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Lost Wagers

The stakes are high when dealing with employees who have gambling problems.

This story appears in the July 1999 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Got an employee who's addicted to gambling? That's probably not his or her only problem. Compulsive gamblers may experience a range of consequences, including divorce, poor physical and mental health, bankruptcy, and even arrest and incarceration. The costs to family members, the health-care system and creditors can reach thousands of dollars each year, according to a study on gambling behavior conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. But what about the cost to employers? Problem gambling can also lead to job loss and lost wages. So what should you do if one of your employees is gambling too much?

Often, people with compulsive behavior problems--whether it's gambling, drug consumption or something else--have other related problems in their lives that can affect their performance at work, says Jon Miller, a labor and employment law attorney with Berger, Kahn, Shafton, Moss, Figler, Simon & Gladstone in Irvine, California. They may be repeatedly late or absent, or distracted while on the job, which can affect the quality of their work. "Certainly the firmer ground for most employers is simply to deal with performance issues rather than get into [their employees'] personal characteristics," Miller says.

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