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How to Get Relief From a Gambling Debt

Gambling can be a fun recreational activity; but for some, it becomes an addiction that spirals out of control – leading to massive debt. If you find yourself drowning in gambling-related debt, don’t lose hope. There are ways to get relief and regain control of your finances.

Understanding the Scope of the Problem

Gambling addiction is more common than you might think. According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, around 2 million U.S. adults are pathological gamblers – unable to resist impulses to gamble, despite negative consequences.
Compulsive gambling often results in financial ruin, with gamblers racking up tens or hundreds of thousands in debt from casino markers, cash advances, maxed-out credit cards, and even loans from unsavory sources.

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The Vicious Cycle of Chasing Losses

Many problem gamblers fall into a vicious cycle of trying to chase their losses by gambling more. They think if they just hit that “big win,” they can pay back what they owe. But the odds are stacked against them, and the hole just gets deeper.
Janice, a former client, racked up over $75,000 in credit card debt from gambling binges at the casino. “I kept telling myself, ‘I’m so close, if I just get one big score I can pay it all back.’ But I never could. The losses just piled up higher and higher.”

Legal Implications of Gambling Debt

From a legal standpoint, gambling debts are considered legitimate in most states – meaning they can be collected like any other debt. However, there are some important nuances:
Debts from illegal gambling activities (like sports betting in certain states) are generally not enforceable
Casinos may be prohibited from extending credit/markers to gamblers they suspect have a gambling problem
Bankruptcy laws make it difficult to discharge gambling debts incurred through fraud or cash advances shortly before filing
On Quora, bankruptcy attorneys note that gambling debts are often scrutinized more heavily than other consumer debts in bankruptcy proceedings.

Potential Criminal Liability

In some cases, excessive gambling debt can even lead to criminal charges like fraud or theft if the gambler engages in illicit activities like:
Writing bad checks or markers at casinos
Using misappropriated funds (from an employer, etc.) to gamble
Failing to pay back “borrowed” money from unsavory lenders
So gambling debt isn’t something to be taken lightly. Getting ahead of it and seeking help is crucial before things spiral further out of control.

Steps to Get Relief From Gambling Debt

If you’re deep in the hole from gambling losses, here are some steps that can help provide relief:

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1. Admit You Have a Problem

The first and most important step is to admit to yourself that you have a gambling addiction or problem. Until you acknowledge that gambling has become an uncontrollable issue, you won’t be able to make positive changes.
Seeking help from a counselor or support group like Gamblers Anonymous can provide accountability, resources, and techniques for overcoming the addiction.

2. Take Stock of Your Finances

Next, you need to get a clear picture of the extent of your gambling debt:
Make a list of all debts (credit cards, personal loans, markers, etc.) and amounts owed
Check your credit report for any debts you may have missed
Identify any assets you could potentially sell or leverage
Having all this information compiled will help determine your best path forward. It’s an ugly process, but absolutely necessary to get relief.

3. Explore Debt Relief Options

Depending on the amount of debt and your income/assets, you may have several potential options for debt relief:

Debt Management Plan

Work with a credit counseling agency to consolidate credit card debt into one monthly payment, often with reduced interest rates and fees
Allows you to pay off debt over 3-5 years with a structured plan
Pros and cons to consider

Debt Settlement

Negotiate lump-sum settlements with creditors to pay a portion of what’s owed
Debts are reported as “settled” on your credit report, damaging your score
Potential risks to be aware of

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Chapter 7 bankruptcy can discharge unsecured debts like credit cards and personal loans
Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows restructuring of debts into a 3-5 year repayment plan
Gambling debts may face higher scrutiny
The right option depends on factors like income, assets, types of debt, and overall financial situation. Consulting a bankruptcy attorney or reputable credit counseling agency is highly recommended.

4. Cut Off Access to Future Gambling

An essential part of getting relief is cutting off all access to future gambling. Some steps:
Self-exclude from casinos and online gambling sites
Close or freeze any credit cards, bank accounts, etc. that could be used for gambling
Give control of finances to a trusted friend/family member
Install gambling blocking software on devices
Avoid places, websites, and situations that could trigger the urge to gamble
It takes tremendous willpower, so don’t be afraid to ask for help and support from loved ones.

5. Seek Treatment for the Addiction

Ultimately, gambling debt is a symptom of the underlying addiction. So in addition to financial steps, it’s crucial to get treatment and counseling to overcome the compulsive behavior.
Options include inpatient rehab programs, outpatient therapy, support groups, medications, and techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy. The road isn’t easy, but recovering gamblers can get their life back.

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The Importance of Taking Action

Ignoring gambling debt and hoping it’ll go away is the worst thing you can do. Creditors and casinos can be extremely aggressive in collection efforts – garnishing wages, going after assets, even getting court judgments.
The sooner you take proactive steps, the more options you’ll have for relief and rebuilding your finances. It’s an uphill battle, but one that is very winnable with perseverance and the right assistance.

Don’t Let Shame Hold You Back

One of the biggest hurdles problem gamblers face is shame and embarrassment over letting things get so out of hand. They feel like failures and are afraid to ask for help.

But you have to let go of that shame and self-judgment. Gambling addiction is a real disorder, just like alcoholism or drug addiction. No one chooses to become addicted – it’s a compulsive behavior driven by brain chemistry.
The important thing is getting help before it’s too late. Bankruptcy attorneys, credit counselors, therapists – they’ve seen it all before. They’re there to help without judgment, not make you feel worse.

Finding the Right Support System

Speaking of help – you can’t overcome this alone. Surround yourself with a strong support system of professionals and loved ones:
A bankruptcy lawyer or debt relief attorney to advise you on legal options
A therapist/counselor who specializes in addiction and compulsive behavior
A financial advisor or credit counselor to restructure debts and rebuild credit
Close friends/family who can provide emotional support and accountability
It’s okay to lean on this team for guidance and encouragement. In fact, it’s necessary for long-term recovery.

Rebuilding Your Finances and Life

Getting relief from gambling debt is just the first step. Once those burdens are lifted, you can start rebuilding your finances through disciplined budgeting and smart money management.
More importantly, you can rebuild your life without the cloud of addiction hanging over you. Repairing relationships, regaining self-esteem, finding purpose – it’s all possible when you’re free from compulsive gambling’s grip.
It’s not an easy road by any means. But every journey begins with a single step forward. By admitting the problem and seeking help today, you’ve already taken that crucial first stride.

Key Takeaways

To summarize the key points:
Gambling addiction is a real disorder that frequently leads to unmanageable debt
Ignoring the debt or trying to gamble your way out will only make things worse
There are legal options like debt management, settlement, and bankruptcy to find relief
Overcoming the addiction through treatment is essential for long-term success
Don’t let shame or stigma prevent you from getting the help you need and deserve
Surround yourself with professionals and a strong support system
The road ahead won’t be easy, but freedom and a fresh start await
If you or a loved one is struggling with a gambling problem and debt, reach out to the resources below. You don’t have to fight this battle alone.

Additional Resources:

National Council on Problem Gambling
Gamblers Anonymous
NAMI on Gambling Disorder
Spodek Law Group (212-210-1851)
Getting relief from crippling gambling debt is possible – but you have to take that first difficult step of asking for help. Have courage, build your support team, and you can regain control of your finances and your life.

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