It’s Problem Gambling Awareness Month: Do You Know the Signs & Symptoms?
Let’s keep gambling safe and fun. During March, Problem Gambling Awareness Month, learn more about the issue and where to turn for help.
March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month (PGAM), with the theme “Awareness & Action.” If you or a loved one has displayed the signs of problem gambling, help is available. Symptoms include:
- An increasing preoccupation with gambling
- A need to bet more money, more often
- “Chasing” losses (betting to recoup previous losses)
- Restlessness/irritability when trying to stop
- Continuing to gamble in spite of negative consequences
- Trying unsuccessfully to cut back or quit
- Lying to family members or friends about your gambling
- Asking others for money to gamble, or betting when you can’t afford it
For most people, gambling is fun. For others, it can create serious problems. Approximately 2 million U.S. adults (1% of the population) may have a severe problem gambling problem. Another 4 million to 6 million (2% to 3%) meet the criteria for mild or moderate problem gambling. For help, visit 800GAMBLER.org.
This month, Colorado will increase public awareness of problem gambling and share treatment and recovery services in the state.
“Across Colorado, the Problem Gambling Coalition of Colorado (PGCC) is committed to making sure the public understands what the signs of problem gambling are, and most importantly, the resources that are available to get help,” said Larry Wall, PGCC’s executive director.
In Cripple Creek, a popular gambling destination, patrons at the Wildwood Casino told KRDO-TV that setting boundaries is key (see below for more tips to keep gambling fun and safe). “I’ve known people who have lost their homes,” said patron Kara Krajocovic. “I spend $200. If I lose it, then I go home.”
The Office of Problem Gambling at IDPH raises awareness about the availability of gambling prevention and treatment services offered statewide.
“Iowans who are impacted by problem gambling are encouraged to visit Your Life Iowa to learn more or to connect with a qualified professional,” said Project Director Katie Bee. “Help and hope are only a call, text, or chat away.” Call 1-800-BETS OFF, or text 855-895-8398.
The Illinois Council on Problem Gambling (ICPG) and Centerstone, a leader in behavioral health care, are teaming up to host the third annual Problem and Compulsive Gambling Symposium on Thursday, March 24 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. CT via Zoom. Register at centerstone.zoom.us.
“Centerstone is honored to host this free event to start conversations about gambling disorder issues,” said Angela Quigley-Ragland, clinical coordinator at Centerstone. A list of gambling screenings, workshops, and other events can be found here.
Have a gambling problem? Contact the gambling helpline weknowthefeeling.org, call 1-800-GAMBLER, text ILGAMB to 53342, or connect with the IDHS Division of Substance Use Prevention and Recovery (SUPR).
Throughout the month of March, the Hoosier Lottery is reminding everyone to gamble responsibly.
“Our desire is for players to keep their play positive and fun by knowing the game, understanding the odds, and setting time and money limits and as always remember players must be 18 years and older to play,” said Sarah Taylor, executive director of the Hoosier Lottery.
For resources on problem gambling, visit the Hoosier Lottery website, the website or call 1-800-994-8448. Help is also available at the Indiana Council on Problem Gambling.
Casinos have been legal in Michigan since the late 1990s. With the addition of mobile sportsbooks and iGaming in 2021, calls to the state’s problem gaming helpline have almost tripled.
Easy access to gambling “can lead to severe financial trouble, as well as strained personal and work relationships as people participate in these spaces more than ever before,” said Alia Lucas, gambling disorder program manager for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
For help, call the Michigan Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-270-7117. Trained counselors are available 24/7 to provide help, including screening services and referrals to treatment or support groups.
The Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey is hosting a number of prevention- and treatment-centered activities this month, including webinars that explore how gambling affects different populations.
“March welcomes the change of seasons but is also deeply identified with the annual NCAA basketball tournament, known as March Madness,” said CCGNJ Executive Director Felicia Grondin. “For people with a gambling problem or in recovery from this addiction, March Madness is rife with temptation.”
When you visit 800GAMBLER.org or call 1-800-GAMBLER, representatives “provide a compassionate, listening ear and information about problem gambling, virtual and in-person Gamblers Anonymous and Gam-Anon meetings, gambling self-exclusion, treatment provider referrals and a great deal more,” Grondin noted.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) has joined the Pennsylvania Lottery, Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and others to mark PGAM.
Pennsylvanians spend $1 billion a month gambling; of those, about 2 percent may have a gambling problem, according to Josh Ercole, executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of PA. “Most people who gamble will not experience problems—we know this,” Ercole said. “But some will.”
Among them are Lancaster County’s Robert Grove. “Over a number of years, I went bankrupt. I couldn’t stop,” Grove told WHTM-TV. Now a vice president at a security firm, Grove acknowledges losing some $1.5 million on gambling over the years. He says he nearly lost his family, and “went about as far as you can go” before seeking help. He is now in recovery and calls himself “living proof that the programs work if you work them.”
According to Ercole, calls from Pennsylvanians to 1-800-GAMBLER doubled in 2021, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Though many people were confined to their homes, they still had easy access to gambling through their mobile devices and computers.
The Virginia Lottery and the Virginia Council on Problem Gaming (VACPG) encourage responsible play, all year long. If you have a problem, call the Virginia Problem Gambling Helpline, 1-888-532-3500, for confidential advice.
“The partnership between the Lottery and the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling is a natural one rooted in both of our efforts to minimize risks associated with gambling,” said VACPG President Carolyn Hawley. “March is especially important towards this aim as it is Problem Gambling Awareness Month, which is a national campaign to create awareness about problem gambling and resources available for help.”
To learn more about the lottery’s efforts to support problem gambling awareness in Virginia, please visit the Play Responsibly page.
The Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia operates the Mountain State’s 1-800-GAMBLER helpline, where information and help are available 24/7. Sheila Moran, director of communications for the group, says problem gambling isn’t taken as seriously as other addictions, though it has serious consequences for many in the state.
“According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, one of every 50 adults struggle with problem gambling. Each of those people have someone in their life—a husband, wife, parent, child—who is affected by their loved one’s gambling addiction. We have treatment that is very effective, but many people are embarrassed to ask for help. We want to let people know that this is a problem that affects many people here in West Virginia.”
Callers can speak with a helpline counselor based in Charleston and may be referred to one of the network’s 60-plus specially trained gambling addiction counselors and/or a support group. They receive an initial free two-hour consultation, and funds are available for those who don’t have insurance to pay for additional treatment. Follow-up studies with helpline callers show that the majority of callers are able to stop gambling within six months of entering treatment.
West Virginians may also reach out to HELP4WV, a website for people struggling with addiction.
The DC Lottery is continuing its partnership with the National Council on Problem Gambling to increase public awareness of prevention, treatment and recovery services.
“Gaming entertainment options are growing in and around the District. We recognize the potential risks of problem gambling and its impact on the lives of individuals and families,” said marketing and communications director Nicole Jordan. “DC Lottery is committed to making sure players understand what the signs of problem gambling are, and most importantly, the resources that are available to get help.”
Locally, the DC Lottery offers a self-exclusion option for players experiencing problem gambling. For more information, call or text 1-800-522-4700.
Play It Safe
iGamingPlayer is committed to safe, responsible gambling. Here are some tips to keep it fun and trouble-free:
- Play for fun, not money, and only bet what you can afford to lose
- Never borrow money or gamble money you need for essentials, like rent or food
- Don’t gamble when you’re upset or stressed
- Limit your alcohol intake while gambling
- Set budget and time limits, and stick to them
- Take frequent breaks from gambling; enjoy a walk, have a bite to eat or chat with a friend
- Use pre-commitment tools to help you manage your play
- If you’re no longer having fun, stop playing
- Don’t depend on “good luck” strategies—they don’t increase your chances of winning
Finally, only gamble with reputable, regulated, legal online casinos and sportsbooks, like the ones on this site. Each of these operators support responsible gaming protections, and offers tips and tools to help you safely manage your play.
Knowledge is power. For more ways to keep gambling safe, read here.