Be Aware of the Signs of Problem Gambling
March is one of my favorite months — not only because spring is right around the corner, but because of March Madness. If you’re a sports enthusiast like I am, you love filling out that bracket and watching to see if your team makes it to the finals.
But March Madness can also bring another pastime to the forefront: gambling. Many of us gamble responsibly and use it as a form of entertainment and enjoyment — and that’s fun and perfectly acceptable.
However, some begin to gamble excessively, and it becomes something more than just entertainment. Gambling can be a real problem when it gets in the way of work, school or other activities; harms your mental or physical health; hurts you financially; damages your reputation; or causes problems with your family or friends.
THE SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM
March is National Problem Gambling Awareness month, and we know from our own experience at Meridian that Problem Gambling cuts across all age groups, genders, economic strata and social situations.
Studies show that there may be as many as six to ten million problem gamblers in the United States. According to a study by Ohio Responsible Gambling, approximately 220,000 Ohioans engage in at-risk gambling, with 30,000 engaging in problem gambling behaviors.
SIGNS OF PROBLEM GAMBLING
Identifying problem gamblers isn’t an exact science, and just because someone gambles, doesn’t mean they are a Problem Gambler. But here are some common signs there might be a problem:
- Preoccupation with gambling activities
- Severe mood swings
- Believing that life without gambling is impossible
- Neglecting personal or work responsibilities to focus on gambling activities
- Fantasizing about “this week’s win” to overcome “last week’s loss” and dreaming about “the big win”
- Scheming to borrow money from friends and family
- Considering illegal acts, such as stealing and forgery, as a means of financing gambling
- Lying to conceal activity
- Jeopardizing employment or school work due to gambling
RULES OF RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING
- Set a dollar limit and stick to it
- Set a time limit and stick to it
- Never gamble on credit
- When gambling stops being fun, it’s time to stop gambling
- Keep a balance in your life — gambling should never interfere with family, friends, or your job
- Treat the money you lose as entertainment
HELP FOR PROBLEM GAMBLERS
Companies with Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) in place can offer immediate, no-cost help to workers who exhibit Problem Gambling signs. Meridian HealthCare has helped many companies in the area establish EAPs. Meridian also offers a specific Problem Gambling program led by a National Certified Gambling Counselor, featuring individual, group and family counseling.
Another resource to seek out is The Ohio Casino Control Commission, which maintains a Problem Gambling Helpline. Call 800-589-9966.
PROTECTING YOUR FINANCES
If you recognize that you have a gambling problem, you can take several steps to protect your finances:
- Only carry the amount of cash you will need for one day’s expense
- Cut up your credit and debit cards or give them to a friend or family member for safekeeping
- Limit the amount of money you can withdraw in one day (talk with your bank)
- Ask family and friends not to lend you money (or to invite you gambling)
- Eliminate all other sources you might have for gambling money
Finally, look into the Ohio Casino Control Commission’s Voluntary Exclusion Program, which is designed to prevent problem gamblers from entering a casino by placing their names on a list of persons excluded from all such facilities in the state of Ohio. More information is available at www.casinocontrol.ohio.gov
Larry Moliterno is CEO of Meridian HealthCare and currently serves as President of the Ohio Alliance of Recovery Providers. Send email to lmoliterno@MeridianCommunityCare.org