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Watch for Workplace Warning Signs

Learning the warning signs of problem gambling is well worthwhile. Remain alert, confront when appropriate, and offer a helping hand.

Be alert for problem gambling symptoms in your workplace.

           No method nor discipline can supersede the necessity of being forever on the alert.

– Henry David Thoreau

It is easy to mistake many signs of compulsive gambling for other non-gambling troubles. If you know what to look for and pay attention, however, you can spot gambling problems early—before they severely harm your employees or company.

There are many general indicators of problem gambling. Others are more specific to the workplace:

  • Repeatedly violating a company gambling policy is the most obvious signal that someone could have a gambling problem. Serious addicts often are unable to control their impulses to gamble.
  • Investigate declining productivity. People who spend late nights at the casino or gambling online might show up late the next day, call in sick, or be very tired. Habitual tardiness, long lunches, absenteeism, or exhaustion should raise red flags.
  • On the flip side are employees who volunteer for lots of overtime or request pay instead of vacation days. Problem gamblers who are in debt need extra income to feed their habits.
  • Also watch for vacation days taken in isolation rather than a week or two at a time.
  • Problem gamblers might use telephones excessively to call in bets, deal with creditors, or search for loans.
  • Did a company car get a parking ticket at or near a gambling venue?
  • Gambling addicts who are financially desperate frequently seek company loans or salary advances.
  • Be alert for workers who owe money to colleagues, especially if they are late in repaying or argue they never received these loans.
  • Is an employee often preoccupied or distracted? Problem gamblers might daydream about their previous betting experiences or their next outing.
  • Many problem gamblers' moods swing as they experience wins and losses. As their debts increase, they could become depressed or even suicidal.
  • Listen to others who express concern about a co-worker's gambling problems. Colleagues are more likely to detect these warning signs, so provide awareness training to all your employees. Be sure they can report their apprehensions to management in confidential or anonymous ways.

Remember that these are just warning signs—not conclusive proof of anyone's gambling addiction. Consider them in their full context, and combine them with your own knowledge of the employee.

If you conclude someone might have a gambling problem, talk with them privately to learn more. Many gambling addicts will be in a state of denial, but you should be able to reach a sound judgment.

Gambling addiction is a very destructive mental health disorder. The sooner an addict gets help, the better it will be for all concerned. Identifying the problem gambler is an important step. Hopefully, the addict will acknowledge their problem—or at least be willing to explore the possibility that they might need help.

Find out how you, as a responsible employer, can assist in the recovery process.