Impact on the Workplace

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Just a generation ago, legal gambling was limited to a couple of places and problem gamblers were viewed as oddities. But now gambling is part of our mainstream society, and we know that problem gamblers can be anyone and found anywhere1 – and that their problems can have an increasing impact on the workplace.2

The workplace is often used as a shield to hide the problem from family members, and gambling and gambling related activities are frequently carried out during work hours. Managers and co-workers are often the first line of defense against problem gambling in the workplace, and the first challenge is to identify the problem gambler before they become desperate. To this end, it is important that all employers and employees develop a greater awareness of the signs associated with a gambling problem:1

Time Related Signs

  • Chronically late for work, absent at meetings, late for appointments
  • Unexplained absences or disappearances, leaves early to gamble or arrange finances
  • Reads gambling related material openly during office hours
  • Excessive use of sick days
  • Vacation time centered around gambling activity
  • Does not take vacation time in large blocks, reluctant to take any time off
  • Takes long lunch hours to gamble or track bets
  • Frequently requests breaks to use phone

Financial Signs

  • Borrows money from co-workers
  • Argues with co-workers about money owed to them
  • Credit card and loan billings mailed to work rather than home
  • Family inquiries about salary
  • Requests pay instead of vacation time
  • Theft of company owned merchandise or property
  • Use of petty cash to float an overnight loan, falsifies expense accounts

Signs of Gambling Activity at Work

  • Organizing office pools and/or sports pools.
  • Listening to or watching sports events while on the job.
  • Making books for other employees, including employer.
  • Receiving phone calls or visits from bookies, creditors, or gambling friends at work.
  • Arranging card games for money during lunch hour or breaks.3

Performance Signs

  • Decline in grooming habits, appears sleepy, eyes bloodshot, depression/anxiety.
  • Decrease in capability and efficiency.
  • Preoccupied, lack of concentration, assignments frequently not completed.
  • Complains about family or other personal problems, especially money difficulties.

Types of Gambling in the Workplace
A 1999 workplace survey found that 58% of respondents have coworkers who have been involved in Super Bowl pools or regular season football pools (55%).  Pooling money to purchase lottery tickets amongst employees also happens on a large scale (39%). Other common employee gambling activities include:

  • Sports pools
  • Other betting pools (birthdays, birth weights, etc.)
  • Telephone gambling
  • Internet gambling
  • Spread betting
  • Playing cards

Impact and Prevention
Employee gambling in the workplace can result in significant lost time and productivity by employees, and may even result in theft, fraud or embezzlement. In some cases, the company itself can even be held liable for its employee’s actions (for example, if an executive of the company embezzled from a client to pay off gambling debts).

As an organization, you can take steps to limit the prevalence of gambling in the workplace by:

  • Train supervisors and managers to recognize the signs of problem gambling and discuss the potential problem with employees
  • Develop policies or policy statements about gambling in the workplace
  • Provide awareness training for all employees
  • “Monitor the money stream” – if your business deals with large sums of cash, be sure that there are proper checks and accountabilities in place throughout the full transport process

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