CFOs might be at greater risk of problem gambling

CFO Dive
CFOs might be at greater risk of problem gambling
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CFOs are at risk of becoming problem gamblers, experts say, since CFOs have access to company and personal funds, and often feel their number-crunching ability can give them an edge. 

Other factors add to the danger too, Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, said, including stock trading, which can be a hazard for professionals prone to excessive gambling.

In a 2,000-person survey this April, NCPG found people who traded in the financial markets weekly or more frequently were twice as likely to have problematic gambling behavior.

Frequent trading and number crunching can give CFOs the illusion they can beat the odds in  gambling with cognitive distortions, Whyte noted.

He added a significant danger for people with gambling disorders is the ailment can be accompanied by crime; 70% of those with the problem have broken the law from embezzlement, forgery, check fraud and other means to obtain money for their addiction.

One thing Whyte said a CFO can do to lessen the temptation to become addicted is to have a crystal-clear company policy against it.

“Most company don’t have a policy on gambling on the workplace or it is very vague,” he said. “Problem gambling can really affect a company culture.” 

A lot of gambling happens on the job with a lot of the server traffic for internet gambling sites peaking during the business day.

While he advocates a strong written policy against gambling at work, Whyte said the aura against it makes it a problem many hide. “Companies should be willing to give people with gambling problems a second chance.”

Second chances have a good track record for the afflicted in part because two-thirds of those who go into treatment overcome the problem, he pointed out.

He recommended someone who has a gambling disorder see a mental health professional who has specific training in dealing with the problem than a psychiatric or psychological generalist.

Unfortunately, Whyte said gambling addicts often try to keep it secret because of the shame and stigma.

While a CFO stealing millions to support an addiction can ruin a company, the problem can damage a CFO’s life beyond the job.

The 2021 Lifetime Research Award from the NCPG University of Massachusetts Amherst Public Health Research Professor Rachel Volberg said looking at the demographics, men aged 25 to 29 appear most vulnerable to gambling disorders.

She said she is worried the rapid expansion of online sports betting is going to make their vulnerability worse and add to the dangers for younger men without proper controls in place.

That is on top of the expansion of state lotteries and casinos that have increased the temptations and dangers since she started researching gambling disorders in the mid-1980s.

“A lot of people go to casinos Las Vegas once a year, now it’s to a casino near them once a week,” she noted.

The professor said she found gambling disorders aren’t addictions that are destined to continue and grow for someone---the problems come and go.

That being said, she warned having a gambling problem in the past is one of the greatest indicators of having a gambling problem in the future.

Volberg, who received the first funding from the National Institutes of Health to study the prevalence of problem gambling in the general population, said the fiduciary responsibilities a CFO has can present real problems:

“Transparency with senior management ix the utmost importance.”

Arlene Simon, executive director of the Delaware Council on Gambling Problems, has suggested two things companies should do to lessen the chances CFOs and others in the business will gamble dangerously are to strictly oversee office pools (or ban them completely) and to restrict the number of employees with signatory rights to business bank accounts.

A report from The Recovery Village, a national network of addiction treatment centers, has said statistics indicate that families where a parent gambles compulsively are more likely to experience domestic violence, including child abuse.

“Even when gambling and domestic violence don’t coincide, children of parents with gambling addiction are more likely to develop depression, substance use and behavioral problems later in life.”

One study found that 69 percent of adults over the age of 61 gamble each year and that the age group has been found to have particular difficulty viewing gambling as an addiction and understanding it as a treatable condition.