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Senior Gambling Addiction Rates Are Soaring in America, Driven by Corporate Greed and Bad Govt. Policy

America's elderly are secretly spinning out of control.

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Atlantic City, New Jersey boasts fabulous amenities for America’s senior citizens. See the broad boardwalk, perfect for fresh air and exercise. Notice the limited-mobility seniors rolling along on rented scooters and the wheelchair-bound joining the fun at easily accessible slot machines and blackjack tables. Feast your eyes on dozens of exotic and affordable buffets, and don't miss the drug discounts and free lunch coupons handed out at every turn. All day and far into the night, the buses zip to and from retirement centers, carrying promises of excitement. And did you hear? Tony Bennett's here tonight, crooning all those songbook classics grandma knows by heart. And she’s not going alone. She found a date on an Atlantic City senior hookup site.

Look: just over there is your neighbor Mr. Jones, professional man and pillar of the community. At 68 he’s the picture of respectability and sound judgment.

Only now he’s hunched over a blackjack table, hands trembling over a stack of plastic chips. Mr. Jones has blown through $200,000 of his retirement savings so far this year. He has fallen behind on his house payments. His children, who live far away, don’t have a clue what Dad has been doing every afternoon these last few months since Mom died. Mr. Jones keeps his habit a secret. Once a sunny optimist, he feel humiliated. Mr. Jones hates the person he has become.

Seniors are the fastest growing population of gamblers. They are gambling away their income, their savings, and their chance for a secure future. When they lose, they can’t make it up or start over.  It’s a no-win game, driven by a greedy industry united in unholy alliance with policy makers and politicians who turn a blind eye to the social and economic costs of gambling.

Grandma, An Addict?

The gambling business is enjoying a heck of a run. In 2012, the “gaming” industry, as the PR folks insist we call it, took in more profits than any year in its history other than 2007, just before the crash. The casino industry alone took in $37 billion from gamblers. Americans are blowing more on gambling than they are spending on professional sports. New technology and loosening regulations make officials confident that the money tide will only keep rising. Especially with an aging population to bet on.

According to the industry’s most recent data, half of all adult visitors to casinos are aged 50 and older. With the rising numbers of seniors who have taken up gambling as a new form of entertainment, more than anyone ever expected have become addicted. From the anonymous schoolteacher who blew her nest egg to public figures like Maureen O'Connor, the first female mayor of San Diego and moral crusader William Bennett, gambling addiction among older Americans knows no social or economic boundaries. One poll found that 70 percent of seniors had gambled in the last year. The gambling addiction hotlines are ringing off the hook, and it’s often Grandma on the line.

Experts predict that with the trend of baby boomers retiring, coupled with factors like the rise of casinos explicitly marketing to seniors, multi-state Powerball lotteries, proliferating slot machines, and a massive online betting surge, the crisis is only just getting started.

Fact: a compulsion can suddenly manifest in an older person with no history of gambling. Seniors have special vulnerabilities, like time on their hands, a need to seek relief and distraction from physical and emotional aches, and loneliness. The fastest-growing group of gambling addicts is senior women, many of whom have lost a spouse and may have children living far away. Feeling marginalized by society, they hunger to fill a void. And the gambling marketers have the ticket for that.