Changes in Attitude About the Causes of Problem Gambling

2 April 2003

Once upon a time, a person who became addicted to liquor, drugs or gambling, was thought to be a weak-minded, spineless, morally bankrupt sinner; someone who was cavalier about the welfare of his or her family, unconcerned about the social and financial impact their behaviors had on the community and was too self-absorbed to really try to quit drinking/drugs/gambling.

Today, there is evidence of how views have changed from thinking of an addiction as a sin or vice. This change of perception is evident in the ways addiction is treated, understood, perceived and openly addressed as a public policy health care issue.

What is changing as well is the notion that a game of dice causes a gambling addiction. . . . or the belief that those flashy, glitzy electronic slot machines can make someone a gambling addict. . . . betting on the ponies can surely cause a person to gamble his or her life away or those newfangled scratch-off lottery tickets or VTL’s must beget a lifelong downward spiral to addiction.

This notion has changed over the past few years, in part, as a result of questioning minds who have inspired scientific, peer-reviewed research, including biological and physiological studies, that is helping to answer the question: "What really contributes/begets/makes/causes a gambling addiction?" The National Center for Responsible Gaming in the United States, for example, has advanced the field of gambling addiction research to a new level, and some of the most influential scientific research organizations in North America have acknowledged the critical role of the NCRG in funding some of the most important scientific breakthroughs in the field of gambling addiction. Thanks to the NCRG, and other research institutes such as Alberta Gaming Research Institute, the field of gambling addiction now has promising medications and behavioral treatment options, as well as a new understanding of the brain’s reward system and how dysfunctions in this area can contribute to a gambling addiction.

In time, it will likely become self-evident that an instrument of gaming cannot propel a person into the downward spiral of addiction.

In the meanwhile, lets keep in mind the words of Arthur Schopenhauer: "All truth passes through three states. First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

Responsible gaming… It's the right thing to do.

Elizabeth George is the chief executive officer of the North American Training Institute ( For more than a decade, NATI has provided responsible gaming programs for the gaming and wagering industries throughout the world. Its programs include a 24-hour compulsive gambling Helpline service with language translations, conceptualizing of company responsible gaming mission statements, policy statements, employee assistance programs, program collaborations and customized responsible gaming multimedia programs. For further information, contact: North American Training Institute, 314 West Superior Street, Suite 702, Duluth, MN 55802, USA or (218) 722-1503.