Gambling Addiction vs Problem Gambling – What’s the Difference?

Hands Gripping Jail Bars With a Casino Chip Background

Gambling addiction is known by multiple other names. People often refer to it as compulsive gambling or problem gambling.

The latter term, however, is actually slightly different from a gambling addiction. Problem gaming refers to a specific type of issue.

Odds are, you’re fortunate enough not to have to worry about either a gambling addiction or problem. But if you or somebody else you know struggles with gambling, then you’ll want to know the difference between the two terms.

Characteristics of Gambling Addiction

A gambling addict is somebody who bets compulsively. They don’t really think when they’re betting—they just do.

Oftentimes, an addict doesn’t feel strong emotions when they’re winning big or losing big. They just place a wagers simply to get action.

At the end of the evening, a gambling addict could go through their entire bankroll and not realize it until their last chip is gone.

Hand Holding Casino Chips

Gambling addiction is the result of a deep-seeded problem. For example, somebody who suffered through trauma or has lost their house may use betting as an escape mechanism.

They might start out playing casino games, for example, because they enjoy them. Eventually, though, they’ll begin placing wagers in a mindless state.

This dilemma is particularly worrisome because the addict doesn’t even think about the potential losses. They just keep making bets out of compulsion.

Characteristics of Problem Gambling

Unlike a gambling addict, a problem gambler is aware of what they’re doing. They don’t place wagers out of compulsion but rather a specific desire.

Many problem gamblers start out making harmless wagers. But they quickly spiral downward once the losses mount.

Losing gambling sessions lead to common scenarios where gamblers chase losses. This refers to when somebody gambles purely to win back previously lost bets.

Chasing losses might work if one has an advantage. For example, a skilled poker player or sports better could benefit by using their advantage to win back money.

But the vast majority of people don’t hold an edge when they gamble. Instead, they’re at the mercy of the casino house edge.

Here’s a common scenario that can happen when somebody pursues losses:

  • A blackjack player loses $200 early in the evening.
  • They figure that they’re “due” to win the money back because of the previous bad luck.
  • However, the house holds a 1% advantage over the player.
  • The gambler bets another $10,000 throughout the night.
  • 10,000 x 0.01 = 100
  • The player will theoretically lose another $100 trying to recoup the $200.

Aside from going after previous losses, problem gamblers also make every attempt to hide the situation. They lie to loved ones, steal money, and/or convince themselves that nothing is wrong.

As a result, those with gambling problems will fray or even lose relationships throughout their lives. They especially risk the latter when they continue violating the trust of loved ones through gambling.

What’s Worse – Gambling Addiction or Problem Gambling?

Neither a gambling problem nor addiction is desirable. Both conditions cause one to lose considerable money in the short and long run.is th

If it’s a contest between which one is worse, though, then gambling addiction wins (or loses). It causes people to gamble uncontrollably.

Somebody with a gambling addiction may have difficulty seeing their problem. They simply keep placing bets without a second thought.

Even those who aren’t addicts sometimes have trouble quitting a gambling session. An addiction makes it nearly impossible to leave the casino, stop buying lottery tickets, or stay away from the poker tables.

Ripped Up Lottery Ticket

Of course, problem gambling brings serious challenges as well. Those suffering from a gambling problem may have more control over their situation.

However, they also struggle to contain themselves. Anybody with a problem will make every attempt to win back losses—even when dealing with negative-expectation wagers.

Given that the vast majority of betting propositions are in the negative-expectation category, problem gamblers almost always end up losing more. They sink even further into the pits when lying about their addiction and/or stealing money to continue gambling.

Is There a Cure for a Gambling Problem or Addiction?

Unfortunately, no cure-all exist for either a gambling addiction or problem. The best that one can do is take a multi-step approach when they realize they are gambling too much.

The good news is that plenty of hotlines and programs exist for helping those who struggle with gambling. For example, Gamblers Anonymous has been helping those in need since 1957.

As covered in the next section, gamblers should pursue multiple steps to help themselves. Again, though, no pill or magical method exists for curing an addict.

Those who suffer from an addiction or problem may even need outside intervention. After all, they might not consider themselves to have a problem and get angry when confronted about it.

Steps to Recovery for Problem and Addicted Gamblers

Most people don’t immediately admit that they struggle with gambling and go about fixing the issue. Instead, they usually need to go through the following process.

Step 1: Admit to the Problem

Many gambling addicts fail to see that they place far too many bets. Instead, they may see their wagering as a healthy way to blow off steam.

Problem gamblers often realize that they bet too much. However, they don’t want to admit to anybody that something is wrong.

Man Opening an Empty Wallet

In either case, a gambler needs to recognize and accept that they have a problem. They won’t get any better if they continue betting the same as always.

Step 2: Seek Out Available Resources

Gambling addictions and problems aren’t as common as the general public may believe. In fact, only around 1.5% of those who gamble suffer from degeneracy.

But given that there are 7.7 billion people who gamble worldwide, 1.5% is a large number. A number of organizations have sprung up to treat these people.

Here’s a list of some hotlines and organizations that help people with gambling issues:

Step 3: Commit to the Process

Some gamblers start on the right path towards recovery. But somewhere along the way, they get sidetracked and stop the treatment.

Of course, the same people can always pick up where they left off. Ideally, though, one will commit to a group and/or professional help and stick with it.

Commitment is the only way that one can undertake all of the steps they need to kick a gambling problem or addiction.

Step 4: Realize the Long Journey Ahead

As mentioned above, many gamblers fall off the wagon at some point. They may visit a betting site on their phone under the guise that they’ll merely check out the Super Bowl odds. Next thing they know, they’re wagering on the game and also placing several prop bets.

Or, they could visit a casino resort for a friend‘s bachelor party. The addict might tell themselves that they’re merely at the casino for their friend. By the end of the night, though, they’re betting $50 per blackjack hand.

If avoiding gambling addiction pitfalls were easy, then it wouldn’t be such a hot topic. But it’s not an easy feat, which is why so many people struggle with this issue.

Conclusion

People will likely continue using the terms gambling addiction and problem gambling interchangeably forever. After all, these terms are relatively close in meaning.

As you can see, though, they do feature differences. Gambling addicts place bets out of compulsion and don’t have a second thought about what they’re doing.

Problem gamblers, meanwhile, are aware that they shouldn’t be betting so much. However, they continue gambling too much for one reason or another.

Neither issue is healthy. Anybody who thinks they have a gambling problem or addiction should seek outside help. Likewise, those who know a problem or compulsive gambler should try convincing them to get help.