First degree relatives of pathological gamblers are eight times more likely to develop similar problems, according to research by Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa.
The study involved 95 pathological gamblers, 91 control subjects of similar age, gender and education, and 1,075 of their parents, children and siblings.
Researchers found that 11% of problem gambler’s relatives had similar afflictions compared to just 1% of the control relatives.
"Our work clearly shows that pathological gambling runs in families at a rate higher than for many other behavioural and psychiatric disorders," said Donald W Black, professor of pyschiatry at the university.
The link between addiction and genetics may go a long way to explaining why the percentage of problem gamblers has stayed the same despite the rapid proliferation of gambling platforms.
The study also found that relatives of pathological gamblers were more likely to have other mental illnesses such as post traumatic stress disorder or social anxiety disorder.
"This suggests that pathological gambling may share an underlying genetic predisposition with those disorders," Black said.