broke_flat_390My novel Going for Broke was inspired during my time working at Focus on the Family. Dr. James Dobson, our president, was a member of the National Council on Problem Gambling so I heard a lot of frightening statistics about families being destroyed through gambling addiction. I sent him a note suggesting that he consider writing a novel about a woman who becomes trapped in gambling, because I thought many readers would be compelled to read a story about how this happens¬† versus simply reading statistics. Dr. Dobson wrote back that this was a great idea–and he thought I should write it.

This was a few years before I began writing fiction, but my desire to tell this story never went away. As I researched the personal stories behind gambling addiction, I discovered that gambling is no respecter of age, gender, income level, or religion. The seductive trap is wide enough to capture business leaders, professionals, teens, grandparents, single parents, low-income families, college graduates, and church leadership.

Women succumb to gambling nearly three times faster than men (Reuters Health). According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, approximately two to three percent of adults (six to nine million adults) have a gambling problem and between one and two percent of the adult population are compulsive gamblers.

Another study in 1997 (Harvard Medical School Division on Addictions) estimated that not only did 7.5 million American adults have gambling problems, there were even more American adolescents considered to be problem or pathological gamblers (7.9 million). Compulsive gamblers often bottom out faster than other addicts, as they burn all their resources in search of another high. Approximately one in five compulsive gamblers attempts suicide.

If you or someone you love is addicted to gambling, please seek help. Focus on the Family and Tyndale House Publishers have published an excellent resource by Tom Raabe titled House of Cards to give hope to gamblers and their families.

Below are some other good resources to help those who can’t seem to escape the trap of gambling.

Gamblers Anonymous
A fellowship of men and women who share their experiences and help others recover from a gambling problem.

Gam-Anon
The self-help organization for the spouse, family and close friends of compulsive gamblers.

Gambling Exposed
A ministry that alerts the church to the deceptive, predatory nature of gambling and presents a message of hope to those who are experiencing a gambling problem.

Focus on Social Issues
Focus on the Family’s library of gambling research, testimonies, and articles.

The National Council on Problem Gambling
A 24-hour national helpline as well as state resources and counselor information.

The Coalition Against Gambling New York
This site has both reports and stories of people who’ve been addicted to gambling.