The Army’s Complicated Relationship with Gambling

Being an army officer can sometimes be a physical and psychological nightmare for many recruits. Soldiers are often forced to deal with the harrowing experiences as well as boredom as they wait to be deployed. Consequently, the need for recreational activities for these soldiers cannot be overemphasized. Recreational activities and games play a significant role in relaxing the minds of the soldiers and help them pass the time as they wait to get on the next round of events in various places. This is often where gambling comes in handy, but it is also a fact that gambling and military forces have had a dark relationship over the years.


According to news from the Defense Department, 72 reserve members and 514 active duty civil-military members and were either diagnosed or treated for gambling-related disorders between the years 2011-2015. Even though these number appears to be meager (only 0.03% of the active and reserve population), a federal agency that offers oversight and investigation services for Congress (GAO) says that the military should do more in identifying and treating gambling-related disorders. Besides GAO, several other players believe a higher number of gambling addicts are in the armed forces.


Is gambling legal?


There has been a protracted debate as to whether gambling should be banned in the military service or not. Such debates have often been fueled by the evidence that links gambling addiction and armed soldiers. However, it is essential to acknowledge the fact of an existing policy in the U.S. Air Force publication which states that an employee should not engage in any form of gambling while on active duty. The irony of this is the presence of slot machines as well as other casino games in military barracks. In other countries such as the United Kingdom, the minister for Defense was at one point put under scrutiny for allowing FOBTs in the barrack. Showing this is a truly international issue.


At the moment, the military service doesn’t offer annual screening. Besides, its current medical intervention process does not contain questions that could detect susceptibility to gambling disorder as is the case with other addictive disorders. According to a GAO report, military service screening only focuses on mental-health disorders and ignore screening for gambling-related problems. “This is dangerous because gambling disorders can have tremendous effects on military operation. The financial hardships, preoccupation with gambling and increased suicidal risks are a danger to an individual’s readiness to” read the report.


The rise of online casino


What has made it even harder to fight gambling in the military is the rise of mobile casinos on cell phones. This implies that even if slots rights are taken away, an officer can easily have access to gambling through his or her cell phone.


For veterans and those still in military service, the pressure of gambling is at times irresistible and will be hard to break. The fact that it is readily available and practiced by most soldiers makes it even more difficult. Some of the probable reasons why armed officers become addicted to gambling are to cure boredom, or dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder from unimaginable trauma like witnessing genocide. Some people often get involved as a way of coping with civilian life after retirement from the service.


The problem of gambling in the military cannot be wished away considering the effects that come with it. In the United States alone, it is estimated that between 36,000 and 48,000 active military officers are addicted to gambling. There is a need to have a serious discussion about ways to prevent this menace from going too far. The military must come up with a means of controlling its personnel from overindulging in gambling.

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