Addiction, as a term, describes the destructive relationship between a person and an activity or substance. Addiction is not a side effect of using a substance or doing a specific activity, like gambling, but a relationship between the person and the substance or activity that can spiral out of control and take over every aspect of a person’s life. There are many different aspects of addiction, for every different person reacts and experiences the process of becoming addicted to a substance or an activity differently. For some people, it is very difficult to end that relationship and begin a new life, and their path to recovery is riddled with relapses and setbacks. Today, there are many different methods available for people who want to cure their addiction, from rehab centers to 12-step programs, and the same applies to gambling addiction.
When it comes to gambling addiction and its history, one cannot look at it as a relatively new addiction. Addiction to gambling has been around for as long as the act of gambling itself. The act of gambling has been viewed differently by society during the centuries – and it was in the past century that gambling rose as an activity that is primarily entertaining, which has ensured that there is no social stigma attached to the act of gambling. In fact, gambling has begun to be viewed as an activity that requires not only luck but a set of specific skills that the best gamblers have honed, further proving the lack of stigma around gambling in modern times.
The Development and History of Problem Gambling
Awareness of problem gambling can be dated back to the early Roman times. In essence, the problem gamblers of the era were called debtors – and, in modern terms, these people were gamblers who borrowed money and could not pay back what they owed. According to the Roman law, these debtors were then enslaved to their creditors. There are many other situations where pathological gamblers have been depicted as addicts throughout history, some of which date back to the early colonial period. As early as the 17th century, gambling appears in historical records, literature and philosophy texts as a vice. In fact, anything from making small bets and wages to gambling away property and family wealth was considered a vice and accounts of it were connected with hopelessness, low self-esteem, as well as loss of control in the pathological gambler of the day. Today, the same emotions and situations apply to the modern pathological gambler.
However, it was only in the beginning of the 20th century that problem gambling became of interest to psychoanalysts and psychiatrists. Freud was one of the first psychoanalysts to conduct extensive research into the reason why many people decide to repeat actions and behaviors which are clearly very damaging, both physically and psychologically. In 1928, he concluded that pathological gamblers did not gamble for the money, but for the act of gambling, which led him to classify pathological gambling as an addiction, together with alcoholism and drug abuse.
The Impact of Society’s Views on Gambling
The way human society views the act of gambling and gambling addiction has transformed over the years in a very drastic manner. In early history, gambling was an act of the devil, deemed as a sin, so it comes as no surprise that gambling, for the better part of human history, was illegal and quite often led to people spending time in prison for gambling. However, the aura of glamor and excitement was always present around gambling, despite the fact that gambling was illegal; creating a connection between wealth, loose morals, and even organized crime. It can certainly be considered that this connection augmented the appeal of gambling to most people, despite the stigma that surrounded gambling in the past.
It comes as no surprise then, the transformation of society’s views on gambling. In the distant past, it was viewed a sin prohibited by both state and religious law, but a century ago, when plenty of psychiatrists and psychoanalysts taking an interest in gambling and proclaiming it a vice, society’s views on gambling changed accordingly, and gambling became gradually accepted in society, helped by the fact that in the early to mid 20th century, the act of gambling was restricted in a geographical manner. Additionally, the 1950s saw the rise of gambling, especially in Nevada, in the Las Vegas area, and casinos were limited geographically to resort centers, which helped the general population to adapt to gambling and to gradually accept it as a part of society itself. It has led to society’s view of gambling of today. While gambling has not lost the entire stigma surrounding it, it is accepted by the general population and by society as an adult form of entertainment, available to every citizen, to which many positive traits are attached. This can be viewed better in the video below, which accurately depicts the history of gambling in the USA.
The Rise of Gambling Addiction Treatment
Once gambling became legal in the United States in the early 1930s, with the rise of Las Vegas as the capital of gambling, and many other states incorporating state lotteries, and racetrack betting as legal forms of entertainment, awareness of gambling addiction spread and rose due to the lessening of the stigma around gambling. It paved the way for the creation of the self-help fellowship Gamblers Anonymous, which was founded in 1957, marking the start of gambling addiction treatment. For over five decades, Gamblers Anonymous has spread the word and helped many gambling addicts find the help they need before gambling addiction has ruined their lives, however, the attention they have brought to problem gambling has ensured that this particular addiction has gotten plenty of attention. Today, there are other centers and organizations around the world that are ready to aid problem gamblers, and scientists have also done research that helps to understand the roots of the addiction better, which enables our society to find better ways to help pathological gamblers.
Treatments vary from participating in anonymous group meetings to following spiritual principles that focus on creating a fundamental change in the pathological gambler. Additionally, Gamblers Anonymous has created a twenty-question test which is used, worldwide, to help diagnose problem gamblers.
Gambling in Modern Media and Technology
Gambling is highly present in today’s media, in all forms. There are poker tournaments available to see on sports television, for example like Travel Channels World Poker Tour, or ESPNs World Series of Poker. Additionally, the rise of technology offers plenty of new forms of gambling, especially online betting on websites such as netbet and others, and online poker champions are making the news just as any other sports champion would.
Now, you can download gambling games like poker, blackjack, or the slots on your mobile phone, and it has become surprisingly easy to develop a gambling problem from the comfort of your home, which was not available a few decades ago. Many countries around the world, from the UK to Australia have gambling markets estimated to be above 500 million, and even more – Australia is considered to have a great problem with gambling, with an estimated 80 percent of the population taking part in some form of gambling.
These facts make it imperative that the modern classification systems and definitions of gambling addiction become known to the wider population. The causes and consequences of gambling addiction can be seen throughout the centuries, and one thing becomes clear: the reasons behind gambling addiction have nothing to do with financial gain, and that addiction depends on the gamblers psychological makings and personal issues. This is especially important in helping people with gambling addiction get help and find the right way to recovery, without suffering relapses and going back to gambling, which is a very common occurrence in recovering gambler addicts.