Seniors, having worked their entire lives and raised families, look forward to settling into their golden years. For an increasing number of the elderly, that period of rewards for a life well-lived is being compromised. This threat stems from the increasing role gambling in their lives. For people on a fixed income, losing a significant amount of money through betting can be devastating and even irreparable.
The elderly account for a considerable amount of casino revenue — up to 66%. Slot machines, in particular, appeal to seniors. Casinos and other gambling sites entice seniors through such things as free transportation, inexpensive meals, and bonuses for gamblers. And while the majority may do their gambling at a casino, technology can deliver the casino to one’s phone. Online gambling apps make it possible to replicate the casino games of chance on smartphones. One does not have to be especially tech-savvy to use these apps, as many grandparents have discovered.
Seniors are vulnerable to excess gambling for several reasons. The two contributing factors are that they have time on their hands and money in their bank accounts. These two elements make them prey for the gaming industry. Senior residences have long promoted bus trips to the casinos. Closer to home, bingo is a popular form of betting among seniors and if done. Bingo may seem innocuous, but done to excess, it can lead to a gambling problem as serious as one would find in a casino.
For someone who has lost a spouse, gambling can be a distraction from their grief and loneliness — the elderly are characterized as “escape” gamblers. Seniors also may be facing health issues and use gambling as a diversion from those. These health issues are early-stage dementia, which of course, affects seniors’ decision-making. Whatever the cause, once someone nears or enters retirement and gambles away their nest egg, in nearly all cases, they will not be able to recover it.
In response to the growing influence of gambling on seniors, the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey (CCGNJ) focuses a great deal of its prevention and education on this demographic. Staff regularly make visits to senior housing and assisted living facilities to caution residents about the growing risk.
For casino gamblers of all ages, CCGNJ staff stresses a remedy to excessive casino gambling: register with the state’s self-exclusion program. Under this initiative, those who register in person at either the Division of Gaming Enforcement in Trenton (140 E. Front St.) or at their offices in Atlantic City (Tennessee Ave. and the Boardwalk) will be prohibited from casinos. Once registered, an individual identified by a casino’s security is escorted off the premises, and they will not be able to collect any winnings. One can self-exclude from online gambling by going to www.njportal.com/dge/selfexclusion. People can register for one year, five years, or a lifetime.
Seniors deserve our respect and, when required, our care. They should not be viewed as marks and have their life savings put at risk. If your staff has reason to think any of your senior constituents may be experiencing a gambling problem, have them contact us at 1-800-Gambler.