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Gambling losses can quickly become the employer’s problem

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Arlene Simon

Worldwide, businesses are losing billions of dollars from employee fraud. While it’s easy to dismiss the cause of employee fraud as “greed,” the reality is that employee fraud can be driven by something much deeper and complex. Just as you wouldn’t chalk up a person’s alcohol addiction to being driven by physical thirst and a taste for bourbon, employee fraud typically isn’t solely based in a simple desire for money.

My choice of an addiction analogy is not random. For businesses, the first dynamic to recognize is that problem gambling is an addiction, with many similarities to substance addictions. It’s not enough to expect someone to simply consider there may be a problem and change his or her behavior. To change the tide, something has to disrupt the behavior, then in-depth support needs to kick in that redirects the addict to healthier ways. Lastly, the deeper a gambling addict gets into his or her addiction, the more expensive it becomes to support the habit. So, you can see that what may be perceived as “greed” motivating employee fraud can have much deeper, more complicated roots.

The money to support the addiction has to come from somewhere. Payroll fraud, padding expense accounts, taking a few dollars from the cash register, fraudulent workers comp claims—the list of temptations and opportunities for a gambling addict to meet his or her need for financial support is endless in the workplace. What is relatively new and adding to the gambling addiction-employee theft connection, is the meteoric rise in the number of ways, places and times gambling is available to individuals today. Even having a physical venue is no longer a requirement.

It is unfortunately a simple fact: The workplace—with its lunch breaks, coffee breaks, seemingly harmless betting pools and internet connectivity—can now be considered a contributor to the need for an individual to engage in employee theft. Sadly, businesses are more vulnerable than ever for potential employee fraud driven by gambling. 

Companies need to take steps to protect themselves from the risk of gambling-driven employee fraud. There are several actions employers can take that will go a long way in mitigating the risk and, hopefully, minimizing bottom-line losses.

1. Remove gambling temptations in the workplace.

Restrict employees’ access to online gambling platforms on company computers, strictly oversee office pools, or ban them completely.

2. Ensure that all company financial controls are scrupulously maintained.

Make sure the best security mechanisms are in place for any use of corporate credit cards, access ports to company and client accounts, and so forth. Restrict the number of employees with signatory rights.

3. Know the signs of a potentially problem gambler.

Is an employee taking a lot of unexplained time off work? Does an employee appear to be increasingly under stress? Is he or she spending large amounts of time on the internet or a smartphone that cannot be explained as part of workday responsibilities?

4. Encourage an office culture where employees feel safe to come forward if they have concerns about the welfare of other staff, or if they have a problem themselves.

The connection between gambling addiction and employee fraud can be a costly one for a business and the economy it supports. Companies have a responsibility to be aware of this connection, understand ways to mitigate risks and take action to do so.

The Delaware Council on Gambling Problems (DGCP) is available 24/7 to help, to offer advice and counseling by calling 888-850-8888. We can come in to any size organization and do an informative presentation. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call DCGP at 302-655-3261 or visit: deproblemgambling.org. 

Arlene Simon is executive director of the Delaware Council on Gambling Problems. She can be reached at Arlene.Simon@DCGP.org

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