Journal of Gambling Studies

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 241–254 | Cite as

Characteristics of Older Adult Problem Gamblers Calling a Gambling Helpline

  • Marc N. Potenza
  • Marvin A. Steinberg
  • Ran Wu
  • Bruce J. Rounsaville
  • Stephanie S. O’Malley



Few investigations have characterized groups of older adults with gambling problems, and published reports are currently limited by small samples of older adult problem gamblers. Gambling helplines represent a widespread mechanism for assisting problem gamblers to move into treatment settings. Given data from older adult problem gamblers in treatment, we hypothesized that older as compared with younger adult problem gamblers calling a gambling helpline would be less likely to report gambling-related problems.

Design and methods

Logistic regression analyses were performed on data obtained from January 1, 2000 to December 31, 2001, inclusive, from callers with gambling problems (N = 1,084) contacting the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling Helpline.


Of the 1,018 phone calls used in the logistic regression analyses, 168 (16.5%) were from older adults and 850 (83.5%) from younger adults. Age-related differences were observed in demographic features, types and patterns of gambling reported as problematic, gambling-related problems and psychiatric symptoms, substance use problems, patterns of indebtedness, and family histories of addictive disorders. Older as compared with younger adult problem gamblers were more likely to report having lower incomes, longer durations of gambling, fewer types of problematic gambling, and problems with casino slot machine gambling and less likely to report gambling-related anxiety, family problems, illegal behaviors and arrests, drug problems, indebtedness to bookies or acquaintances, family histories of drug abuse, and problems with casino table gambling.


Older as compared with younger adult problem gamblers calling a gambling helpline differ on many clinically relevant features. The findings suggest the need for improved and unique prevention and treatment strategies for older adults with gambling problems.


Problem gambling Older adults Prevention Helpline 



This work was supported by a Young Investigator Award from the National Alliance for Research in Schizophrenia and Depression, a Drug Abuse Research Scholar Program in Psychiatry Award from the American Psychiatric Association and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (K12-DA00366), a Clinician Scientist Training Program Award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (K12-DA00167), Women’s Health Research at Yale, the National Center for Responsible Gaming, a US Veterans Administration VISN 1 Mental Illness Research Educational and Clinical Center, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, the Mohegan Sun Tribal Nation, and the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. The authors thank Susan McLaughlin for supervision of helpline data acquisition and modification of helpline forms, Elaine LaVelle for data management, and Mary Wilber and Erin Reutenauer for technical assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marc N. Potenza
    • 1
  • Marvin A. Steinberg
    • 4
  • Ran Wu
    • 2
  • Bruce J. Rounsaville
    • 3
  • Stephanie S. O’Malley
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryYale University School of Medicine, Connecticut Mental Health CenterNew HavenUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryYale University School of Medicine, Connecticut Mental Health CenterNew HavenUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryYale University School of MedicineNew HavenUSA
  4. 4.Connecticut Council on Problem GamblingGuilfordUSA

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