Imagine, if you will, that you’ve just broken open your fortune cookie at lunch and your eyes ogle the message on the fortune. A small smile unfoils your pursed lips as you read, “you will come into some money very soon.” A light bulb goes off in your head as you think about your computer back at your office and the half-hour you have in between afternoon meetings. Gee, that is just enough time to get in some gaming on-line! And what did your horoscope read this morning? Something about Jupiter being in-line with the planets meaning something big could be happening in your life if you would just make it! You ask for the bill so you can get back to the office now! Who can wait until the 3:30 pm break?

Many of us have allowed ourselves to believe, at one time or another, that we were possessed with some special insight or advantage which might allow us to beat the odds in a game of chance. We have done it with lottery tickets. With card games and professional sports. With horse racing and slot machines. With bingo. And now we have the opportunity to do it all the time and any time with on-line wagering on our computers! And when I refer to “doing it”, I’m not talking about sex! Rather, I am referring to “magical thinking” which makes us think we are invincible, lucky and able to beat tall odds and win big at the on-line table.

All addictions are very bad and many of them contain the magical thinking component…”I can stop or quit whenever I want too.” Unfortunately, for many, this line of thinking is wrong and what got them into trouble in the first place! Certain individuals have what is known as addictive personalities. They are more likely to become addicted to some kind of vice. Such individuals are apt to be impulsive, spontaneous, “fly-bythe- seat-of-their-pants” thrill seekers who have difficulty living life in moderation. Many compulsive gamblers wage bets not only for the chance to win big money, but for the incredible and insatiable adrenaline rush they receive from the spin of the wheel, the pull of the arm or the flip of the card. This rush is a highly addictive substance for many gamblers and is just as intoxicating for them as shot of heroin is for the narcotic addict.

Many individuals set a limit for how much they are going to spend on their gaming ventures. The average person is able to walk away with losses in check and maintain some degree of rational control. The addictive personality, on the other hand needs to keep playing to win back their money and regain some sense of control. It is a hard dichotomy to ponder as to what is worst; losing your money right from the get go and feeling down and out, or winning money right off the bat, feeling so lucky and unstoppable, and continuing playing until you lose your winnings, your own money and your proverbial pants?

Many people often wonder about the etiology for how addictions come to be. When I give lectures to my students, I like to describe an addiction in the following manner. The first step to any addiction is curiosity. After an individual has tried something once, they either like the experience enough to try it again or they dislike it and avoid it. When the individual enjoys something a lot, they begin to desire it. When the desire becomes strong, one is likely to indulge in it more often, kind of like acquiring a taste for triple chocolate ice cream. This indulgence can escalate into a habit. If caught before they become too intense, most habits are treatable or stoppable. However, when habits intensify, they are most likely to evolve into needs. When someone does not get what is necessary to satiate their needs, they are likely to experience psychological, emotional and/or physical withdrawal. This signals an individual’s dependence on their vice, and a dependence on anything means ADDICTION!

Individuals develop certain triggers through repeated experiences which cause them to become highly sensitive. A trigger can be anything which stimulates interest, excitement and arousal for the individual. For the gambler, it can be flashing lights, dollar signs, clanging bells, music associated with gambling or even the smell of smoke or a sip of alcohol. It depends on how the individual was originally aroused and how they were repeatedly excited while gambling which will determine what their triggers are. For an addicted gambler, various stimuli associated with a casino or gaming is likely to set them over the edge!

Gambling is perhaps one of the worst of all addictions because it has the most immediate impact on an individual financially. One could literally lose their house or entire savings in a matter of minutes! On-line gambling is a very scary gambling venue. When you consider a casino, the individual has to physically be there to lose their money. Once they have lost their money, they can leave the place. Furthermore, they are usually there at a set time according to their schedule. Bottom line: They have to go to the casino because it is not going to come to them. Well, that was until now! With online gambling, the individual can gamble at anytime. It is just like the home shopping network. You can buy, buy, buy at all hours of the day and night. Did you know most people watch television or play on the computer when they are bored? I have heard so many stories of women running up credit card expenditures due to watching home shopping shows and claiming they were bored. Gee, just think what on-line gambling has the potential to do: help create excitement for the bored and for the already excited, make them more excited!

The concern with on-line gaming is the same as regular gambling. Many gamblers do not know their limits and when to quit! With on-line gambling, limits can be further stretched as gambling is aloud to permeate the personal world of the gambler at home or in the office. Furthermore, the potential for a multitude of triggers to lure gamblers to the computer is both complex and overwhelming. Hmmm, just think next time you have a halfhour to kill at work and you are feeling bored! What did your fortune cookie say?