Gambling: The Nature of an Addict


A poker face dissimulates the compulsive nature of a gambling addict. While risking relationships, careers, education and life savings, the addict submits to the enticing chance of beating the odds against them. Least likely to recognize the addiction, the addict’s life begins to center around the activity, and it even incites him consider committing a crime to support it.

Gambling does not only take place at the casino. Thursday night bingo, weekday lottos, and sports betting can breed gambling addicts. Many people partake in gambling for recreation, not realizing they have evolved into habitual gamblers.

The life of a gambling addict begins to change as the compulsion begins to consume him. Gambling addicts become preoccupied with the chance of beating the odds. More than that, their preoccupation with reliving past gambling experiences and seeking out new ways to get money dictates their behavior. They will use gambling to escape problems and anxiety. The addiction predisposes him to commit illegal acts of forgery, fraud, embezzlement and theft.

Recently, Steven Hagstrom, 37, pleaded guilty to a felony count of embezzlement. Hagstrom embezzled $3.3 million ($1.07 million in the first four months of 2013) from Sentinel – one of the nation’s leading providers of offender supervision services – to support a gambling problem. His lawyer explained to the court that he thought he would win and pay it back. Sentinel fired Hagstrom and he could now face prison time for up to 10 years.

Gamblers will make repetitive, albeit unsuccessful, efforts to control, curtail or cease gambling. The frustration associated with failed efforts will make them restless and irritable. Lying to family members about the addiction will become less distressing for them as the need to gamble further grows into second nature. But when money runs out, they will seek out family and others to replenish lost finances.

Addicts will increase betting amounts to achieve the desired level of excitement. When they lose, they return to chasing their losses, trying to get even. With so much of their time preoccupied, they jeopardize jobs and relationships.

Scott Stevens shot and killed himself in August of 2012. Addicted to gambling with slot machines, Stevens embezzled over $7 million from a company where he was CFO. He confessed to taking the money and was fired. But nearly every day for 10 months after, he gambled at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort in West Virginia. Eventually, he emptied his 401(k) account, the family’s savings and his children’s college funds. On that night, after losing the money, he called 911, then shot himself with his gun as police arrived. His wife, Stacy Stevens, is currently suing Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort.

The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) offers a questionnaire screening tool that determines – based on truthful responses – whether a person may have a gambling addiction. Questions touch on cognitive preoccupations with gambling as well as a history of deceitful and felonious acts. The website offers supportive tools for both the gambling addict and family.

Additional programs, facilities and therapy are available to help the gambling addict. The nature of a gambling addict will manifest in financial inconsistencies, compulsive behaviors and lies. Recognizing the problem early on and seeking help will reduce the probability one would commit a crime to support the addiction, or, forbid worse, suicide.

By Charice Long

Orange County Register
The West Virginia Record

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