The Link between Military Service and Problem Gambling

Gambling has become more of an open topic in our society. We can see it in our expanded gambling legalization, TV commercials advertising for sports betting, and friends continuing to bet on everything from sports to politics. Active military personnel and veterans are among the population of individuals that are especially vulnerable to problem gambling. According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, it’s estimated that up to 48,000 active duty service members have gambling problems.

Why is military employment an indicator of problem gambling risks?

There are multiple reasons why military personnel are susceptible to problem gambling. First, gambling opportunities are often readily available and are often seen as providing a reprieve for individuals in secluded areas with limited access to entertainment and their family and friends at home. Gambling becomes a crutch to quench boredom and loneliness.

Another way gambling is used as a distraction for military personnel is to avoid feelings of stress, anger, and/or depression. As seen in alcohol abuse or drug dependencies, gambling often provides a high for an individual who otherwise feels at a low point. Gambling offers a distraction from extremely stressful situations and may become a dependency for some.


Additionally, gambling can be the replacement for the rush of deployment. The rush deployed servicemen feel may be replaced with gambling once they return home. Seeking that rush through gambling can easy turn a seemingly harmless activity into an addiction.

Retiring from the military also leaves veterans vulnerable to a gambling addiction. Readjusting to civilian life may be overwhelming from attempting to find gainful employment and/or the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder, among other things. These  are common reasons why a veteran may seek an escape from an otherwise emotionally overwhelmed life. 

The repercussions of gambling for active military members

Problem gambling may have serious consequences for active military personnel. Problem gambling has rippling effects. It seeps into every aspect of an individual’s life from personal, to professional, to financial. Problem gambling poses a risk to military careers as problem gambling shifts focus from service duty to chasing the next gambling “high.”

Like other addictions, those suffering from problem gambling often lose money and try to win that money back. In most occasions, this leads to losing additional money and time to gambling. This is often hidden from spouses, family, and friends, causing personal and financial damage when revealed.

The repercussions of gambling for veterans

On top of the consequences active military professionals suffer from, as noted above, veterans often struggle with finding adequate and comprehensive healthcare. Seeking treatment for disorders that may lead to problem gambling, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, is not always possible for veterans. And once gambling becomes a problem, veterans may be hesitant or unable to seek out treatment.

Raising awareness of problem gambling in the military

It is important that, as a community, we continue to support our active and retired military personnel. In order to effectively do that, it is important to raise awareness of the correlation between military employment and problem gambling, as well as available treatment. In New York State, your local Problem Gambling Resource Center, which can be found at  NYProblemGamblingHELP.org, can help. If you or a loved one are active military personnel or a veteran and are suffering from problem gambling, please reach out for support, today.  


Author: Charles Robinson