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Survey affirms that gambling addiction is not about the money


FARGO, N.D. – The director of a statewide gambling addiction treatment program says that a new data analysis verifies what the Lutheran Social Services Gamblers Choice program has observed during its 25 years of treating compulsive gamblers – that gambling addictions are not about the money.

“Although many gamblers are motivated early on by winning money, the addiction is really about escaping negative feelings and difficult life experiences,” said Lisa Vig, director of Lutheran Social Services Gamblers Choice.

“Most problem gamblers describe positive euphoric feelings while gambling or they experience emotional numbness or ‘zoning out,’” she noted.

The new survey analysis entitled North Dakota Problem Gamblers Characteristics 2006-2012, recently completed by WooMi Phillips, Ph.D., assistant professor and hospitality management program coordinator at North Dakota State University, Fargo, shows that 29 percent of the 136 problem gamblers surveyed had sought individual professional treatment for other addiction problems prior to seeking help for a gambling addiction, and 24 percent had sought such treatment in a group setting.

Many problem gamblers who enter the Lutheran Social Services Gamblers Choice program report they have already “conquered” another addiction, only to move on to develop a gambling addiction problem.

“As a result, we don’t really talk very much about gambling during treatment,” Vig explained. “We work on how to live in an honest, healthy way and we help our clients find new ways to cope with life’s difficult situations.”

The survey results are being released in conjunction with National Gambling Awareness Week, March 4-10. The 136 adults surveyed from throughout North Dakota and western Minnesota had voluntarily completed the questionnaires at the outset of their Lutheran Social Services Gamblers Choice treatment program from 2006 to 2012.

“Financial problems can be a component of problem gambling,” Vig said, “but success in treating the addiction usually involves learning to manage emotions in a healthy new way.”

The survey reveals that 84 percent of the 136 compulsive gamblers surveyed had lied to family members, friends or others in order to hide their gambling; • 81 percent experienced preoccupation with gambling; • 77 percent believed their gambling was a way to escape personal problems or relieve uncomfortable emotions; • 76 percent had unsuccessfully tried to cut down or stop gambling; • 71 percent had relied on others to pay gambling debts or pay their bills due to financial problems caused by gambling; and • 51 percent had committed illegal acts such as writing bad checks, theft, forgery, embezzlement or fraud to finance their gambling habit.

Lutheran Social Services Gamblers Choice treatment and support services are available at Lutheran Social Services offices in Fargo, Bismarck, Grand Forks, Minot and Williston. The 32-week program serves about 150 problem gamblers and their families each year from throughout North Dakota and western Minnesota with group, individual and family counseling.

Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota is a nonprofit social services agency serving thousands of North Dakotans from offices in five cities with 19 programs that strengthen individuals, families and communities without regard to clients’ race, religion, gender or economic status.

For additional information on Lutheran Social Services Gamblers Choice, call 877-702-7848 or see the Lutheran Social Services Gamblers Choice website at The information available on the website includes free questionnaires for potential problem gamblers and their family members entitled “Signs & Symptoms” and “Does Someone You Know Have a Gambling Problem” that can help identify compulsive gamblers.

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Lisa Vig, Director, Lutheran Social Services Gamblers Choice, 701-271-3279


Kathryn Trill, Communications Manager, Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, 701-271-3289,

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