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Michigan Credit Union League Home » CU Community » SAS Credit Unions » Marketing » Newsletter Help » Financial Health  

Additional Newsletter Topics
Lori Bahnmueller
Michigan Credit Union League - Your Money Matters

No matter where you go in the state of Michigan, you're likely to see a billboard or other advertisement for a casino. Casinos are sprinkled throughout the state from Sault Saint Marie to a quick drive across the Detroit River to the Windsor Casino.

For many, legal gambling is a occasional, harmless pastime. The prospect of easy money or the thrill of the bet are enough, however, to draw some people over the line into the realm of compulsive gambling. I would like to offer the following facts about gambling, as well as tips on recognizing and addressing problem gambling.

1. Statistics indicate that Americans spend $330 billion on legal gambling each year. That's more money than the federal government's annual outlay for defense spending, and it's being spent by only a small percentage of the U.S. population.

2. Gambling doesn't only take place in casinos. Anything from buying a lottery ticket to horse racing to playing bingo at church or buying a raffle ticket is gambling. In 1993, Michigan residents spent nearly $2 billion on non-casino gambling.

3. There are far more losers than winners. Statistics show Michigan's eight Indian-run casinos had profits of nearly $51 million on slot machines alone during a recent six-month period. That figure was calculated after payouts to winning bettors. After all, casinos are in business to make money!

4. Uncle Sam has a few things to say about gambling winnings and losses. Gambling profits are considered income and you have to pay income tax on your winnings. The Internal Revenue Service says gambling losses are deductible if you itemize, and only when losses do not exceed winnings. For example:
* If you win $1,000 at the casino, but later lose $1,500: only $1,000 would be deductible as losses - the figure equal to the amount you originally won.
* If you lose $1,000 at the casino, and never win anything: as far as the IRS is concerned, you're out of luck. There's no deduction for those who lose but never win.

5. Gambling can become addictive. It's estimated that up to 5% of the U.S. population are compulsive gamblers. Men are three times as likely as women to become compulsive gamblers; for both genders, the problem is usually linked to a serious case of depression. Having the opportunity to gamble on a regular basis (which most of us do) can also contribute to the problem.

Seven Warning Signs of Possible Compulsive Gambling:
1) Unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts,
2) Job performance problems,
3) Creditors warning of past due payments,
4) Inability to handle family responsibilities,
5) Frequent requests for loans,
6) Unexplained time away from home or work, and
7) Visible preoccupation with gambling.

Gambling addiction can be as destructive as other addictions, it can have a devastating impact on the gambler's family, friends and co-workers. There are, however, steps you can take if you feel someone in your family may be struggling with a gambling addition.
* If you suspect your spouse has a gambling problem, you may want to start making discrete checks on any joint checking or savings accounts, pension funds or other financial resources. You may want to make inquiries among your creditors to ensure timely payments are being received. And, it may be wise to set aside some funds in an individual account which is not accessible to the gambler.
* If you or someone you know is a compulsive gambler, recognize it as an illness and seek treatment. Experts are available to help at the National Council on Problem Gambling (800-522-4700) and at Gamblers Anonymous (call 313-535-3086 for listings).

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