Gambling addiction may be an underlying cause of a client's criminal behavior, financial difficulties, family issues, or any other legal matter that has led them to seek the help of an attorney. Attorneys are in a unique position to identify problem gambling behavior in their clients because they have access to client information, financial records, and other documentation that is generally not available to others. Clients, protected by attorney-client privilege, may feel safe disclosing a gambling problem to their attorney. It is important to be able to identify whether your client has a problem with gambling so that you are able to assist them in receiving the help that they need.
Clients with a gambling problem may be more inclined to seek legal help in the following areas of practice:
Bankruptcy and Tax Law:
- Clients are required to disclose gambling debts on bankruptcy and tax forms.
- A conversation about why a client is facing bankruptcy or tax issues may reveal a gambling problem.
- Bankruptcy and tax attorneys review confidential financial documents that may reveal spending patterns that could be related to a gambling problem.
- Crimes related to fraud, theft, embezzlement and other financial crimes may be related to a gambling problem.
- Co-occurring addictions are common. Drug and alcohol related offenses may be tied to a gambling problem.
- When reaching community property settlements, family law attorneys are privy to assets and debts that could reveal a gambling problem.
- Many divorces occur as the result of issues with disputes over finances, which could be related to a gambling problem.
- A client who is unable to pay child support may have a gambling addiction.
What can you do?
Your client may not realize they have a gambling problem. Begin the conversation by saying, "When I've seen this financial pattern in other clients, it often suggests there may be a gambling problem. Do you feel that your gambling may be an issue?" Then ask the questions below and refer them to the FREE services provided through the Louisiana Gambling Hotline: 1-877-770-STOP.
If you suspect that your client may have a gambling problem, a simple screening tool can lead to a conversation about gambling addiction:
1. During the past 12 months, have you become restless irritable or anxious when trying to stop/cut down on gambling?
2. During the past 12 months, have you tried to keep your family or friends from knowing how much you gambled?
3. During the past 12 months did you have such financial trouble as a result of your gambling that you had to get help with living expenses from family, friends or welfare?