Who are pathological gamblers?

Tim, age 22, plans his entire life around gambling. He has a job, but he’s received some bad performance appraisals in the past few years for leaving early and for making personal calls at work to make or check on bets. Tim isn’t worried. He only cares about gambling anyway, and the job finances his heavy betting. On Monday night he plays the slots; Tuesdays are for the dog races. Wednesdays are when he buys his lottery tickets at the convenience store. Nothing much goes on Thursdays, which makes him pretty anxious on that day. But then there is Friday, with betting on weekend sports events among his friends. And then more bets on Saturday and Sunday.

If his loses leave him with very little money, Tim feels like he has to “chase” those losses. Tim is a pathological gambler, a young male whose life is centered on the excitement that gambling brings to it. Pathological gamblers come in both genders, and all ethnicities, ages, and personalities. Researches have made some generalizations about this group. For example, males are about twice as likely to become addicted to gambling than females. Although some girls and women do gamble excessively. Many gamblers are adults, but often gambling starts in adolescence or young adulthood. In fact, studies have shown that earlier ages of gambling are predictive for lifelong pathological gambling.

Some researches have found common personality traits among pathological gamblers, such as a high level of impulsivity and/or novelty-seeking. Renee Cunningham-Williams and collegues have found that those gamblers who scored high in novelty-seeking were four times more likely to be pathological gamblers. Than those individiuals who were found to be low in the trait.

Characteristics of Pathological and Problem Gamblers

Some people gamble on the internet, but the demographics of internet gamblers are largely the same as those who gamble “off-line”: young, male, and African American, with low levels of education and income. Many studies have shown that pathological gamblers are largely African America, while some are Native American, Asian, or Hispanic. In general, whites have the lowest percentage of pathological gamblers.

Lower and Higher income Pathological Gamblers

Although many pathological gamblers are lower income and unemployed, some do have money and jobs. Some researches have found major differences between lower income and higher income pathological gamblers. For example, in their 2007 article on gambling, Rachel A. Volberg and Matt Wray compared pathological gamblers earning less than $35,000 a year to those earning $35,000 a year or more. They found several distinctive differences: For example, about two-thirds of the lower income pathological gamblers were male (64%) but among the higher income gamblers, a much higher percentage 86% were male. Clearly, although males still represent the majority of pathological gamblers in both strata, there are more female pathological gamblers among lower income subjects.

The researches also found racial disparities related to income. For example, less than half of the lower income subjects were white (44%), but among the higher income pathological gambles, the rate of whites was 77%. In considering pathological gamblers who borrowed from others to finance their gambling, lower income gamblers were almost twice as likely to borrow from relatives, while the higher income gamblers were more than twice as likely to borrow the money they needed for gambling from banks or loan companies. In addition, the higher income gamblers were much more likely to cash in ther stocks and bonds (25%) compared to the lower income gamblers (6%). Obviously the higher income gamblers had more assets from which to draw in order to support their gambling problem.

Gamblers Generally are Poorly Educated

Many studies have found that individuals with only a high school education or less than a high school education have a greater risk for pathological gambling and problem gambling than individuals with higher education. This doesn’t mean that college graduates are never pathological gamblers, but that they have a lower risk for this disorder.