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Gambling Addiction From Wyoming to Maine

Recent stories on gambling addiction from both sides of America shed light on the nature of this behavioral addiction.

First up, in Wyoming, the state is bracing for new legalized gambling operations, and the Wyoming Council on Problem Gambling is gearing up for new challenges. Executive Director Adelaide Wilson tells the Laramie Boomerang:

Problem gambling differs very little from substance use disorder in its impact on individuals and families. And it’s often more difficult to see in a loved one. There’s no smell or slurring of words, but it has an economic and emotional impact on families all the same. It also tends to go hand-in-hand with substance use disorders and mental health issues.

Wilson points out that people with gambling problems are “6 to 17 times more likely to commit suicide.” The source for that number is not shared and the range seems rather large, but there is no doubt that suicide and gambling addiction go hand in hand. A recent meta study in Frontiers in Psychology of suicide among those with gambling problems provides some very sobering numbers from all over the world:

Suicidality amongst those who gamble at problematic levels is notably higher than in the general population. In Italy, the incidence rate ratio for suicide among those diagnosed with gambling disorder was 93.72 compared to the general population.

In Sweden, individuals with diagnosed gambling disorder have been shown to have a 1.8-fold increase in mortality and a 15-fold increase in suicide mortality compared to the general population. Based on another Swedish population-based study, suicidal attempts were twice as common among those who gamble problematically (6.6 percent) compared to controls (3.3 percent). Suicidal ideations were almost twice as common among those who gamble problematically (21.2 percent) compared to controls (11.2 percent).

In a UK population study, 19.2 percent of problem gamblers had thought about suicide in the past year, in comparison to 4.1 percent among those with no signs of problem gambling. In the same study, 4.7 percent of problem gamblers had made a suicide attempt in the past year, in comparison to 0.6 percent of those with no problem gambling.

The meta study notes that young people are especially susceptible to problem gambling and suicide ideation. Since it’s illegal for minors to gamble, where is this gambling addiction originating from?

The source, according to a recent article in Lewiston, Maine, is lottery scratch-off tickets. Lori Mason, problem gambling coordinator for AdCare ME, told WABI radio,

It was a big surprise to me when I found out that research has shown that gifting youth with lottery products such as scratch tickets can actually be a risk factor for developing a gambling problem. That’s supported by multiple studies from the National Council on Problem Gambling, but why?

It’s partially because their brain hasn’t fully developed yet. 2.2% of Maine students ages 14-18 report that they have a problem with gambling and that problem isn’t just financial. Gambling problems cause trouble in family life, with their friends, with their schoolwork.

The National Council on Problem Gambling reports that about 2.2% of Maine kids, ages 14-18, have reported some kind of addiction when it comes to gambling. The Council has started a program to alert families to the dangers of giving scratch-off lottery tickets as gifts or stocking stuffers for minors. Please remember to gift responsibly this holiday season and don’t encourage children to gamble.

Written by Steve O’Keefe. First published December 8, 2023.


“New office in Buffalo combats ‘the hidden addiction’,” Laramie Boomerang, December 2023.

“Gambling-related suicides and suicidality: A systematic review of qualitative evidence,” Frontiers in Psychology, October 2022.

“Report Indicates Some Maine Youth Struggle W/ Gambling Addiction,” WABI Radio, December 2023.

Image Copyright: payphoto.



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