Many employers fail to consider compulsive gambling a troubling employee issue because, too often, they are not trained to recognize the warning signs of a gambling addiction. In fact, managers and corporate executives are often surprised to discover how prevalent problem gamblers are in the workplace.
More than two-thirds (66 per cent) of callers into the Chicago-based employee assistance program Bensinger, DuPont & Associates (BDA) throughout March indicated that employees gamble in their workplace. And, nearly half (48 per cent) of the callers report gambling negatively affects workplace productivity.
“While problem gambling isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind when an employee displays problems at work, employers need to better understand the addiction and how to spot warning signs,” says Isabelle Duguay, co-ordinator of gambling services for Bensinger, Dupont & Associates.
The American Psychological Association, which classifies compulsive gambling as a mental health disorder, estimates two to four per cent of Americans have an active gambling problem. Research also shows that the incidence of problem gambling doubles with the presence of another addiction, like alcohol or substance abuse.
“Given these findings, it’s clear that if left untreated, a gambling problem can eventually turn a valuable employee into a liability," said Duguay.
As gambling becomes increasingly acceptable in society, employers need to be aware of the following signs of problem gambling:
• Preoccupation with gambling (reliving past gambling experiences, planning the next venture or thinking of ways in which to gamble)
• Needing to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement
• Lying to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling
• Suggestions by others that the person might have a gambling problem
• Bragging about wins but not talking about losses
• Pay is requested in lieu of vacation time, large blocks of vacation time are not taken
• Frequently borrows money, argues with co-workers about money that is owed to them
• Complains about mounting debts
• Experiences mood swings, often related to winning and losing streaks
Taking a proactive stance will help organizations reduce the potential negative effects that problem gambling can have in the workplace. Duguay suggests the following steps:
• Create a workplace gambling policy: Only one-third of callers into BDA’s EAP reported having a policy on workplace gambling. A clear, consistently applied policy defining what activities are prohibited and permitted can go a long way toward ensuring workplace gambling does not spin out of control.
• Provide awareness training: Without awareness, problem gambling will not be detected. The signs of a gambling problem are seldom identified as gambling related. Training can help employees and employers recognize the warning signs and be prepared to offer appropriate assistance.
• Make problem gambling counseling available: Problem gambling is a serious mental health disorder that needs immediate and appropriate attention.