Methods: A de-identified data set of individuals (N=1601) applying for self-exclusion from Missouri casinos between January 1, 2001 and March 31, 2003 was used for these analyses. Participants completed an optional demographic questionnaire, designed and administered by the Missouri Gaming Commission, at one of 11 casinos or three Commission offices. Consistent with prior research on older adult gamblers, the sample was categorized as younger adults (ages 21 to 35; n=490), middle-aged adults (ages 36 to 55; n=950) and older adults (ages 56 to 79; n=161). Bivariate, univariate and logistic regression analyses were performed.
Results: Older adults were more likely than other groups to be Caucasian and unemployed and to initiate gambling later in life. Women reported a later age of onset than men, which was particularly significant among older adults (48.7 years, women, versus 37.7 years, men). The total number of years spent gambling also increased with age. Older adults gambled an average of 17 years before self-exclusion, more than twice the length of time reported by younger adults. Older adults and middle-aged adults endorsed preferences for slots (80.1% vs. 80.4%), lottery (39.8% vs. 47.7%), and video poker (35.4% vs. 42.2%). Compared to younger adults, older adults were more likely to have gambled longer before self-exclusion, to be married and/or unemployed, and to express a strong preference for non-strategic forms of gambling such as gaming machines. In addition, they were nearly four times as likely to self-exclude in an effort to prevent suicide. Compared to middle-aged adults, older adults were more likely to be unemployed and nearly three times as likely to ban themselves to prevent suicide. All results were significant at p < .01 level.
Implications: Problem gambling among older adults appears to develop over time, possibly due to a preference for slot and video poker machine play. Social workers who work with older adults should be educated in recognizing early signs and symptoms of problem gambling and the potential risk for suicide. They should also be knowledgeable about resources for problem gambling services including self-exclusion. Approaches to identifying and intervening with older adult problem gamblers will be discussed.