How to Deal with Gambling Problems Among Seniors


Experiencing the Pain

When Dominic C. decided it was time to stop gambling in 2012, the 50-year-old withdrew $56,500 from his IRA account to pay back a gambling debt balance totaling over $180,000  Senior gamblers, however, do not have the time on their side.

What is Happening to Retirees

When you’re younger, you have a chance to recoup your financial life.  If you blow your retirement savings on gambling at 60 or 70 years old, many more problems develop.

 It’s harder for seniors to find work at older ages.  Some seniors are working two to three jobs to pay off gambling debts. Others are homeless because they can’t find work. Some sleep in their car, after losing everything.

One-third of the U.S. population visit a commercial casino, with more than half of those attending aged 50 and older, according to the American Gaming Association  State of the States annual report.

The ugly truth is that casinos are becoming day-care centers for some seniors because that is where seniors addicted to gambling like to hang out. Seniors view gambling as entertainment, as long as they have the ability to cut their losses and walk away.

While several clients enjoy playing the lottery or traveling to Atlantic City to play blackjack, I’m not worried as long as they can account for the money they are spending. My advice to all seniors is know how much you  spend to win, because you  can secure a tax deduction for your  gambling losses, if needed.

Protect Yourself

Many gamblers call hot lines for help. Today, some 25 percent of those who dial in are gamblers over 65 years old, according to reports. In extreme situations, senior who are problem gamblers have engaged in criminal activity, or have maxed out their credit cards or the credit cards of loved ones.

Advice to Minimize the Problem

One approach is to set up a speculative account specifically for gambling trips or to invest in risky stocks; but only from assets that remain after funding of priority needs. In this speculative  account, they could spend as much as they want. Meanwhile, long-term savings for the next 10 to 20 years of retirement and college accounts for children and grandchildren would be untouchable and are off limits.

Another approach is requiring that all accounts require two signatures in order to withdraw money.  The second person can be an adult child or spouse. Requiring a second signature from a family member who is not a compulsive gambler can stop a senior from excessive gambling.



Do You Have These Problems?

Signs of problem gambling include secretly withdrawing money from retirement accounts, or using up savings accounts, then dipping into accounts for retirement or other critical needs in order to make up losses from previous trips to the casino or racetrack. This would create a downward spiral.

Addictive gambling is not limited to any one gender.  Problem gambling among older women near or in retirement is increasing in scope and severity, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling.  Unfortunately, many retired men or women start to gamble after their spouses die.

The Problems are Getting Worse.

Part of the problem is the proliferation of gaming outlets and the use of internet gambling. Many years ago, you needed to travel long distances to a casino. Today, you can drive to a casino near you, or you can catch a bus organized by your local senior citizen community center. In addition, most racetracks today also offer slot machines.

Casino gambling has become one of the country’s fastest-growing industries, with commercial casinos in 23 states earning more than $37 billion in gross gaming revenue.

Internet gaming is also on the rise.  It is only a matter of time before gaming interferes with a client’s financial well-being if he or she has a tendency towards excess.

In 2015, the online gaming market took in $37.91 billion and revenue is forecasted to grow to $59.79 billion by 2020. Internet gambling does not require any travel at all.  You can sit in your pajamas at the computer and gamble online all day long.

A Proven Strategy

There could be trouble in paradise eventually when you're a compulsive gambler. To become financially secure, seniors need to determine the assets required for their retirement and other important needs. For peace of mind, seniors need to learn how to create lifetime retirement income, while reducing their taxes.

It is my role as an advisor to avoid judging how people spend their money. However, it is my role to provide advice to seniors and pre-retirees on how to enhance their financial well-being,

 For more information, contact Harvey Weinstein, at 860-778-8168