

Statistics About Gambling

In 2022, the global gambling market grew by 58.9%—from $287.43 billion in 2021 to $456.61 billion. While this encompasses casinos, lotteries, and sport betting, it also includes online and virtual reality platforms. According to a 2016 study, 2.6% of the US population has an addiction problem to gambling. With males in age groups of 16-24 years old and 35-44 years old at the highest risk. Additionally, these same groups most commonly access gambling through their smartphones.

What is Gambling Addiction?

Also referred to as compulsive gambling or gambling disorder, it is the “uncontrollable urge to keep gambling despite the toll it takes on your life. Gambling means that you’re willing to risk something you value in the hopes of getting something of greater value.” (Mayo Clinic).

Similar to drugs and alcohol, gambling can activate the brain’s reward system which is why it can become addictive. And also, like alcohol, it is legal in most cases and easy to access.

What Gambling Addiction Does

Addiction is a chronic and habitual disorder, which interferes with a person’s mental and physical health. It also affects one’s spiritual, interpersonal, and basic functioning. It can affect a person’s self-esteem and integrity, as well as individuals close to the gambler. Compulsive gamblers can draw in and manipulate their spouses, significant others, family members, and possibly co-workers.

It is estimated that for every gambler there are ten to twelve others affected by this disorder.

Symptoms of Gambling Addiction

The signs and symptoms of compulsive gambling can include:

  • Constant planning, participating, and/or engaging in behaviors to generate more money
  • Increasing bid money in attempt to reach the same excitement level
  • Unsuccessfully trying to reduce or abstain from gambling
  • Feeling anxious or irritable while trying to change gambling habits
  • Using gambling as an unhealthy coping tool to avoid or relieve mental health issues
  • Trying to win back lost money by bidding more money
  • Lying to hide gambling problems
  • Jeopardizing or losing job, relationships, material items (e.g. repossession of car or mortgage foreclosure due to finances.)
  • Requesting money from family members and/or getting pay-day loans
  • Selling personal items for money
  • Stealing or committing crimes to support gambling habit

How Gambling Impacts Your Workforce

The negative effects of problem gambling can also extend into the workplace. A problem gambler may:

  • Be too distracted to focus and concentrate on work, which can cause safety risks
  • Have mood or personality changes (irritability, secretiveness, dishonesty, make rash decisions, etc.)
  • Ask to borrow money from co-workers, request early advancement on paychecks, or in severe cases, steal from colleagues or the company
  • Take extended breaks, show up late, leave early, and/or increase unexpected absences

What Can You Do to Help a Problem Gambler at Work?

You may feel reluctant to say something to a person you think has a gambling problem. It is awkward to bring up personal issues in the workplace. And money is a sensitive subject area—especially among colleagues. However, it is possible to express your concerns in a caring manner.

Before you express your concerns, it helps to be clear about your role. As a concerned co-worker, you can simply share your observations—not diagnose the problem or provide advice.

You can also let them know how to contact your company’s EAP.

How Your EAP Can Help with Gambling

A comprehensive EAP, like Carebridge, will help the individual struggling with a gambling addiction by:

  • Listening
  • Assessing
  • Providing in-the-moment support
  • Recommending a pathway to care
  • Authorizing mental health counseling sessions
  • Offering additional services (e.g. financial education)
  • Helping them get back to being a productive employee

For more information on how Carebridge can help your organization navigate addiction in the workplace, click here.