March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month. The initiative was launched in 2003 by the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG). The goals of this national campaign are:
- To increase public awareness of problem gambling and the availability of prevention, treatment & recovery services.
- To encourage healthcare providers to screen clients for problem gambling.
This annual initiative has never been as crucial as this year, considering the fact many states have regulated and allowed sports betting, online casinos, and poker in recent years. The way this problem is addressed – or not addressed according to statistics – can deteriorate the situation in the US.
- March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month in the US
- The need for proper funding against this addiction is crucial
- There’s a lack of public awareness on the matter at the federal level
An Overview of Problem Gambling in the US
Over the last few years, there have been significant developments in the case of legalizing online wagering across the US. The nationwide expansion will probably lead to new players developing problematic habits. On the other hand, it might also bring opportunities to elevate public awareness surrounding the problem.
Gambling Addiction in Numbers
Currently, the situation with US problem gambling is as follows. The estimations are that 6 million people suffer from this problem, which is roughly 1 in 40 adults. While this is a startling number, this type of addiction is not taken as seriously as drug and alcohol abuse.
Did You Know?
Approximately 2 million US adults are estimated to meet criteria for gambling disorder. Another 4 – 6 million could meet the criteria for an addiction.
The statistics show that over 10 million American citizens abuse prescription painkillers, and 30 million have a drinking problem. However, Americans record an average of $45,000 in personal debt with betting issues, which is almost 20% higher than the national debt average.
An Invisible Addiction
This is a worrisome fact, especially given the invisible nature of this type of addiction. Problem gambling strongly correlates with self-destructive behavior and depression. It is a habit that needs to be taken seriously.
Problem gamblers are five times more likely to contemplate suicide and 15 times more likely to attempt it than the average person with other types of problems.
Not to mention the fact that these people also have anger management issues. Nevertheless, even though these numbers are worrisome, online wagering is spreading all over the nation, without the proper guidelines on how it needs to be done.
What is Problem Gambling?
Problem gambling includes all behavior patterns that compromise, disrupt or damage personal, family, or vocational pursuits. Anyone who bets can develop an addiction. This is why it is important to be aware of the risks and to gamble in a responsible way.
Even though this is considered an invisible addiction, there are still ways to identify a compulsive gambler. Take a look at some of the most common symptoms.
Addressing Problem Gambling
Responsible gambling is far from being adequately addressed in the US, especially now when people have better access to it. Outside of Nevada, sports betting was illegal in the past, but now, it is available in more than a dozen states, meaning the risk is higher. Ten other states have laws in place for regulating online betting.
Jamie Salsburg, a former problem gambler and now the spokesperson for problem gambling awareness commented on the situation, saying:
We are removing barriers to access gambling without first having a conversation about how to do it
A Lack of Public Awareness
There is a lot of misunderstanding around the issue, and a lack of funding for nationwide responsible gaming. The public cannot see the real problem because this addiction lacks the dependency component of substance abuse.
Nonetheless, it is still an impulse-control disorder that has similar roots. It is invisible to the public because the problem gambler does not have physical symptoms of dependency.
The Need for Proper Federal Funding
In 2016, a National Council on Problem Gambling study showed that state governments spend $73 million to address the issue, but 10 of them had no budget for treatment at that time. Funding on the federal level was and remains nonexistent.
The study showed that South Carolina spent only $0.01 per capita, and Delaware, at the high end, $1.46 per resident. This means that all states together give only $12 per person every year, using the estimate of 6 million US citizens with a gambling problem. It’s worth mentioning that this money is divided between efforts to do research, raise awareness, and fund treatment problems. The reality is, much more than that is needed for effective treatment efforts.
If you or someone you know has a betting problem, OUSC recommends calling or texting the National Problem Gambling Helpline Network at 1-800-522-4700 or visit www.ncpg.org/ for confidential help.