Types of Gamblers and Gambling Addiction

Different ways of gambling

gambling collage

There are many ways in which people can gamble. There are scratch cards, sweepstakes, online gambling, slots, betting in a traditional bookies on horses, football – anything you care to mention – and many other myriad forms of gambling available. There is chance-based gambling such as playing the lottery, roulette, bingo or gaming machines in which the results are random.

Alternatively there is skill-based gambling – such as betting on races and playing poker or blackjack in which ability or skill can influence the chances of winning and losing.

Types of gamblers

There have been 6 types of gamblers identified (by an academic called Professor Robert Custer). These are as follows:

  1. Professional Gamblers. These people consider that they can earn a living from gambling. They do not consider themselves to have an addiction and most will not. They are quite rational and calm in their approach and rely on calculations and statistics; they pick bets or games that they believe they will win more frequently. They understand the inevitable risks and losses that come with gambling but believe that careful playing of ‘the system’ means that they can gain an income from it. After a period of time they decide that the risk is too much and switch to making a living by more conventional means
  2. Antisocial Personality Gamblers tend to cheat. They are drawn to the illegal side of gambling, fixing bets and conning people. They may be charming but the other side of them is manipulative, and they may switch the charm on and off, showing their irritability and aggression. They are deceitful and rarely feel remorse for what they have done and the harm caused.
  3. Casual Social Gamblers bet infrequently. They may occasionally play the lottery for fun, for example. They will enjoy being in the office sweepstake and as a result take a more keen interest in the sweepstake event. Gambling is just one of many of their recreational activities and they can take it or leave it. It is unlikely that this type of gambler will develop a gambling habit. If they do it will tend to be due to some trauma in their life or following an unexpected big win
  4. Serious Social Gamblers gamble for a hobby but it is an important hobby to them. They can control their gambling habit in the same way that someone who enjoys going to the theatre or reading a book can enjoy their hobby. It is not an addiction. Like casual social gamblers they are unlikely to get a destructive habit unless they experience trauma or a big win. They may also go on to develop a habit if they find it hard to deal with stress and anxiety in their life and start to use gambling as a form of escapism. If they do this they are likely to move into the next category of gambling…..
  5. Relief and Escape Gamblers bet to change the way they feel. They tend to want to escape feelings of isolation and loneliness, stress or feeling low and worthless. Although their gambling is not totally out of control, this type of gambler is vulnerable and at risk of developing a serious problem. They may start to chase losses.
  6. Compulsive-Pathological Gamblers have no control over their habit. They will lie and start to have a secret life. Although these gambling addicts form only a small percentage of the population (probably around 1%) their habits are extremely destructive and the effects on them and those who love them are extreme.

Problem gambling is when the effects on the individual’s life are negative and yet the habit continues.

Well known problem gamblers

Gambling addiction has affected many well known people.

Tiger Woods may be best known as a golfer but he has a serious gambling habit. He thinks nothing of betting $25,000 and the MGM in Las Vegas has banned him from putting down a stake of more than $1 million.

Charlie Sheen is infamous for his addictive personality. According to his ex wife, Charlie has been known to spend $200,00 a week on gambling.

Gladys Knight says in her autobiography that she fought gambling addiction for nearly 10 years.

Floyd Mayweather was a successful boxer with a gambling problem. He was known to spend $400,00 a time on a stake – and even on one occasion up to $3 million.

Ben Afflek won the California State Poker championship in 2014. He has been suspected of fraudulent play and counting cards and as a result has been banned from the Las Vegas Hard Rock Casino.

50 Cent has been known to gamble high stakes on sports events. He bet $500,000 on New York Giants v San Francisco 49ers. Fortunately he won.

In the UK, Jeremy Kyle, the now displaced chat show host, has admitted his past destructive gambling addiction. Jeremy visited betting shops every day when he was in his 20s and though he talks about his debt of £12,000 – which might not seem much in the context of the big gamblers mentioned above – for him at that time it was a huge burden to bear. It led to him stealing from his then wife’s account and eventually contributed to the destruction of his marriage.

This contrast between the stakes put up by the likes of Tiger Woods, Charlie Sheen, 50 Cent et al and Jeremy Kyle only goes to highlight a central point: it is not the amount of the debt or the stakes committed that matters. It is whether or not the individual can afford to put the money up and lose it. For some people, betting their last £10 is not affordable and it should have been spent on something much more important.

What type of person becomes a gambling addict?

As with all addictions, a destructive gambling habit can affect anyone – young and old, wealthy and those with little or no disposable income, those with good careers and those out of work, the academically gifted and the less well educated;  those with a faith and those without. It is an illness that does not discriminate in terms of those afflicted with it. The addicted gamblers cannot help themselves from gambling even though they will never win.

Below is a quote from a family member who was left with crippling debts by his gambling son:

There has never been a poor bookmaker or poor casino operator. The whole industry is rigged to hurt people. The occasional win hides a wall of losses. I have studied bookmaker financial accounts.

Slots are programmed to make you lose.

Football odds are set such that the bookmaker always wins.

They let the gambler have an occasional win to keep him hooked.

This particular individual wanted the whole industry closed down. That maybe too extreme a reaction given that many people get innocent pleasure from the odd bet or gamble in a sweepstake, on a football accumulator etc. After all it would be a rare person who called for all the pubs to be closed and all sales of alcohol in restaurants and supermarkets to be stopped because alcoholics exist.

There is no doubt that gambling addiction is destructive. The financial stakes, debts and ruin form just a part of the harm caused. Before that the gambler will almost certainly have been lying, cheating and stealing. He or she will probably have displayed the not so pleasant character traits of the alcoholic and drug addict: their addiction will have taken over their life.

Help available for the gambling addict

The gambling industry offers the facility for gambling addicts to voluntarily exclude themselves. Around 30,000 people take advantage of this each year. However, two-thirds of these excluders cannot keep it up and breech their own self-exclusion. Around a fifth cancel their self exclusion after a minimum period of time. Gambling addiction is hard to beat without experienced support and help. Many addiction treatment centres will be able to offer advice, as will Gamblers Anonymous.