When you are retired, a trip to the casino can be a fun way to spend the afternoon. Whether it is 100 degrees outside or a blizzard, the temperature is always comfortable in the casino. You are never alone, and it is a lively place filled with bright colors, flashing lights, happy noises and shrieks of delight, when someone hits the jackpot.
Many casinos are going out of their way to attract seniors, offering entertainment and special perks that target the older demographic. While it is thoughtful for casinos to make their facilities more comfortable for older adults and accessible for people with mobility challenges, advocates suggest that some casinos go too far. Experts say that some casinos take lonely people with health issues and turn them into gambling addicts, who lose their life savings and their homes. Here is what seniors need to know about going to the casino.
Ways Casinos Go After the Aged Gambler
Some casinos aggressively pursue getting older adults to gamble by using live “Golden Oldies” music shows and free shuttle rides from retirement facilities (timed to synchronize with the day retired people get their Social Security checks). One casino used to have a pharmacy onsite, where people could pay their medication co-pays with play credits.
Addiction and the Older Gambler
Medical researchers have found with MRI scans that when people play slot machines, the brain responds in much the same way that it does when people use cocaine. Hence, the machine’s nickname – “electronic crack.” Seniors are susceptible to get addicted to playing the slots because of:
- Loneliness and social isolation – there are helpful, friendly people working at casinos.
- Escape from physical and emotional pain – the momentary pleasure of taking a break from their troubles outweighs their financial losses.
- Boredom – it can be intoxicating for a senior to get into the glitz and glamor of a casino, as if he is a character in a James Bond movie.
- Loss of independence – when an older adult loses other autonomy, such as mobility, driving, and making money at a job, a casino can give the senior the illusion that she is in control and has power.
Even more troubling is the fact that dementia and other cognitive impairment can cause an older gambler to engage in the repetitive behavior of pushing the button on the slot machine, without understanding the concept that they are losing real money. Some medications seniors take for diseases, like Parkinson’s, can cause compulsive gambling behavior as a side effect.
Casinos know this, yet instead of placing limits on vulnerable older gamblers, some gambling establishments are relentless in their attempts to get every penny from the addicted gambler. A casino sent weekly mailings with deals and vouchers to a compulsive senior gambler. They assigned an employee to call him at home to get him to keep coming back, until he lost his home and retirement account. He racked up a mountain of debt and declared bankruptcy. He now lives in a small apartment, instead of retiring comfortably in his home.
If you feel that you or a loved one has a gambling problem, you can get help. You can contact your state’s gambling addiction resources, and your local elder law attorney can help to protect your finances.
AARP. “The Casino Trap.” (accessed August 15, 2018) https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2016/casino-traps-older-patrons.html
Arizona Council on Compulsive Gambling. “Why Seniors” (accessed August 15, 2018) http://azccg.org/Why_Seniors.html