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Problem Gambling in the Workplace

Gambling is a popular form of entertainment for most people. For some, including those who hold responsible jobs, it becomes an addiction that leads to lost time and productivity and, in severe cases, criminal activity. It’s important for employers to recognize the signs and symptoms of problem gambling.

Signs of a Gambling Problem at Work

Classic signs of a gambling problem at work include preoccupation with gambling, trouble concentrating, tardiness and absenteeism, missed deadlines and declining performance.

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Frequently absent or disappear from work

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Eager to organize and participate in betting opportunities

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Requests pay in lieu of vacation time

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Borrows money and complains about mounting debts

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Experiences mood swings, which are often related to winning and losing streaks

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Receives credit card or loan bills at work rather than home

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Spends more time gambling during lunch hours and coffee breaks

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Makes false claims against expense accounts

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Steals from the company

Colleague Communicating With Businessman In Office

Impact of Problem Gambling in the Workplace

Employees with a gambling problem may start to miss more and more work, and be less and less productive. In severe cases, employees may resort to theft.

  • Preoccupation with gambling leads to lost time and productivity.
  • Family members, consumed with feelings of stress, worry, frustration and anger, become less productive.
  • Important deadlines and meetings are missed, and the overall quality of work deteriorates.
  • Employees and family members develop physical or emotional health problems, including stress, depression, anxiety and high blood pressure.
  • Employees and family members are at a higher risk of suicide, seeing it as the only “way out” of emotional, financial and legal problems.
  • Employees with severe problems may commit theft, fraud or embezzlement.
  • The workplace may become a primary avenue for the gambler to illegally finance their addiction.

What Supervisors Can Do

Many individuals are in denial about their gambling problem. Some don’t even recognize that “borrowing money” from their employer is stealing. Here’s what you say and do if you suspect an employee has a gambling problem:

Express concern in a caring and supportive manner

“You have always been a conscientious person with a history of doing good work.”

Avoid diagnosing the problem or telling the individual what to do

“I’ve noticed changes in your work, and I am concerned about you.”

Be clear and nonjudgmental and show concern

“I need you to perform your job to the best of your ability, and your performance has been slipping. I am concerned that if you don’t correct your behavior, your job may be in jeopardy.”

“You have been coming in late from lunch and seem distracted.”

Respect the individual’s personal boundaries

“I am not trying to pry into your personal life, but I am concerned about you and am happy to talk about anything that is bothering you.”

Provide information, not advice

“Here are some resources you may find helpful. Our Employee Assistance Program is also available to you.”

Be prepared for denial or a hostile reaction

“I am sure this is uncomfortable to talk about, but I am concerned about you.”

Now What?

The first step to recovery is recognizing that a gambling
problem exists. The second is seeking help.