Every day, we’re exposed to gambling.
We see billboards sharing the latest entertainers coming to a casino near us.
We hear radio ads pumping us up for the latest record-breaking jackpot.
We read about the discussion of casino expansion and online gambling legalization in the newspaper.
We watch gambling in movies and on TV shows and make bets on televised sports events such as March Madness and Super Bowl.
And as we do all of this, we see and hear very little about problem gambling, when the truth is, where there is gambling, there are people at risk for becoming addicted.
We need to talk about problem gambling.
More than 5 percent of New York residents – that’s more than 600,000 people – are dealing with their own gambling problem, and another 5 percent are at-risk for developing one.
Beyond the individual with the problem, this addiction can affect everyone around them. Spouses and other family members find themselves in financial and emotional crises. Kids are forced to understand and deal with the tolls of compulsive gambling. Coworkers are left to pick up the slack of gamblers distracted from their work. Those around the gambler have had their lives altered, their finances, schedules or interaction with the gambler.
Will they support the problem gambler and push them toward a path of recovery? Or will they ignore the signs and consequences of problem gambling, even going as far as to enable the addiction? How will they deal with the consequences the gambler’s actions have had on their own lives?
Why should we talk about problem gambling?
Research shows that the more you educate people about the dangers of gambling addiction, the less likely people are to become addicted. If we can help even a handful of people by preventing them from developing a destructive addiction, we’ve in turned help all the individuals around them who would suffer from the related consequences.
Why else do we talk about gambling? It’s not just about prevention. We know there are people out there who already need help, and support is available. Problem gambling is a treatable addiction. People need to know how they can find help. They need to know that other people are struggling from gambling addiction as well. They are not alone, and neither are their family members dealing with the impacts. Counseling and support is available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, statewide.
Why isn’t problem gambling talked about enough?
Discussing any addiction is tricky . Many people are able to gamble, and enjoy gambling, without any serious consequences. Cities and counties throughout New York State benefit from the revenues of their local casinos and other gambling operations, and talking about gambling addiction isn’t the most attractive subject to tie to the more glamorous gambling conversations.
But we can do it if we balance the conversation appropriately. We can talk about gambling, and we can make sure to discuss the warning signs of when gambling is becoming problematic. We can make sure that people who need help know where to find it, while letting the millions of other occasional social gamblers enjoy themselves without judgment or interruption.
How can I start a conversation about gambling?
Our interview with Jim Maney, executive director of NYCPG, touched on this subject. People can make a difference by educating themselves about problem gambling, and then spreading that information in their local communities. Educate your family members and friends, and encourage them to share that information with others. Raise awareness of problem gambling when office gambling pools are started or when a social event is organized of which gambling is a central component.