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What Makes Senior Citizens More Vulnerable to Gambling Addiction?

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billboard positing of help number
Valerie Brown

Marketing targeted to attract specific groups is common in the gambling industry and senior citizens are a common focus of it.  But, that may be leading to problems.   

Studies show heightened percentages of problem-gambling among older adults, increased interest in gambling in some dementia cases, even correlations between gambling and medications used to treat health issues that come with aging.

Keith Whyte heads the National Center for Problem Gambling. He says marketing gambling to seniors needs to be re-thought because of all that, but for another reason, too.

“Seniors are often not able to go back into the work place to make up the losses that they’ve suffered.  One bad afternoon at the casino can blow your entire retirement nest egg. And so, the impacts of gambling addiction on seniors can be incredibly damaging and difficult.”

Executive Director NCPG
Credit NCPG
Keith Whyte

Whyte says casinos put problem-gambling warnings in advertising. But, if the marketing targets seniors, the warning need to be crafted for them, too. 

Casinos are popular with senior citizens, and often provide everything from free drinks to scooters and oxygen hook-ups to attract older patrons. But, elder-care groups and addiction experts say as people age, they can become more susceptible to problem gambling.

Whyte says studies show seniors can be more vulnerable because of issues ranging from loneliness to the side-effects of medication.


Executive Director Keith Whyte of the National Center on Problem Gambling

“For example, ... one of the main treatments for Parkinson’s has a warning from the FDA saying that there is a much higher risk of developing a gambling problem because of the effect that the medication has on the areas of the brain that also govern decision to gamble. So, there are a number of risk factors clustered for the senior population. But, unfortunately, not a lot of specific programs or treatments.”