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Elderly Gambling Addicts

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  Americans are living longer, healthier lives and moving into retirement with plenty of leisure time ahead. But some seniors are in danger of tarnishing their golden years by spending too much of that free time - not to mention their lifesavings at casinos. Reed Galin reports on the growing number of older Americans who are becoming addicted to gambling.  
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SCRIPT:

It can be fun and exciting, and sometimes even profitable.

Muriel Vanlaanen\Gambler: "I won a 50, then a 300, and then a 1000."

But what appears to be a great getaway for seniors with bus trips and free meals can quickly become a costly mistake.

Dr. John Eades\ Recovering Gambling Addict: "They want people to get addicted, they want them to lose every last drop of money they have."

John Eades should know. A professional addiction counselor, he found himself addicted to gambling.

Eades: I lost 300,000 dollars in one casino over three years.

Many of those Eades counsels find out the hard way that at their age they dont get many financial second chances. He once advised a 70-year-old man whose habit cost him his nest egg.

Eades: "He started gambling when he was 68 and he lost everything, lost his home and his retirement, and he was left with whatever his Social Security would bring in."

Many seniors do see casino visits as harmless social outings.

Eades: "What were going to see is casinos full of people with gray hair, the white headed group."

Muriel Vanlaanen\Gambler: "I mean as a retired teacher, this is almost my second home, and I wouldn't like my home shut down.

Loneliness and a lot of free time make older Americans more vulnerable than other segments of the population, according to Cynthia Abrams, an addiction specialist.

Cynthia Abrams\ United Methodist Church Addictions Program: "Five to ten percent of older adults who gamble are problem pathological gamblers. That is a larger percentage than in the general population."

The stakes are high and the odds could be stacked against older Americans. 48 states now have some form of legalized gambling.

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According to one public interest group, there are between eight and ten million problem gamblers in the United States. Studies also show that gambling addicts have a very high rate of suicide attempts, 13 to 18%. That number increases with age.