As we head into March, it’s time to have the conversation about Problem Gambling. From the National Council on Problem Gambling:
NCPG encourages everyone to Have the Conversation about Problem Gambling. Most adults gamble or know someone who gambles, and therefore could benefit from programs to prevent gambling addiction. We believe many who suffer in silence do so because they don’t know why they developed a problem, what gambling addiction is or where to get help.
Statistics suggest that 5 million Americans and more than 1 million Canadians meet the criteria for gambling addictions. Of those who struggle with a gambling problem, 75% will also have issues with alcohol and an estimated 38% with other drugs. A staggering 1 in 5 people with a gambling problem will either attempt suicide or die by suicide. This is the highest rate of suicide among all addictions. Advocates are working hard to ensure that problem gambling is addressed as the public health issue it is, but unfortunately many still incorrectly view it as a moral failing or issue of “weak will” much like the stigma that alcohol and drug use has faced in the past.
Problem gamblers achieve the same effect from gambling as someone else might get from taking a drug or from drinking. The act of gambling alters their mood. A problem gambler who once achieved a “high” from winning or the rush of playing will continue chasing that same feeling. And just as individuals build up a tolerance to the affects of drugs or alcohol, the same can happen with a problem gambler. As they engage in the gambling activity of their choice, it takes more and more of the experience to achieve the same emotional effect they desire.
It’s important to discuss the topic of problem gambling with the help-seekers who reach your helpline who may be at risk or are showing signs of problem gambling. There are specific resources to point them to that can help them confront these issues, discuss them with non-judgmental listeners, and receive referrals for assistance. Visit NCPG’s website for information and resources. You’ll also find the number where you can call/text for help (1-800-522-4700) and a link to their live chat.
On February 9th PBS will air a Frontline/New York Times documentary about fantasy sports and online sports betting. The documentary will explore the growth of these businesses, go inside their operations at home and abroad, and discuss how regulatory entities, law enforcement, and legislators are grappling with it.
Our friends at the National Council on Problem Gambling played a role in the documentary. Executive Director Keith Whyte was interviewed but it’s not yet known if that footage will be included in the documentary when it airs. Keith and NCPG’s participation helped ensure that people affected by problem gambling and their stories were included.
This documentary, through its national broadcast, has the potential to educate millions of people on the topic of problem gambling, including fantasy sports, which some feel does not qualify as gambling and shouldn’t be subject to the same regulations as casinos and other established gambling purveyors.
In related news, NCPG has also released a media advisory ahead of the Super Bowl in part stating:
“The massive amount of money bet on the Super Bowl and the overwhelming media coverage may create or exacerbate gambling problems. We urge the media covering the game to provide warning signs of gambling addiction and promote the Helpline.”
You can read that full advisory here.
We hope you’ll check out the documentary when it airs, and for now you can watch the trailer below.
In a press release published earlier this week, the National Council on Problem Gambling shared information discouraging gift giving of lottery tickets and other related items to minors this holiday season.
From the release, “Lottery tickets may be fun-filled and exciting presents, but they are not suitable gifts for minors. Studies suggest that gambling is a popular yet risky activity among youth. Additionally, researchers have reported a correlation between age of gambling onset and problem gambling later in life. Lottery play is sometimes an initial introduction to gambling activities for minors.”
Read the full press release here, and please pass it along to remind others that “Lottery tickets aren’t child’s play.”
Donna and I recently returned from the National Council on Problem Gambling‘s annual conference, and we had such a great time!
This year’s conference was held in beautiful Baltimore, Maryland. Since I’m from Maryland and still live there, I was quite excited about attending this conference. It’s always fun when so many people from all over the country or world are visiting, perhaps for the first time, a place with which you’re quite familiar. I had a fun time all week sharing little tidbits about my home state with people from out of town.
And, if you ever travel to Baltimore I highly recommend the hotel where the conference was held, the Baltimore Hilton right across from Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Perfectly centrally located for all sorts of fun activities in the city including baseball or football games, and the world famous Inner Harbor. Plus the conference rooms and all the accommodations for the conference were top notch.
Check out this photo taken from my room as the sun sets over Baltimore.
In the center of the photo is the Baltimore Convention Center, just to the lower right of that is the famous Otterbein Church, and if you look just above the Convention Center you’ll see the Inner Harbor in the distance. Like I said, centrally located!
We were invited to attend and present at the pre-conference Helpline Symposium. This was an exciting opportunity to show many of the NCPG affiliates all around the country how iCarol chat and text works. iCarol is the provider for NCPG’s national text and chat lines, so when a chat comes through that website or a text comes through that national text number, it will be routed to an affiliate center based on routing criteria like availability and location. So, as affiliates choose to come online and be part of that national chat and text network, we’ll be ready and delighted to help get them set up on iCarol. It’s another great example of the networks and collaborations that can be built using iCarol. We hope to bring you more information about this network and how it’s growing as time goes on.
Here’s Donna presenting information about the national chat and text network. Special thanks to Robyn from the Louisiana affiliate and Amy from the National Council on Problem Gambling, who helped us do a live demonstration!
The Helpline Symposium was a great chance to hear from affiliates about their experiences. A number of really interesting topics were discussed, such as marketing challenges facing the industry. Coming up with effective, consistent messaging, and increasing visibility and awareness of problem gambling issues, as well as promoting where people can get help, were all among the topics this engaged and energetic group discussed.
We sure did have a great view from our conference room where the symposium was held, check out the beautiful scene just out the window of Oriole Park at Camden Yards where the Baltimore Orioles play.
Throughout the conference the culture of Maryland was on display in the best of ways. We caught one of Maryland’s famous crabs hanging out with a volunteer during the symposium break!
Of course networking and spending time with friends is a highlight of any conference. We took in a delicious dinner at Dempsey’s located right across the street in the Camden Yards complex. Here’s Donna (center) with industry friends Robyn and Mary posing just outside the ballpark.
Before we knew it, it was time for the welcome reception. What a great event! The baseball theme was tons of fun, everyone was wearing jerseys representing their favorite teams. But it gets better — the food was ballpark themed too! Soft pretzels, popcorn, crackerjacks, a sliders station, and it wouldn’t be an event in Maryland without some crabcakes! We got to visit with so many wonderful people from various parts of the industry, too, since the exhibitor’s hall was all set up, where our booth was located.
While we’re talking about the reception, I’ve got to give a huge shout out to the hosts of the conference, the Maryland Council on Problem Gambling and the Maryland Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling (University of Maryland School of Medicine). Every detail was so great, from the food to the accommodations to the conference rooms and session spaces and fun activities. What fabulous hosts they were!
The conference kicked off the next day with a great keynote by psychiatrist Dr. David Mee-Lee, who has worked for years as an expert in addiction both substance and non-substance related, as well as co-occurring conditions. It was a really engaging keynote with lots of comic relief via Dr. Mee-Lee’s slideshow.
The breakout sessions were highly informative. I attended sessions on a variety of topics including veteran gambling addiction, gambling addiction as it relates to mental illness such a schizophrenia, and new technologies being used in video gaming units at casinos. I plan to bring you more detail on those interesting topics in the coming months.
Another fun networking event was the Friday evening trip to the American Visionary Art Museum in the Federal Hill area of Baltimore. Fun fact: Just two miles further down the street from the museum is Fort McHenry, where Marylander Francis Scott Key witnessed a battle in the War of 1812 and wrote a poem which would later become the lyrics to the United States’ National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner! See, I told you I enjoyed peppering people with facts about my home state!
While no photos were permitted within the museum, I encourage you to check out their website. It was an extremely unique, thought-provoking place unlike any art museum I’ve been to before!
Next door to the museum was a reception area with more yummy food (four words: crab mac and cheese!) where we took in an exhibit specifically about problem gambling, with pieces of art by students, people in recovery, and family members of problem gamblers.
This was a particularly powerful piece titled “Losing Hand” by artist Jennifer L. Walsh, who experienced the effects of problem gambling through her own mother’s addiction.
The caption reads:
“Losing Hand: Why Gamble When You’ve Already Won” is an image of a losing hand of poker. The player’s hand in the foreground is holding five cards, each with an image of what they have accomplished or gained in their life and what they are actually losing when they gamble.
The Ace of Hearts is the last card in the hand and is slipping out of the thumb’s grip, signifying the loss of family due to the habit.
We had a fantastic time at the conference and enjoyed meeting so many of you in the problem gambling industry. If you didn’t get a chance to chat with us at the conference, please check out our website and contact us for more information on iCarol Helpline Software. Or, feel free to attend one of my regular webinars to get an idea of what we’re all about!
If you’re going to be in Orlando for the 28th National Conference on Problem Gambling in July, be sure to stop by and say hi to Donna and Eliisa from iCarol who will be there for the pre-conference festivities and the pre-conference reception. We’re proud to be a part of this event; the largest and oldest conference of its kind bringing together leaders in prevention, education, treatment, responsible gaming, research, and recovery.
We’ll be joining the Pre-Conference which is focused on the work of helplines. On Wednesday July 9th we’ll present a session titled “Strategic Issues in Helpline Text, Chat and Operations” where we’ll cover the important trends we’re seeing in Helpline operations. We’ll discuss our experience with the dramatic shift towards offering help through multiple channels, such as Chat and Text messaging. This is in response to the near-ubiquitous nature of cell phones and the increasing popularity of gambling sites and apps — people are nowadays often holding their phone and/or online when they need help. Our presentation will be followed by a separate presentation by iCarol clients from the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling and Bensinger Dupont and Associates who will present chat and texting demonstrations.
With every event we attend we continue to be amazed by the diversity in the helpline services available for so many different needs and issues in communities all across the world. Problem gambling helplines are doing wonderful work to strengthen families and improve health and wellness by reducing the economic, social, and personal costs caused by problem gambling. We’re sure it’s going to be another exciting and educational event. See you there!