Stephanie talks with Eric Webber about the silent addiction of gambling. In this episode, we explore why you can’t go anywhere or watch a sporting event without hearing betting terms. Online gambling has become all the rage, but it is not without potential dangers.
Especially in a profession like law where attorneys have access to client’s money, problems can turn problematic quickly. Learn more about what is triggered in the brain during gambling, what signs to watch for, and how to know when to suggest help for a colleague or yourself. Understanding this part of addiction is part of nurturing our healthy team.
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- . The new tidal wave of addiction.
- . Why should lawyers be concerned?
- . How does gambling compare to other addictions?
- . Noticing the signs of gambling addiction.
Welcome to The Lawyerist Podcast, a series of discussions with entrepreneurs and innovators about building a successful law practice in today’s challenging and constantly changing legal market. Lawyerist supports attorneys, building client-centered, and future-oriented small law firms through community, content, and coaching both online and through the Lawyerist Lab. And now from the team that brought you The Small Firm Roadmap and your podcast hosts
Stephanie Everett (00:35):
Hi, I’m Stephanie Everett.
Jennifer Whigham (00:36):
And I’m Jennifer Whigham. And this is episode 460 of the Lawyerist Podcast, part of the Legal Talk Network. Today, Stephanie talks with Eric Webber about gambling addiction and the danger it poses for lawyers.
Stephanie Everett (00:49):
Jennifer Whigham (01:00):
So Stephanie, I don’t think- we have covered a lot of addiction issues and mental health issues- but I don’t think we’ve ever really explicitly talked about gambling before. Is that right?
Stephanie Everett (01:09):
I didn’t think we had, so that’s why I was sort of excited for this conversation because I’ve noticed in my personal life, it’s just more prevalent. Online gaming has become a thing. Eric talks about this. He kind of gives a little history of the legalization or the laws that change and then the pandemic, and I think we’re seeing a lot more of it. And what really fascinated me in this conversation, even if you don’t gamble, when he talks about addiction and what we do, what draws us into wanting to just hit a slot button or a roulette button online, especially if he talked about how you can now just pick up your phone at the end of the night and in some states gamble, play online games. But it occurred to me that isn’t what a lot of people are doing when they just get sucked into these social media videos and other platforms where you’re just kind of in that dead zone scrolling,
Jennifer Whigham (02:06):
Right? Yeah. I mean I think absolutely. And it’s the same idea of random rewards like gambling is as well because you might, you’re scrolling through trying to find that one thing that’s just going to give you a little bit of a feeling or a little bit of a serotonin, and then you scroll through 10 more or watch 10 more to get a little bit of serotonin. And I think it’s a very similar mechanism that’s going on just like gambling. You’re often doing it to escape, you’re doing it to shut your brain off, but you want a little bit of a feeling, so it does feel like you can compare it.
Stephanie Everett (02:39):
And so some people may be seeing the name of this show and think, well, I don’t gamble. I don’t go to a casino, so what does this have to offer me? Well, one, I would say it’s great to listen to because I also ask him about signs of other people. And as lawyers, we have access to other people’s money. And if you’re a business owner, and I think I’ve shared this on the show before, when my father owned a business, this was years and years ago, back when I was a kid, I remember this, one of his employees experimented with some, I think it was cocaine one night at a poker party and ended up with an addiction and stole a pretty significant amount of money from my dad’s business. He caught him, the guy got into recovery, paid him back. It had a good ending to the story, but it was just a good reminder of sometimes easy mistakes. I don’t know, whatever the right word is. This stuff happens. This stuff happens. Maybe not even to us, but it happens to people around us. Anyway, that was a long way of saying, I think you should listen to the episode, but even if you don’t gamble, maybe there’s other takeaways you could have about how you might be using online games or social media reels to escape and how that might show up in your life.
Jennifer Whigham (04:00):
And I think there’s sometimes what keeps people from seeing their own addictions is that they only picture the most extreme cases. So if they think about alcohol, they picture the person who lost their job got a D u I went to jail, or if they’re a gambler, it’s somebody who lost millions of dollars. But often these things are really small, they’re really insidious, and they can come in so many different ways, like you just mentioned, that you don’t even notice until hours of your life are eaten up. You’ve had just a dead brain for four hours. You’ve ignored your family, you are escaping from something, you’re not getting enough sleep and that it’s the same thing, and it is rarely that extreme that you see on tv. It’s usually something more like that.
Stephanie Everett (04:42):
Yeah, I think that’s such a great reminder. So I hope our listeners appreciate this episode and it’s a different slice of the idea of mental health and all the things we need to do to keep ourselves and our team healthy.
Jennifer Whigham (04:58):
Now here’s Stephanie’s conversation with Eric.
Eric Webber (05:04):
Hi, my name is Eric Webber. I am the director of the Legal Professionals Program at Caron Treatment Center. I’m a certified drug and alcohol counselor, certified in gambling addiction as well as multiple addictions. I’m a principally counselor here at the center. I’ve been here for about 16 years, and since 2016 have been specialized specializing in treating lawyers as well as executives. So I’m happy to be here today and appreciate it.
Stephanie Everett (05:31):
And obviously we’re very happy to have you. This is a topic that doesn’t go away. We continue to need to talk about addiction and mental health problems that our profession is really struggling with, and we’ve done a lot of shows in the past around alcoholism and other addictions. And today I thought it’d be interesting, maybe interesting, enlightening to talk about what I heard you speak about recently, which is gambling and gaming and how that is becoming a new problem in our profession. And so maybe just to kick us off, bring us up to speed on where we are and what we’re seeing.
Eric Webber (06:09):
Sure, appreciate that. Yeah, I mean, gambling is sort of the new tidal wave of addiction. A little bit of context and how we got to where we are gambling historically, except for Nevada Atlantic City, typically illegal in most states other than a lottery or maybe some offtrack betting, but really not popular across the United States. You had your casinos, your Native American casinos in Connecticut, so other places around the country, but not a huge presence like we’re seeing today. So in 2018, the federal government said, you know what? We’re getting out of this. We’re going to let the states let them decide what’s legal, not legal, and put all the power of gambling in the state’s hands. We’re stepping back and you saw some momentum start to pick up where states started legalizing various types of gambling. Now I’m based in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, so I’ll speak a little bit about Pennsylvania, but keep in mind in the 50 states, there’s only two states where gambling is completely illegal.
Utah and Hawaii have no gambling whatsoever, no lottery, nothing of the sorts. So in every other state, there’s some form of gambling, lotteries, tracks, casinos, what have you. In a state like Pennsylvania where gambling got legalized in 2018, you started to see some momentum. We built some brick and mortar casinos. Things started to pick up, and if you think about it, two years later, the world shut down. We had the pandemic, right? Covid hit very end of 19. By March of 20, most of the United States is shutting down. And so people were at home and what we saw was obviously brick and mortar casinos, we didn’t have people going in, but the online gambling increased parabolically, I mean exponentially, the amount of money that was being spent and generated by people going online. And again, if you just take a look at a snapshot, the casinos in Atlantic City, they have to, it’s pretty easy to find out what their revenue is, and you can track that over the period from 19 to 20 to 21 to 22, and it just continues to increase and increase and all the sports betting for the states where that’s legal, the advertising completely, completely taking over the morning news and the evening news.
So lots of money is being pumped into this as a business and to get people’s attention. So in state of Pennsylvania, we went from millions of dollars of revenue to billions of dollars of revenue within a five, six year period. I have some numbers in front of me just to bore you with some data. In 2022 nationally across the United States, the gross gambling revenue with 60 billion with a B billion dollars, $60 billion was gross revenue. About 80% of that 48 billion was casino slots and table games. People think, oh, the sports betting has really taken over. It has increased, but people are still really playing the slots and the table games, and a lot of it is what we call iGaming and that is playing it on your phone or your tablet or your laptop where you can log in and places advertise a live dealer. And so you can sit and play with a live dealer, you’re just doing electronically, give ’em your credit card number and away you go, which is one of the issues when we start taking a look at problem gambling, one of the issues we’re finding is that the idea of using a credit card rather than cold hard cash or even a chip doesn’t feel as real.
For a lot of us who maybe grew up, I’m older than I, look, I grew up with Atari 2,600, I remember playing Pitfall and Pong and all those old games. Then Nintendo came about, and you could sit there and just play video games for hours and hours on end, and I don’t think it’s gotten any better with today’s youth. A lot of times it just feels like a video game, but if I was losing at Tetris, I wasn’t losing my lunch money. I was just losing, and if I was winning, I wasn’t winning any money either. I was just winning respect and kick my brother’s rear end. We were wasting summer afternoons away. So this phenomenon that we’re seeing where gambling has accelerated tremendously in the past five years, I’d say across the country in some areas more than others, we’re seeing obviously more people are gambling, more people are needing help, and so that’s where we sort of get into what does this look like as far as a social impact?
What is the impact on society? Is this a public health hazard? Taking a look at some of the nuances, should we be advertising gambling during a sports event? There’s been some debate about that. In fact, in some countries, I want to say in Spain and a couple other European countries, they actually made it illegal for anybody to advertise gambling during the game. They say, you know what? This is not going to be good for folks. We’re just not going to do that. You can advertise the gambling before and after, but not during. They consider it a public health hazard.
Stephanie Everett (10:55):
Well, my husband and I have noticed we like getting up and watching the sports shows. We watch E S P N, and we’ll watch the N F L game day, and I think we’re actually going to have this episode air around the same time as the N F L gets fired up for this season. And now there’s a betting segment in the or I say in the e s ESPN shows, but I’m pretty sure it’s there. It’s in all the shows now. If you log on or you watch a TV show, there’s going to be an analyst that comes on and tells you about today’s lines and all these things, like things that I don’t even comprehend. I remember remarking and my husband recently, when did this start become so normalized and popular that it’s now a part of one of these sports shows?
Eric Webber (11:42):
Yeah, and to your point, do you know what you’re listening to? It’s a little like watching a very advanced financial news program being like, I know you’re supposed to buy low and sell high. When we’re talking about stocks past that, I have no idea what these guys are talking about, but lemme get my wallet out anyways and try this. And so it’s kind of interesting, and for most folks, the active gambling is not going to be a problem. The vast majority of folks who gamble, they’re not going to have an issue. They’re going to have a set limit they go to the casino with or that they have in their account. They’re going to watch football and they’re going to say, look, I got 20 bucks. I’m going to make four or $5 betts and just to have fun just, it’s one of the taglines for one of the betting houses, get skin in the game, and for most people it’s going to be entertainment.
As you and your husband are sitting there watching that, you’re going, I wonder what the handle is. And you Google it, you’ve got your laptop there and you Google, oh, the handle. That’s the amount of money that’s actually being bet going across one space to another. Okay, that’s kind of interesting. What is an over under? I don’t know. Let’s look that up. What does it mean to parlay all these terms? You say, okay, I’m going to start to learn something about this. Again, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. We won’t get into the morality of the ethics of it. That’s not my place, but I think it’s interesting to note you are going to have a certain percentage of the population who is going to struggle with addictive tendencies and addictive behaviors, and that is going to be problematic for those folks who just want to be able to watch a football game.
It’s like seeing all the beer commercials. If you’re an alcoholic, gee, I kind of want a beer now, why don’t we have cigarette advertising on the side of racing anymore? Used to have the Marlboro car in Formula One big red and white car. Don’t see that, right? You can’t advertise in magazines or on television if you still advertise magazines, but on television, you don’t see cigarette commercials on television. They figured that’s probably not a good thing to advertise. So it’s sort of interesting the impact that it’ll have in society. You’re noticing it now. There’s a whole segment, and what does that do? I guarantee it’s going to increase viewership or at least viewer response to that programming.
Stephanie Everett (13:44):
So why as lawyers should we be concerned or thinking about this or even aware that this is becoming more of a problem?
Eric Webber (13:54):
Again, I want to give some backdrop. If we go back to 2016, in fact, I have the article in front of me that a little research pulled out the article 2016 American Bar Association, along with Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. They basically sponsored a study, 12,000 lawyers across the United States. A lot of people are familiar with this. Patrick Krill really did a great job. He and his colleagues did a great job of this, and basically what it highlighted and what it demonstrated was what people knew anecdotally for a long time is that drinking is a huge problem in the legal profession. Addiction’s a huge problem. We’re talking three times the alcoholism rate as the general population increase in depression, increase in anxiety, and the study was repeated in 2021 when Patrick put out another study about attrition and gender, but built in there the questions about alcohol use and drug use.
Again, brilliant work reaffirmed. What we knew, and I have in front of me, the 2023 American Lawyer Magazine study that just came out in May, and the statistics again are the same. 71% of attorneys are reporting having anxiety. That’s a lot of anxiety. And so when we take a look at that backdrop, is this a group because they have a higher prevalence of addiction, higher prevalence of mental health, depression, anxiety and whatnot? Is this a group that’s going to be more susceptible to other addictions and one could argue, yeah, you have a group that’s already a susceptible to addiction. Let’s throw in some gambling, and what does gambling do for a lot of people? Gambling helps them relax. They want to sit, they want to play some slots. They want to play some scratch offs. I’ve had quite a number of first responders in particular, another group that has a unique set of issues they deal with from a work standpoint.
So many first responders get into trouble with the online gambling because go home, I just worked a double. I may get a day or two off, may not. Maybe I only have eight hours. Instead of popping a bunch of Xanax or Klonopin, I’m going to sit and play a bunch of roulette or slots on my phone or on my tablet, maybe have a couple of drinks and then pass out, and it gets away from ’em like we talked about earlier. It gets away from you, and then people start to get desperate. One of the things that we know is one of the things that lawyers have, depending on the area of law, but the difference between a lawyer and a doctor, somebody told me this one time is doctors don’t hold the money. The lawyers hold the money. And so there’s always that propensity of, oh, look, I got this over here.
It’s in my care. If I move a little over here and move it back, nobody’s going to know. We do have case studies where lawyers have gotten in trouble. Embezzlement. I mean, it’s a very dangerous area, and as somebody who’s in an active addiction, it can be tempting. It can be a very scary place to be, and most people when they get into trouble with gambling, don’t want to talk about it. People don’t want to talk about, Hey, I’m hooked on drugs. People don’t want to talk about I’m drinking too much, although they may because it’s a little more socially susceptible. People don’t want to talk about a shopping addiction because you typically don’t know it until you’ve got five Rolexes and only two wrist to wear ’em. Not that there’s any problem with it, but if you’re struggling to put food in the table or it’s college, you may want to consider whether you need that or not. Same thing with the gambling. People get lost in the time. It takes you away to a different spot whether you are leaning into it. When I say leaning into it, there’s two types of gambler. There’s action gambling, there’s passive gambling. Action gambling is what you’re doing with your husband. When you’re watching a football game, you say, you know what? I think I’m going to put 20 bucks on the Eagles for the Cowboys or whoever your team is. Stephanie, who’s your team?
Stephanie Everett (17:37):
I struggle because, well, I live in Atlanta, but we’re from the DC area, so we have a few teams we like. One was the Washington football team. We like that name better.
Eric Webber (17:49):
Wasington rather than the Commanders. Yeah.
Stephanie Everett (17:51):
Why did they do that? Anyway, we got new owners last week, so maybe we’ll get a new name too.
Eric Webber (17:55):
Good for you. Congratulations. I know that was coming. So you have an affinity for the Commanders or Washington football team. You’re making an informed decision. You’re saying, I know that quarterback has been really hot, or I know this line or that line for whatever reason. It’s not kind of a random thing. So the action gambling, like poker, people like to play poker because it’s skill-based and that’s really what we’re looking at. You have something that you are doing to help affect the outcome. The other type of gambling, as I said, is passive gambling. That’s more like slots. I press a button, it rings, I wait to see what happens. It’s scratch offs, it’s the lottery. Maybe somebody plays their lucky numbers, but they really aren’t affecting the outcome. Ultimately, it’s very random. So people who want to sort of fade back and escape, they’re the passive gamblers.
They just want to sort of reduce anxiety. They want to reduce how they’re feeling. They just want to sort of drift away from the world. People who engage in more active gambling, they’re actually looking to basically turn the volume up. I want to get a little more excitement. I want to get some skin in the game. I want to feel more. So depending how somebody’s feeling or how they want to feel, they’ll tend to gamble one way or the other. In both cases, it’s like narrowing somebody’s vision and all they see is what’s in front of them. And so they get very, very locked into that. And if anybody who has children and children are playing video games, you’re trying to talk to your kids while they’re playing the video games, Hey, I need you to pick up your room. I’ll get to it. And they’re sort of like, Hey, am I getting through to you? Are you listening to what I’m saying? And gambling can be much the same way. And so if you have somebody who’s struggling with it, then again, coming back to the attorneys making this very lawyer centric, you have a group that is more prone to addictive tendencies in the general population. I think there needs to be a concern, especially if that particular lawyer has access to money, to the money that maybe not be theirs, a trust or whatever, probate, whatever they’re working in. It’s a risk in a lot of ways.
Stephanie Everett (19:53):
Yeah, no, for sure. Well, let’s take a quick break, hear from our sponsors When we come back. I want to shift the conversation slightly to what we do next with this information.
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Stephanie Everett (22:23):
Alright, so I’m back with Eric. We’re talking about the newest, I mean, it feels like the newest, it’s probably been around a long time, but maybe it’s the fastest growing area of addiction, which is gambling. And now we’re seeing that with all this online gaming. Totally makes sense to me because I’ve just noticed it in my life even though I don’t do it. And I’m kind of curious, first, how does this compare, if that’s the right way to talk about it to an addiction like drinking or drugs? Because there could be some people who are sitting here listening right now saying, well, is it really that bad? Or how bad is it? And maybe there’s no way to compare, but I’m just kind of curious how you would answer that question.
Eric Webber (23:02):
Sure. The comparison, and I won’t get too technical on it, somebody says, what is addiction? And I’ll give you addiction in just a very short blurb. Addiction properly is a dysregulation of the limbic system, which is the midbrain. It’s a dysregulation of that particular system where in the presence of a mood, ary, chemical or behavior, certain neurotransmitters, dopamine, serotonin, glutamate, some other stuff I can’t spell or pronounce, gets dysregulated isn’t within a baseline or within in an area of moderation, and somebody feels like obsession. And the compulsion where they have to do this, have to do more of it, they build a tolerance to it, right? There’s a withdrawal period. All those are the same across all addictions, whether we’re talking about alcohol, drugs, pornography, sex, shopping, gambling, the nuances may look different, the withdrawal may look a little different. There’s the argument about C H C, cannabis is another big topic I’m talking about a lot recently.
Is it addictive? Not addictive, but what about the withdrawal? And the withdrawal may look different from cannabis because of the way it interacts in the body, but there is still withdrawal nonetheless. So when we take a look at the similarities of gambling to say alcohol or drugs affecting the same part of the brain, different type of stimuli, it’s a behavioral thing insofar as rather than ingesting it, but still affecting that limbic system and the dysregulation of the dopamine and serotonin. I think where it differs, and this is where I think for me as a clinician and I train other clinicians really being specific about what constitutes gambling. When is it problematic? You give somebody a beer, give an alcoholic a beer, and he’s holding it or she’s holding it in her hand and kind of bring it up to their mouth. Have they relapsed yet?
Have they really used yet? And we could argue no. Some people would argue, yes, argue no. You’ve not ingested the pill or the drug or the drink. Have you really gone there? The interesting thing with gambling is as soon as I start making betts in my head, I’m gambling. I don’t need to ingest anything. I don’t need to say anything. If I sit here, think, okay, I’m thinking, I bet you I can get Stephanie to laugh in the next 15 minutes. If I can, I win. And we’re just going to go through the conversation. Stephanie, I’m going to say something funny. You’re going to chuckle and I’m going to go. Got it. I just won. And so gambling is a little unique in that it’s very insidious, absolutely in between my ears. That’s where it’s happening. Obviously most gamblers are going to just go, no, I’m going to bet a dollar.
I’m going to bet five bucks, 10 bucks. I’m going to bet you your car. I remember being a little kid, middle school age, sixth grade, and we were betting for eraser heads off our pencils. I didn’t need another eraser, but I got yours. That’s what makes me feel good. I don’t need another one, but I want yours. And there’s another interesting impact of gambling for a lot of problem gamblers. A lot of times it’s about the identity and the ego boost. So part of gambling treatment is talking about who somebody is once they give that up and really going through a very significant grief and loss process. I’m getting a little bit into the treatment end of it, but it’s a significant piece that we need to pay attention to. I need to pay attention to as a clinician. And we do that with chemical dependency as well.
Somebody puts down the drink and you say, look, do you feel like you’re the same, better or worse? I’m no longer the drunk, funny guy. I’m no longer doing animal house impressions. Can I still be funny at dinners? Can I still be funny with my family? So there’s a little bit of identity piece there, but it’s very pronounced with gambling addiction. And that’s where it’s not necessarily different, but it’s more enhanced. And all the work I’ve done, my training is we need to pay attention to that, how somebody feels about themself. Because ultimately a lot of times that’s what it is. For a lot of my problem gamblers, the money is indicative of what they really feel and say, what does money mean to you? It’s question way ask. And I get some really interesting answers to that one. I give that interesting answers no matter who I ask that to.
But with the gamblers, it’s really about a measure of a spike in their ego. And if they’re losing a drop in their ego, it’s much more of a spike in a drop in. Say you have your Commanders, I’m going to bet you I’m your Philadelphia, so I got to be an Eagles fan. By default. We bleed green. I bet you 20 bucks. Hey, look, I got Stephanie’s 20 bucks, whatever, not a big deal. You bet 20 bucks you win. You’re like, woo-hoo. All right, that’s good. But it’s not that huge spike that you’re going to see in somebody with a problem.
Stephanie Everett (27:33):
Yeah, a couple of questions. I guess. First is it seems to me like it would be harder to recognize. So if I have a business partner or a colleague or a friend and I’m worried about them with other types of addiction, I mean drinking’s probably the easy, it seems like it might be more visible. It might be a little bit easier for me to pick up that there’s a problem or at least something that I should be aware of and ask some more questions. This feels very hidden to me, and I’m just kind of curious, are there things we should be looking for or noticing, or is it just more general behavior? What do we do?
Eric Webber (28:11):
Great question and a tough one as well. I mean, look, unless it’s just because I’m staying up late, you’re not going to get the puffy face and the blurry eyes and some of the other physical stuff. If somebody’s doing opiates or doing cocaine, gambling’s not going to give you a nosebleed unless you’re doing an altitude you’re not used to. So there is some challenges with it. And unless you are intimately involved with the person and be able to see the bank account, which is probably the number one thing we see is the bank account time spent, but it’s so easy. Pick up a phone and everybody’s always looking at an email or a text while I’m checking the lines. So it can be very difficult to detect until it’s really far down the line. So it’s really progressed and somebody is in a deep dark hole because they feel so terrible about themselves when they’ve lost a tremendous amount of money.
They’re looking for a bailout, they’re looking for a way to cover the losses. And whether that’s based on credit cards, personal loans, embezzlement, I mean, you can get pretty deep pretty quick, but it is difficult to spot, unlike somebody who’s plainly hung over because they’ve been drinking too much or they come into work inebriated. You hear the pills rattle around in their pocket, they’re always going to the bathroom. They’ve got white powder on their nose. Those are going to be a little easier to see the erratic behavior. Now when somebody’s really losing and gambling and really struggling the erratic behavior, you might start to see some of that erratic behavior. But not like when somebody’s on cocaine or doing too much Adderall. You see much more erratic interactions with their colleagues and their peers,
Stephanie Everett (29:45):
And obviously lawyers access to money. You’ve mentioned it a couple of times, but that’s got to be a real concern. I mean, we do have access to other people’s money. We are trusted with that. And I could see where people think to themselves, I can get out of this. I can work my way out of this and maybe it through. I wouldn’t personally bet on the commanders for anything. So this was a terrible example to use during this episode, but maybe, I bet, maybe I bet against them. I know they’re probably going to lose this weekend. So they think there’s a path to working their way out of the problem, but it might just get them further in. And when you have access to other people’s money, that’s got to be a bigger concern for us to be thinking about.
Eric Webber (30:31):
Absolutely. And look, desperation makes human beings do things they wouldn’t normally do. Being polite about it. Desperation is a powerful catalyst and motivator to do really irresponsible and crazy stuff and think you can get away with it. Let’s fake it. Not blowing sunshine up, but if you’re a bar attorney, if your licensed attorney, you’re smarter than the average bear to get into law school, get through law school, get out of law school and pass the bar. You can’t be a dummy. I know there’s some lawyers out there going, no, I know some dummies. But from the general, you’re working with very smart, resourceful, strategic people, which is great. I want my lawyer to be smart, strategic, brilliant. But if you put that person in a desperate situation, they may take the risk that they don’t want to take or they shouldn’t take. And I think that’s obviously very dangerous.
Lawyers are held to a high standard in society. They’re given a tremendous amount of respect and loyalty and access to, when I say access to power, access to people’s lives. And so one of the big questions I’ve been raising when we’re talking about various addictions, and again, coming back to cannabis is a hot topic now as well, what is impairment and lawyers have a duty not to practice while impaired? And if somebody’s got a gambling addiction and they’re struggling, what level of impairment is that considered? And so if somebody is basically struggling and they go before the Bar Association and they’re like, Eric’s in trouble, how do you view that? So I think that’s incredibly important. I ran across an article from a couple of years ago. The author was talking about how to view gambling as an addiction from an ethical standpoint and a legal standpoint.
We’re taking a look at attorneys who get themselves into trouble. An attorney gets a D U I, depending on the state, a big deal. As long as you slug the cop, that’s usually the problem. You a felony assault. But getting a D U I, you take care of it, pay the fine, do whatever you need to do. You just keep on going and practicing versus some other professions where they get into trouble. For instance, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and that license is on the line immediately. Like the Physician’s Health Program and p Pennsylvania’s P Nurses’ assistance program. You’ve got your J Labs, your judges and lawyer’s assistance programs. But for the most part, they operate very differently than the medical model. And there’s some argument that maybe the J Labs should act more like the medical model because you have Lawyerist who are going to have a propensity to get into trouble because the addicted nature, and if we get more access to it, and that’s really where we’re kind of at this point, we’ve got greater access to gambling.
To your point, you’re seeing it all over the place. We’ve got greater access to cannabis. It’s recreationally legal in 24 states at this point. So I go to Jersey or I go to New York, like I said, I’m in Pennsylvania. Go to Jersey or New York. You can’t walk down the street without smelling it. My attorney in New Jersey, she can smoke it if she wants. Perfectly legal, should she be smoking it? Should she be taking the gummies? What is that impairment? When we talk about gambling? Same thing. At what level is this a problem and creates impairment? So it’s an interesting time for an ethics debate and discussion in the legal field.
Stephanie Everett (33:51):
Yeah. I guess maybe as we wrap up, there could be people who are listening and they may be thinking, gosh, I do some of this stuff. What would you have them think about or what should they be asking themselves to know when it really is a problem? Because like you said, there are people who can do this. I’ll go to the casino with my husband every once in a while. I mean once every six months, and we go in with my little $400 budget or whatever it is. I’m very frugal and it’s in cash, and I’m like not taking my credit cards or my A t m and when it’s gone, it’s gone and my experience is over whatever entertainment value is over. But obviously there are people that that’s not what they’re doing. And so what do you tell people that are listening that might be thinking about where I am and when should I get help or at least start asking some more questions?
Eric Webber (34:42):
It’s a great question. I think there’s two places that I would consider just right off sending somebody if they’re even considering it. The first is your state JLAP- judges and lawyer’s assistance program. Every state has one. It’s completely anonymous. You call up and say, Hey, heard this crazy guy a bow tie talking on a podcast, got me thinking I may need to talk to somebody. Can you make a referral? And they can anonymously make a referral to a counselor or to a clinician to just open that conversation to just say, Hey, where are we at? The other great resource is one 800 Gambler’s National Hotline call up, by the way. I mean, they’re busy these days. People are calling up. They call up and say, Hey, look, I’m curious. What are some resources? So if that happens in Pennsylvania, there’s a number of us.
I say a number of us. There’s actually a listing of people who are certified in gambling addiction that they can refer to somebody. If somebody’s in my general area, they can refer to me and I can see ’em. They can in and just have a conversation, do an assessment. My job isn’t to get more people in. My job is to help people decide where they’re at, what kind of help they want. I think having that conversation can be a very healthy thing. To your point, I don’t want to villainize gambling. Gambling is an activity, drinking’s an activity, gambling’s an activity. Sexual relations is an activity in itself, not a problem. Part of human behavior. It’s when it gets out of control that that’s my realm. And so I think the statistic at this point is in the general population, one to 3% are going to have a gambling problem.
It’s actually lower than alcohol and drugs. It, for whatever reason, tends to not hook people like the chemicals do and some other things do. We’re seeing that as a pretty steady rate in Pennsylvania, at least we’re seeing it as a steady rate. We’re still at one to 3% of the total number of people who are gambling. Now. We’ve increased the number of people gambling. So the number of people who need help goes up, but the rate is the same. And so 97% of the folks are going to do exactly what you’re doing. Responsible gambling. They’re going to take a hundred bucks, 200 bucks, $10,000. I don’t care. Whatever your paycheck is, go have a good time. Or go bet on the Eagles game or the Falcons or the Commanders, God bless ’em and enjoy themselves as they should. I mean, that’s given, right? And what we do, I think it’s that one to 3% that may struggle or a slightly higher percent that kind of teetering call up 1-800-GAMBLER, call up your JLAP and just ask the questions. Get a good solid assessment, somebody you can talk to, and kind of start from there.
Stephanie Everett (37:10):
And I think it’s just a good reminder. These conversations, we like to have them often because our audience is our law firm owners and they employ people. And I think just even being aware of the anxiety levels that our profession has, and I know a lot of these studies points to lawyers, but don’t be fooled people. Your team is stressed out too. Everyone in your office is having to meet these deadlines and client expectations and solving really hard problems. And it really is an industry problem. And so we just have to keep mental health awareness at the top of our mind. And I think as employers, we have to be aware of what we’re offering to our team and what we’re doing intentionally to keep our teams truly healthy, which means their brains and that they have good resources available to them. And I mean, there’s so many different ways we can approach these problems. So I’m just really thankful, Eric, that you joined us today to talk about this. I don’t think it’s always on people’s minds, and it’s just one other layer, right? Or one other aspect of good mental health that we need to keep in mind as we’re thinking about supporting ourselves and each other to just be good, healthy humans.
Eric Webber (38:24):
I appreciate that, and I’m thankful to be here. I appreciate the invite and hopefully this is helpful for anybody listening. And again, if you even just think you might have a problem, reach out. Use the resources. They’re all anonymous. Your license isn’t in danger. People are there to help. And I don’t think it’s funny. I treat a fair amount of patients each year, and the majority of the lawyers I’m treating don’t really know what the j a is. They really don’t know what their lawyer assistance program can offer them. So with anything you’re struggling with, whether it’s addiction, mental health, financial issues, just about anything you may need, they’re there. And if they don’t have it, they can point you in the right direction. So to your point, the help is out there. Just got to know kind of where to start.
Stephanie Everett (39:06):
Perfect. And we’ll make sure to put some of those resources in the show notes to make it easier for people to find. And thanks so much, Eric.
Eric Webber (39:13):
My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
The Lawyerist Podcast is edited by Britany Felix. Are you ready to implement the ideas we discuss here into your practice? Wondering what to do next? Here are your first two steps. First. If you haven’t read The Small Firm Roadmap yet, grab the first chapter for free at Lawyerist.com/book. Looking for help beyond the book? Let’s chat about whether our coaching communities, are right for you. Head to Lawyerist.com/community/lab to schedule a 10-minute call with our team to learn more. The views expressed by the participants are their own and are not endorsed by Legal Talk Network. Nothing said in this podcast is legal advice for you.
Eric Webber is the Director of the Caron Legal Professionals Program and Senior Clinician of Specialty Services at Caron Treatment Center. He provides direct care through specialty lectures and counseling sessions focused on relapse, Addiction Interaction Disorders, work/professional related issues, and other targeted needs. He conducts the Legal Professionals group, as well as a general Executive/Professional group. Mr. Webber provides CLE trainings across the country for various State Bar Associations, laws firms, and various private organizations. He is also a trainer for the Pennsylvania Certification Board, Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, and various private treatment providers.
Last updated August 16th, 2023