Know When You Are In Over Your Head

by Hank Coleman

Sadly, this is the last post in a seven part Las Vegas themed series, “What Las Vegas Can Teach You About Your Personal Finances”. In case you did not know, this week’s posts are brought to you directly from Las Vegas, Nevada and more accurately now…the airport where I have made a nice deposit into the glittering city in the desert and have decided to cut my losses and reluctently head home.

Gambling addiction, or compulsive gambling, is a serious problem in America that affects millions of people and can ruin your life, career, and marriage. A big problem was that many gamblers win a little here and a little there, and that keeps them going through the string of bad luck that seemed to go on forever.

It is called the gambler’s fallacy when you think that your luck is sure to change because you have been on a huge losing streak even though the odds of winning or losing have not changed. My wife wanted to play roulette on our recent trip to Las Vegas. She asked me about the list of numbers that is displayed above the wheel where they record which numbers have hit recently. Many gamblers use these numbers as a guide for their betting. They mistakenly think that if a certain section of the wheel has hit repeatedly over the past few spins, then that section must be lucky or hot, or another section is “due” to win now. This is the epitome of the gambler’s fallacy. There are thirty-six numbers on the wheel and usually zero and double zero for a total of thirty-eight chances. The odds of your number landing are 38 to 1 every time with no exceptions. After the ball lands on double zero, you still have a 38 to 1 chance that it will land on double zero on the very next roll. The wheel does not remember past winning numbers.

Two and a half million adults in America are pathological gamblers and another three million of them should be considered problem gamblers. It is estimated that almost half of all Americans gamble in some capacity. It was recently reported in Money Magazine that researchers at Harvard found that the average household spends $514 per year on lotteries alone, which is more than their total annual spending on dairy products.

There are definitely some warning signs that you may be in over your head with gambling. Have you ever missed work to go gambling? Have you ever felt remorse after gambling? Have you ever gambled to get money to pay debts or solve financial difficulties? After losing, do you feel you must return as soon as possible to win back your losses? After winning, do you have a strong urge to return and win more? Have you ever borrowed money to finance your gambling? Have you ever sold anything to finance your gambling? These are just a few of the warning signs of gambling addiction and a gambling problem.

Like most addicts, admitting that you have a problem is the first step. I hope that anyone who thinks that they may have a problem with gambling addiction will take a long hard look at their life and their habits. If you are questioning your gambling habits, then you might very well have a problem. It may be the first sign that you are in over your head.

This is the seventh and final post of the seven part series of what Las Vegas can teach us all about personal finance. Check out the other posts in the series below…

Just to be clear….in no way am I advocating gambling. If you think that you may have a gambling problem, you should find help as soon as you can. There is help available. You can find help andresources at the Gambler’s Anonymous website, the National Council on Problem Gambling, and the National Center of Responsible Gaming.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ryan April 15, 2010 at 12:43 pm

I’ve enjoyed this series, Hank. Gambling can be fun, but for most people, it needs to be keep at that level – just a hobby, with spending and time limits. Only a very few people can make a living as professional gamblers. The rest of us subsidize them and the casinos!

MichelleTee April 15, 2010 at 12:55 pm

thanks for the excellent post. Gambling addiction is increasing due to easy access on your computer, as well as casinos in your backyard. It is a tragedy, because casino games, especially slots are highly addictive.

Thanks for you informative post and resources as well!

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