The Casino Trap for the Elderly
There is no doubt that casinos target the elderly. Seniors have access to money until they run out. They respond positively to attention they do not get at home. They come during the day which is often a slack time at casinos.
They enjoy small perks, free plays, free lunches and once they are addicted a free room will keep them at the casinos longer. The seniors play until they lose their retirement savings, cash in their insurance policies, mortgage their home, and run up cash advances on multiple credit cards. Many are forced to declare bankruptcy.
Many of the elderly are seeking to escape loneliness, recover from the loss of a spouse, or other source of grief. This makes them especially vulnerable to the friendliness of the casino. The casinos supply free shuttles for senior centers on the day Social Security checks arrive. The casinos also provide walkers, wheelchairs, and extra handicapped parking. Some casinos stock restrooms with senior diapers and disposal receptacles for diabetic insulin needles. One casino even ran a pharmacy for a time where credits could cover the cost of the copay.
An older 2005 study at the University of Pennsylvania found that one of every eleven seniors lost more than they could afford in the previous year. Estimates are that more than four million of those over 65 have a gambling problem. Slots are addictive by design, with features to maximize time on machine until you have lost all you can access. Dementia especially keeps the sufferer pushing the button as long as the casino lets them play, The casinos send seniors birthday cards, other cards, free tickets to programs, and of course weekly free plays. For a senior high roller the casino lavishes attention from hostesses, who are often the best friend the patron has. Hostess bonuses are based on how much their client spends.
Casino mouthpieces say they are providing needed entertainment for a neglected portion of the population. This may be true but it is at great expense, and exposes the neglect we devote to our seniors. Invitations to put their name on an exclusion list seldom overcome the enticements of the freebies. It takes family support to quit gambling which is often not there.
The tragedy of senior addicts is one of the strongest indictments of our selfish society.
John Rosengren, AARP Bulletin,
October 2016. http://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2016/casino-traps-older- patrons.html