Las Vegas Seniors Sucked In By Gambling Addiction

By John Lavitt 03/20/14

As the world's gambling mecca and a top retirement destination, Las Vegas ensnares unsuspecting seniors armed with Social Security checks and a load of free time.

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Gambling addiction is ripping apart the very fabric of retirement dreams as the lifeblood of the city becomes poison for Las Vegas seniors. The paradoxical dichotomy at the heart of this boomtown lies between its core identity as the gambling capital of the United States and it’s growing lure as a top retirement destination with a dry hot climate like Arizona. When the temptation of gambling meets tons of free time, the result can be nothing less than disaster.

For most visitors to Las Vegas, gambling is an entertaining pastime to be enjoyed side-by-side with the other vacation offerings like celebrity concerts, magic shows, and theme parks. The problem is gambling has become the stuff of nightmares for the growing senior community, as noted by The Problem Gambling Center in Las Vegas, which has seen a dramatic increase in elderly clients in the past year.

Las Vegas attracts retirees from all over the country. Most of them have little experience living in a high-stakes town dominated by the casino-oriented mentality of glitz and gaming. The new residents get sucked-into a new dangerous lifestyle, spending their social security checks and retirement savings at the tables and on slot machines. Many end up gambling their homes, cars, and practically everything else they have earned during their lifetime away.

Although only five percent of Nevadans have a serious gambling problem according to past studies, the figure is much higher among new residents from out-of-state. "Gambling is a serious addiction," said Dr. Rob Hunter, the founder of the Problem Gambling Center. "Forty percent of Clark County is not senior citizens, so 40 percent of my patients shouldn't be senior citizens, but they are…We have treated people in their 90s.”

Dr. Hunter doesn't think the gaming industry consciously is trying to lure older people into the casinos. Rather, as more and more seniors move to Las Vegas, they get hooked without realizing the danger. A further problem is that state funding for gambling disorders in Nevada is quite low. As a result, there is very little help as so many seniors fall into a financial pit with no clear way out.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.