Gambling disorder does not discriminate against gender, race, age, language, culture, or socioeconomic group. It’s an addiction we’re uncomfortable talking about, yet we know it lives in all of our communities. It’s hard to understand how someone can struggle with something that seems so normalized. No one chooses addiction. It is a physiological condition that affects the brain and takes control of an individual’s behavior and consumes their lives.

People in Recovery

Gambling problems can be devastating, but with the right support and/or treatment the gambler can recover and lead a healthy life again.

Those new to recovery are particularly vulnerable. Remember, this is a chronic disease and for most, continued peer and family support will be vital to maintaining recovery. 

Difficult but meaningful choices in favor of one’s recovery may include:

  • Leaving behind friendships, especially those directly connected to one’s gambling.
  • Rebuilding family relationships.
  • Making financial amends.
  • Seeking new employment or a relocating for a fresh start.

It’s important for those in recovery to establish new, healthy patterns and choices. Unfortunately newly recovered individuals may adopt a new addiction to replace the old. It’s important for the individual to understand the risks of relapse and to build support systems so when they’re feeling vulnerable, there’s help to keep them on track.

How to Avoid Relapsing?

Relapse is not an end of one’s road to recovery.  Recovery is not easy and setbacks can and do happen. Instead of hiding it or fearing the stigma, it’s best to open up to a loved one, a support group, or a health specialist. If you’re following a 12-step program, reengage in it. If you’ve stopped meeting with your counselor, reconnect. If you have tried going cold turkey, perhaps a more structured approach could be helpful.

#1 Talk It Out
Talk out your issue or urge to gamble with someone who you trust and who has supported you in your recovery.

#2 Don’t Beat Yourself Up
If you do relapse, don’t spend too much time agonizing over this. It happens and the fact you feel guilty means that you are advancing in your recovery.

#3 Find Engaging Hobbies
Channel your determination to maintain your recovery into a healthy hobby or activity. Join a new group or get your friends or family involved.

#4 Exercise Helps
Even 15 minutes of exercise a day can help you achieve much better mental health. Exercise releases dopamine and boosts your cognitive and mental abilities, leading to a healthier lifestyle free of cravings to achieve momentary satisfaction.

#5 Remember, You Never Win
Remind yourself gambling is statistically stacked against you. You cannot realistically expect the win; the odds are against you, and this is always the case.


The prevalence of both gambling and problem gambling is much higher among military personnel and veterans compared to the general population and highest among minorities. Moreover, problem gambling tends to co-occur with other disorders, such as substance abuse, intimate partner violence (IPV), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and suicide, the rates of which have also been found to be high among those who have served in the military.

While there are many opportunities for veterans and enlisted personnel to gamble in the United States and overseas, many members of the military do not have access to treatment for gambling problems and may face disciplinary action after seeking help.

For additional information go to, a site sponsored by the National Council on Problem Gambling.

Why call attention to this?
  • Gambling treatment services are the most ethical and economical way to help prevent problems, protect mental health and improve readiness.
  • At least 3,000 slot machines at military installations overseas are available to members of the Armed Forces and their families.
  • It is estimated that these slot machines generate over $100,000,000 in profits.
  • None of these profits or any Department of Defense funds are dedicated to programs to prevent or treat gambling addiction.
  • Prevention and treatment programs reduce costs, improve morale, welfare and readiness and, most importantly, save lives.


Minnesota is comprised of dozens of immigrant and indigenous communities. Each has its own understanding of gambling and attitudes toward those who may not be able to “just walk away” when losses outnumber wins. While the physiological and psychological effects of gambling disorder are similar no matter what ethnic or racial group one belongs to, cultural and environmental norms play a huge role in the way gambling addictions are perceived and treated within these communities.

Issues of inequity must also be addressed. Most treatment models and those trained are primarily from the dominant culture. There is a great need to develop and fund culturally appropriate services. There is some movement on the federal and state levels to offer incentives to treatment providers to offer culturally and linguistically appropriate services (CLAS). As demographics continue to change, offering services that reflect the communities being served will help to encourage more to seek the help they need and deserve.

More outreach efforts are needed to explain what problem gambling is and the available resources. In many communities, elders and spiritual leaders play important roles. Thus, there is a need for increased training among these community leaders to foster conversations about gambling, even before the concept of treatment is broached. Additionally, there needs to be a greater acceptance of culturally based treatments that can be supplemented with traditional western-style treatment to aid in the individual’s recovery.

All Minnesotans are eligible to seek help through a state-approved gambling treatment provider, whether they have insurance coverage or not. A referral can be received by calling 1-800-333-HOPE (4673).

If you are a community leader and have interest in taking specific community leader training, contact


One of the DHS Community Engagement grantee recipients, Asia Media Access has developed a 5-point strategy to try to increase awareness of problem gambling throughout their very diverse community.

  1. Community engagement and story development
  2. Provide problem gambling prevention training
  3. Provide alternative activities and community events to replace gambling and breaking away
  4. Teach Asian American youth to utilize the multimedia and information technology tools to create peer-to peer education materials to combat problem gambling.
  5. Develop culturally responsive “Bicultural Healthy Living” Awareness Campaign.

Here are samples of the story development in which they created statements that capture the prevalent concepts about gambling.

Asia Media Problem Gambling Project

MNAPG collaborated with Asian Media Access to provide a postcard for a meal distribution event where one side indicated the signs of problem gambling and the other tips for lower risk gambling. The card has been translated in Chinese, Hmong, and Vietnamese. These are available to order. See the link below.

Additional Research on Asian Communities

Study of Lao Gambling, Substance Abuse, and Help Seeking Attitudes, Serena M. King, Ph.D, L.P, commissioned by MNAPG, 2019

Addiction Among Asian Americans, Editorial Staff, American Addiction Centers, Update February 2021


PROGESSIVE INDIVIDUAL RESOURCES (PIR) is a DHS Community Engagement grantee and their focus is to communicate with the Minnesota immigrants from Sub-Saharan Africa, which includes communities representing 46 countries. PIR is one of Minnesota’s approved problem gambling providers and offers free counseling services for anyone whose private insurance won’t cover these services or if you don’t have any insurance at all.

PIR has formed collaborative partnerships with five leading African organizations and are developing an engagement strategy consistent with the needs of the African community.

Much of their work to date consists of creating culturally relevant outreach materials and programs. Here is a sample.

KDRTV (Kenya, Diaspora Radio and TV)

A four-part series on YouTube directed to the East African community, hosted by Dr. Jeremiah Okari.

  • Guest speakers Dr. Richard Oni – Director of Progressive Information Resources, Inc. (PIR, Inc.)
  • Bili Banjoko, Psychotherapist, Certified MN Problem Gambler Counselor,
    1. September 17, 2020 Gambling Effects on Immigrants – 30 minutes
      1. October 8, 2020 Gambling and Addiction – 37:56 minutes,
      2. October 15, 2020 Consequences of Gambling and How to Avoid Them 4.
        1. October 22,2020

A PSA on Problem Gambling in English and Pigeon English


Many older adults enjoy gambling as a fun recreational activity. However, for some it can become an addiction, bringing potentially devastating consequences. Gambling opportunities are plentiful for seniors; casinos, lottery products, bingo and online gambling are more available than ever.

Gambling Is Increasingly Popular Among Older Adults

Seniors are one of the fastest growing groups of gamblers. One study found that gambling was the most frequently identified social activity among adults over 65, with casinos and bingo surpassing movies, lunch, shopping and golf as preferred social activities.

Concerns about Older Adults and Problem Gambling

Gambling among older adults is different from gambling in younger age groups for the following reasons:

  • When people are coping with big changes or loss, they are more vulnerable to developing a gambling problem; many older adults face life transitions and losses, such as death of loved ones, end of career or isolation from family and friends.
  • Older adults who have gambled away their retirement savings don’t have working years to make up their losses.
  • Older adults may not understand addiction, making them less likely to identify a gambling problem.
  • Older adults can be less willing to seek assistance for a gambling problem than younger adults.
  • Many older adults hide their gambling because of the stigma associated with it, and health professionals rarely assess for problem gambling.
  • Older adults often have easy access to gambling and are drawn to gambling to fill their time or to be with other people.
  • Some older adults may have cognitive impairment that interferes with their ability to make sound decisions.
Casinos Market Heavily to Seniors

Casinos cater to seniors by enticing them with free bus transportation, free or discounted meals and entertainment, promotional coupons (such as player reward cards) and other prizes. Casinos also provide seniors with wheelchairs or motorized scooters to make them feel at home in their facilities

A story on PBS News Hour, August 13, 2019 by Nate Halverson, Reveal, highlighted one woman’s experience with social casinos and the predatory nature of the gaming operators to encourage continued play. Since the airing of this segment, Big Fish Games was sued and a large financial judgement was awarded through a class action lawsuit. However, these games overall remain unregulated and can prey on vulnerable people.

Signs of Gambling Addiction in Seniors

Because seniors tend to live away from their younger family members, their addiction can remain hidden for long stretches of time. However, there are some detectable signs that an older adult may have a gambling addiction. Seniors may:

  • gamble to calm nerves, forget worries or reduce depression,
  • lose interest in other things, such as food,
  • talk about, think about or plan to gamble and not do other activities,
  • lie about gambling habits,
  • appear withdrawn or frequently unavailable,
  • be vague when describing their days and activities,
  • have sold off their valuable possessions for unexplained reasons,
  • talk a lot about exciting wins – but never discuss their losses,
  • gamble alone or gamble more often,
  • get into arguments about gambling,
  • go without basic needs in order to gamble,
  • need to gamble more and more money in order to get the desired effect,
  • experience health problems related to gambling like lethargy, headaches, bladder problems, anxiety and depression, and
  • have financial problems caused by gambling.


As gambling options have increased and become more accepted, women have been swept up into the gambling current.

Gambling to Escape

Women can develop gambling problems for many reasons, but the most common is to “escape” their problems: they gamble as a way to avoid people, circumstances and/or emotions. When an escape gambler is feeling strong negative emotions (sadness, loneliness, anger, etc.) they may turn to gambling as a way to avoid confronting those emotions or the root causes of them. Because of this, escape gamblers often lose track of time passing, money lost and other people. Wins (or near-wins) become more exciting and may result in feelings of accomplishment or increased self-worth.

Some women may have gambled socially for many years without adverse effects, and then developed a problem following a significant lifestyle change(s). Events such as retirement, divorce or a personal loss (such as a death) may cause them to seek an escape. This is even more common among women who have suffered other addictions (drugs, alcohol) or compulsive or psychological disorders in the past

Internet gambling

Studies show more women are attracted to social casino games (which are free to play initially and then encourage the player to purchase virtual coins with real money). There is no financial gain in these games. Studies also show that women affected by gambling (either their own or a loved one’s) will usually hide the problem, which may lead them to become secretive and silenced by shame, guilt or fear.

Sports Betting

A growing concern is the increasing number of women who are betting on sports. Once thought to be a purely male activity women are being directly marketed to by sports betting licensees, especially in markets where online gambling is accessible. This will be an area to watch as sports betting expands across the nation and more and more are drawn to online sports betting apps.

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