Problem Gambling Warning Signs

Common Warning Signs to Be Aware of when Assessing

  • Have you ever felt the need to bet more and more money?
  • Have you ever lied to people important to you about how much you gambled?
  • Have you repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back or stop gambling?
  • Do you gamble as a way of escaping emotional or physical pain?
  • Have you ever relied on others to provide money to relieve a desperate financial situation caused by gambling?
  • Have you ever jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job or career opportunity because of gambling?
  • Have you gambled to get money with which to pay debts or to solve other financial problems?
  • Have you borrowed money to finance your gambling?
  • Has gambling ever made your home life unhappy?
  • Do you gamble to try to get your money back?

The Four Phases of Escape Gambling

"Escape" Gambler: (also called late-on-set gambler): Gambling has not been a life-long problem. The gambler may have previously gambled without problems. These gamblers usually play "luck" games such as bingo, lottery, slot or video poker or keno machines.

Not every escape gambler will experience all of the symptoms or progress through the symptoms of a phase in the same order or at the same time. Some may return to a previous stage for a short period of time. This is often seen after a *bailout has occurred. *Bailout: friends or family may pay off loans or bills in an attempt to help the gambler get back on track.

Introductory Phase characteristics may include:

  • Several small or even large monetary winning episodes. Although money is usually secondary for escape gamblers, they may see gambling as a way to solve financial difficulties, become financially independent or make extra money.
  • Emotional escape from life’s problems may be experienced while in the act of gambling.
  • Excitement and living on the edge is another feeling that may be present.

Losing/chasing Phase characteristics may include:

  • Losses are rationalized as bad luck with the “big win” right around the corner
  • The cycle of winning, losing and breaking even begins
  • No win is “enough”
  • Wagers increase
  • Hides gambling activities
  • Lies to cover money spent
  • Unsuccessfully attempts to limit or stop gambling
  • Gambles until last dollar is gone
  • Sells items to finance gambling
  • Feels remorse after gambling
  • Angry when confronted about gambling
  • Receives bailouts

Desperation Phase characteristics may include:

  • Obsessed with gambling
  • Neglects physical well being
  • Loses reputation
  • Loses friends and/or family
  • Commits illegal acts related to gambling including embezzlement, theft, bad checks, insurance or credit card fraud.
  • Receives bailouts
  • Relapses into previous addiction(s)
  • Loses car
  • Loses spouse, children, home and/or job
  • Has frequent thoughts of suicide

Hopeless Phase characteristics may include:

  • Risks possible incarceration
  • Approaches emotional breakdown
  • Faces financial ruin
  • Attempts suicide

Adapted from "Four Phases of Escape Gambling", Arizona Council on Compulsive Gambling