How to determine what is what

Gambling is one of the few activities that the United States federal government has largely left alone. The responsibility largely falls with state and local governments. Depending on the state, types of gambling can include sports betting, horse/dog race betting, lotteries, bingo/charitable betting, commercial gaming, online gaming, as well as Native American gaming. 

Forty years ago, two states had legal gambling and 48 states outlawed it. Today, 48 states have some form of legal gambling. Only Utah and Hawaii prohibit the activity of gambling. Needless to say, the accessibility to gambling opportunities has increased nationwide.  

The National Council on Problem Gambling notes the following statistics. 

  • 15 percent of Americans gamble at least once per week. 
  • Approximately two to three percent of Americans meet the criteria for problem gambling. That is nearly 6 million adults and about a half million teens. 
  • Approximately 6 percent of college students in America have a gambling problem.  
  • Approximately 76 percent of problem gamblers are likely to have a major depressive disorder. 
  • About 40 percent of people with a gambling problem started gambling before the age of 17. 

After reading these statistics, you may find yourself wondering what distinguishes problematic gambling from recreational gambling. Often this is determined by assessing how much time, thought, effort, and money an individual dedicates towards gambling. 

If you are curious whether your gambling is recreational or more problematic, the following 20 questions from Gamblers Anonymous might be helpful to you.  

  1.  Did you ever lose time from work due to gambling? 
  2. Has gambling ever made your home life unhappy? 
  3. Did gambling affect your reputation? 
  4. Have you ever felt remorse after gambling? 
  5. Did you ever gamble to get money with which to pay debts or otherwise solve financial difficulties? 
  6. Did gambling cause a decrease in your ambition or efficiency? 
  7. After losing, did you feel you must return as soon as possible and win back your losses? 
  8. After a win, did you ever have a strong urge to return and win more? 
  9. Did you often gamble until your last dollar was gone? 
  10. Did you ever borrow to finance your gambling? 
  11. Have you ever sold anything to finance gambling? 
  12. Were you reluctant to use gambling money for normal expenditures? 
  13. Did gambling make you careless of the welfare of yourself or your family? 
  14. Did you ever gamble longer than you planned? 
  15. Have you ever gambled to escape worry or trouble? 
  16. Have you ever committed, or considered committing, an illegal act to finance your gambling? 
  17. Did gambling cause you to have difficulty sleeping? 
  18. Do arguments, disappointments, or frustration create within you an urge to gamble? 
  19. Did you have an urge to celebrate good fortune by a few hours of gambling? 
  20. Have you ever considered self-destruction or suicide as a result of your gambling? 
If you answered "yes" to seven or more of these questions, your gambling behaviors may be problematic rather than recreational. However, help is available. Please check out our list of campus and local resources; or if you are an MSU employee, spouse, or benefits eligible family member of an MSU employee contact the MSU Employee Assistance Program to schedule a discussion with a licensed professional today. 

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