Lotteries with ballooning jackpots lure millions of people into grocery and convenience stores to buy the “lucky” ticket. Then, there are the playoffs of major sports teams and final competitions that are too good for bettors to pass up. Add online gambling to the mix, and people have one more temptation to rob them of their money… and time at work. Experts agree that gambling is essentially a harmless activity, even in the workplace. If betting and gambling don’t interfere with job performance or productivity, employers, especially small businesses (SMBs), may have nothing to worry about. But employers must intervene if these activities start causing productivity to slip or discord to break out among workers.
Most people think they know what gambling is. But they may be surprised at what activities fall under a universal definition. The National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG) defines “gambling” as “an activity in which something of value — usually money — is risked on the outcome of an event where the probability of winning or losing is less than certain.” The list of gambling activities includes:
These activities show up in the workplace, aided largely today by technology.
Are your employees gambling or making bets at work? If you’re unsure, experts at the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation (VRGF), an Australian-based organization, say you should assume they are. Here’s why:
Gambling is a way for employees to have fun and bond with coworkers, but at what cost? And is it even legal?
Sports betting, or gambling, in the workplace, is illegal in various states, not yet legal in a few, and restricted in others. Employers must know the rules in their areas of operation to avoid violating the law.
Sports betting also is a big enterprise. Legal bets on the 2022 Super Bowl totaled nearly $180 million. That figure might have been much higher if illegal bets had been factored into the total. From fun and games to addiction When gambling changes from a fun-filled activity to a costly, out-of-control habit, it’s an addiction. NCRG defines a gambling addiction as “a persistent and recurrent maladaptive gambling behavior that disrupts personal, family or vocational opportunities.” The center calls a gambling addiction a pathological disorder that, if left “unchecked or untreated,” leads to serious health, financial, and social complications for the addicted. Statistics on addicted gamblers show that:
Employers may see betting in the workplace as generally harmless and overlook the activity. But they can address problematic betting and addiction when it occurs and prevent it by spotting the signs.
Kindbridge, a provider of behavioral services, identifies common signs and symptoms of gambling, or gaming, addiction as:
Out-of-control gambling cuts productivity, escalates absences, and can expose the workplace to fraud and theft. VRGF cites three ways addicted gamblers harm the workplace.
VRGF also notes that gambling addicts who have stolen company funds and been caught committing the offense are often found to have behaved uncharacteristically.
The foundation also notes that a study of significant court cases between 2008 and 2010 identified more than $77 million in losses due to betting, with employers losing the most from gaming-generated crime.
Employers have a legal responsibility to provide a safe and healthful work environment for their employees. And that includes preventing workplace gambling from getting out of control and intervening when it becomes addictive. Employers can minimize the risks of workplace gambling through:
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) doesn’t require employers to accommodate compulsive gamblers. Still, a gambler suffering from another impairment, like a psychiatric or addictive disorder, may be covered under the law.
Employers don’t have to ban gambling at work. Still, they should know the signs of addiction and intervene if employees experience problems.