Deadly Sin: Gambling Addiction

This is going to sting because I just found out from my best friend a few days ago that her husband is in $12K of credit card debt. She inadvertently found the statement and confronted her husband about these charges. He had no other choice but confessed to having advanced the cash to support this addiction.

When I was told of this along with my other friends, we were appalled! We all are very close and often share our personal life stories with one another. It just threw me off track because I never knew my friend (her husband) had this kind of problem. This is very serious because they recently had a kid and are saving to buy their first house. My best friend is currently living with her parents.

I consoled my friend and told her that she is lucky to have found this problem early on. $12K in gambling debt is not too serious if the buck stops here. It's comparable to traders that sometime lose this much money over bad investment decisions. As of now, my friend is thinking of dipping into her own savings account to pay off this debt that her selfish and irresponsible husband has created. Could this be an early indication to a serious problem? Should my friend bail out her husband so easily without letting him realize how long it takes to save $12K? I just hope she is able to convince him to go down another path and put his family first before himself!

On a personal note, I know first hand how this addiction can tear a family apart. My DH's dad leads this kind of life. He has always been a gambler. He has no self control and frequents the casino on a daily basis. The mentality of these gamblers is that they believe they are able to win back their losings. But next thing they know, they get deeper and deeper into debt. Their whole paycheck helps pay for the existence of the casino. We have another friend of whom we do not keep in touch with anymore that has this problem. He constantly bet on sport games and also has an affinity for casinos. He works just to pay off his bookie.

I guess I will never understand what drives a person to gamble away their life savings that they work so hard for on a daily basis. There's so much potential in these people and the money that could have been used to fund for their retirement, savings, buying a house, vacations, and just living an ordinary day to day life outside the casino.


Ray by the Bay said...

I don't think the debt by itself is enough to divorce him over but I would not use my personal money to pay off his gambling losses. This might be uncomfortable for her, but if I were her I would take over control of all the household finances until he proves he can be trusted again and I'd make it clear that his gambling had to stop.

An alternative would be to give him a gambling budget, say $100 a month, that he could use. That way the damage wold be limited.

If he can't stop gambling or even contain the losses, then at that point I think divorce would be something I'd strongly consider.

The Rat said...

I think gambling can be compared to other addictions like drugs and smoking, and its only having the realization and accepting the fact that its a problem until somebody will either seek help or try quitting on their own accord.

Addictions can last for an astronomical period of time, but sometimes people 'wake up' and tackle it once they've had enough.

Gambling can be deadly and ruin families if it blows out of control in my view.

Money Honey SF said...

Ray by the Bay - I agree that the debt by itself is not astronomical for them to have discussions about "divorcing". Although she did mention to us that she would consider it. Maybe my BF is just panicking for now and not thinking straight. I know for a fact that $100 of gambling budget a month will not do him any justice. From what I heard, $1000 a day is the gambling budget he allowed himself.

The Rat - Gambling is a serious addiction. I view that it is worse than drugs or smoking. With drugs and smoking, the addict is just hurting their own body. But with gambling, it hurts a family because the finances are combined together. So if one person uses too much money, the rest of the family is left with nothing. And in this case, it's affecting my friend.

Thank you both for commenting on this. I will share your view points with my BF.

Howard said...

Another few points:
1. Whether your friend chooses to help payoff husband's debt is irrelevant - because they are married, the debt is likewise hers.

2. A marriage is for better or worse. If the thought of divorce has come up over a $12,000 debt, then the marriage was probably a mistake to begin with. So your friend should get the divorce and move on. If she were committed to the marriage and divorce were not even a consideration, then the debt needs to be paid off ASAP, husband needs to get some professional help immediately and not gamble ever again - period. It is no different than alcoholism. If he can't commit to that, then no matter how she feels, she should walk away from the marriage because it will get worse and husband is not looking to resolve the problem or showing any concern for his family or obligations and responsibilities as a husband and partner in a marriage.

Money Honey SF said...

Howard - A bit about my friend's background. They had downpayment for a house but instead the husband chose to spend it on an expensive car over $100K.

There was already signs of reckless spending and ignorant financial behavior by the husband. I think this sort of put it over the top for my friend.

I don't blame by friend for feeling this way. I just feel bad that she is in this position.

Aaren said...

First, she absolutely needs to make him pay this off himself. Even though the debt is marital, if the card is in his name only, it doesn't hurt her the same way as if it's in both names. Fronting him the money will not make this better.

Second, he needs to hand over the paycheck to her and they need to figure out an allowance for him to gamble with. Cold turkey almost never works--my grandfather was a compulsive gambler and this was the only way to ensure that money was left to pay for my mom and her siblings. As a result, I won't set foot on a casino floor, because I already know that I have that addictive propensity in me.

Third, he needs to seek counseling immediately. I had a client whose husband was a gambler; they'd refinanced their home to pay off his gambling debts (over $100k), he ran it back up within 18 months. We estimated through forensic accounting that in ten years he easily spent close to $1mil on gambling.

Last, I don't know that I agree with your assessment that drugs/alcohol aren't the same and gambling is more financially devastating. I think that assessment is because gambling by its nature deals with money where the others do not. But where do the funds for the drugs or alcohol come from? You can easily spend the same amount of money on the former, in the same amount of time, except they'll also kill you if overconsumed. They can be just as harmful to the families (I'm a family law attorney so I've seen both addictions up close and personal). Just my thoughts.

Great post, and very thought provoking.

Money Reasons said...

Hmmm, but not telling his wife about his little money affairs, he's effectively cheating on her financially.

Now I don't know his demeanor, but if I was your friend, I would nip this in the butt sooner than later. I would consider a divorce and throw it out there... I've seen too many friends have a spouse like this and it seems to always end with year of wasted life and a mountain of debt!

I wish her the best of luck, and I'm really hoping that I'm wrong :(

DogAteMyFinances said...

The money is only the symptom, it's not the problem. Thankfully, I've never dealt with this. I don't even know how you would start in a world of online gambling and 24/7 access.

Assuming that she isn't one of those women who enable and then act surprised (which I deal with daily in the land of battered women), this sounds bigger than both of them, and they need some help.

As you, I would really wonder how she didn't know. Is he really that sneaky/clever? Or is she really that oblivious/enabling?

Howard said...

They had downpayment for a house but instead the husband chose to spend it on an expensive car over $100K.

Well, that would do it for me. He did that all on his own, or did your friend have any notice from him that's what he was going to do?

Sounds like hubby has quite the problem with finance issues. Gambling, expensive cars - yet can't buy a house. I feel sorry for your friend. Sounds like it's not the first time it's happened, so it can't really be a surprise as Dog states - she's an enabler, and he obviously takes advantage.

I would love to hear the reason hubby gave for taking the downpayment money and buying an expensive car.

I think if your friend doesn't make the ultimatum, and he gets some professional help quickly, things will only get worse. Why wait till he gambles away so much that they can't afford to put food on the table?

Anonymous said...

100k for a car? She is an enabler.

Investing Newbie said...

The bailout shouldn't just be paying off the debt; she should send him to rehab! I don't fully understand addictions, but I do know that they are deeply rooted in psychological problems. If she doesn't help him get help, he'll just stay away for a year or so, and then next time around, gamble away their entire life savings.

Money Honey SF said...

Thanks everyone for your opinion and analysis on this issue. I have taken bits and pieces of your recommendations over to my friend.

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