Why is Georgia participating in national Problem Gambling Awareness Month in March, you may wonder.
Currently, people in Georgia who enjoy gambling have only two in-state options: the Lottery and a few hours on select days aboard the Emerald Princess Casino. So Georgia problem gambling may not seem like an obvious issue.
But legalized gambling just might loom on the horizon in the state, and Georgians can gamble in neighboring states.
More urgently, according to the Georgia Council on Problem Gambling (GCPG), Georgia gambling addiction is already a public health crisis. And the suicide rate for gambling addiction is higher than that of any other addiction.
The GCPG serves as the official state chapter of the National Council on Problem Gambling. This organization is behind the annual Problem Gambling Awareness Month campaign. The NCPG has chosen “Awareness + Action” as this year’s theme.
The campaign’s objectives are to increase public awareness of problem gambling and the availability of prevention, treatment, & recovery services, and to encourage healthcare providers to screen clients for problem gambling.
Problem gambling has been called a silent addiction.
What is problem gambling?
Alan M. Feldman, Distinguished Fellow on Responsible Gaming, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
“One does not become a problem gambler immediately … It happens over time.”
Medical books have recognized pathological gambling as an addictive disorder since 1980.
According to a 2021 article published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health,
“Problem gambling is a gambling disorder often described as continued gambling in the face of increasing losses.”authors: Teal, Kusev, Heilman, Martin, Assani, and Pace
The physical tolls of gambling addiction
Problem gamblers “feel better when they gamble,” the study explains. And the DSM-5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classifies problem gambling as an addictive disorder. This guide, published by the American Psychiatric Association states that gambling activates the brain’s reward mechanisms. Furthermore, the way those reward mechanisms activate is very similar to substance addiction.
About 1% of Americans (approximately two million adults) meet the criteria for problem gambling, according to the NCPG. Another 2-3% (four to six million adults) meet the criteria for mild or moderate problem gambling.
And according to GCPG 2015 figures, the estimated prevalence rate for gambling addiction in Georgia was 1.4%, with 2.6% classified as problem gamblers.
According to therecoveryvillage.com, pathological gamblers usually subscribe to two prevalent untrue self-myths. Namely, that they are lucky or will become lucky, and that they have some special gambling skill.
Learning from the Georiga Lottery
The Lottery’s site offers a self–assessment test with questions like:
- Have there ever been periods when you needed to gamble with increasing amounts of money or with larger wagers than before in order to get the same feeling of excitement?
- Are you lying to family members, friends, or others about how much you gamble, and/or about how much money you lost on gambling, on at least three occasions?
- Have you ever felt restless or irritable when trying to stop, cut down, or control your gambling?
Among the Lottery’s tips for responsible gaming on their site are:
- “There is nothing you can do to improve your chances of winning, but you can control how much you spend.”
- “Avoid gaming when you are upset, lonely, angry, depressed or stressed.”
Additionally, the site also reminds visitors that gambling is “a form of entertainment” and not a way to make money.
Meeting some more problem gambling myths
There are several Myths abound about gambling. For reference, here are just a few.
Gambling isn’t addictive
Well, we definitely covered that above. Yes, it can very much be addictive. Furthermore, adults are not the only ones at risk for problem gambling.
According to statistics from the Gambling Research Exchange Ontario:
- 0.2-12.5% of adolescents are problem gamblers
- 10-15% of teens are at-risk gamblers
- Up to 80% of teens have participated in gambling
Problem gamblers are just irresponsible people
Even people with responsible positions and a long history of very responsible behavior can develop a gambling problem/addiction.
Georgia problem gambling: Reach out for help
If you or someone you know is struggling with a gambling addiction, help is available. The resources here listed are a direct line to recovery.
The Georgia Council on Problem Gambling offers a 24/7 toll–free helpline at 1-800-522-4700 and online through Georgia Gambling Help. Bilingual help is also available 24/7 at 888-236-4848.
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