Elderly Gambling

Medical Caution Alert: Mirapax or Requip

These drugs have been associated with elderly becoming compulsive gamblers. See your doctor if you are taking these drugs, especially if you already gamble.


Photo: worried womanSeniors are especially vulnerable to become escape gamblers when several factors come together:

Acceptability – Much of the stigma that once surrounded gambling is now gone, especially for women. Community groups take casino trips often. Lottery tickets are sold everywhere. Casinos market themselves as a fun, exciting and safe entertainment alternative. In short, there is much less stigma attached to saying you are engaged in gambling activities.

Accessibility – Most seniors don’t have to drive far to find a place or a means to gamble. And for those who do, there are bus trips and other gambling packages that make it convenient and affordable.

Lack of knowledge – Most seniors don’t have enough information about addiction to assess the risks. Those providing gambling opportunities are not likely to educate them. As with any addictive behavior, education is often a tremendous deterrent, but in this case, it is not readily available.

Life factors – A number of things may have happened in the person’s life, making them more vulnerable to the anesthetizing quality of escape gambling:

  • Boredom
  • Abuse
  • Loneliness
  • Grief
  • Relocation
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Isolation
  • Chronic pain
  • Lack of identity
  • Fear of death
  • Health problems
  • Loss of income/home
  • Loss of a loved one

Why do seniors gamble?

  • Entertainment – Gambling is fun and allows for escape from worries for awhile.
  • Limited options – for socializing due to availability or physical restraints
  • High disposable income – losing for some will not cause financial burden but repeated losses can quickly deplete large sums of money or create huge debts.
  • “The Big Win” – Lower income seniors chase the possibility of winning big and being set for life.
  • Opportunities/availability – Gambling venues have increased tremendously with the casinos and lotteries. In addition, the internet also provides another alternative for seniors who can’t leave home.
  • Changing cultural values – Gambling was once sinful and immoral. Now it is promoted as safe, fun and wholesome entertainment.
  • Boredom/loneliness – Many seniors have too much time on their hands when they retire or lose a spouse. Gambling fills the void.
  • Casino hospitality – Treat seniors as valued guests and with respect. Casinos are very user friendly.
  • Peer pressure – Everyone else is doing it. What harm can it be? Not rational thinking.
  • Perceived as safe – Guards on duty 24 hours a day, well lit areas make seniors feel safe.
  • Excitement – Glitz and glamour of casino life can be exhilarating for seniors who have never experienced that kind of life.

Information provided by the Illinois Department on Aging.

Help and Hope

If you suspect a problem, let the gambler know that recovery is possible, especially with the help of an experienced counselor. The gambler can regain control of her life. Relationships can heal. Financial pressures can be reduced and self-esteem restored.