The 10th annual National Problem Gambling Awareness Week seeks to raise public awareness of the tragic effects of compulsive gambling while drawing attention to the widespread recovery services available.
National Problem Gambling Awareness Week is observed March 4-10 to “educate the public about signs of problem and pathological gambling behavior,” said Karen Kong of Inyo County Health and Human Services’ Prevention arm.
According to local and national advocates, the campaign draws attention to a far-reaching, withering disease that destroys the addict and his or her family alike – an illness that can affect anyone regardless of gender, age, race, culture or socioeconomic group.
A press release issued by Kong reveals that gambling addiction is widespread, affecting 3.7 percent of the state’s population, or approximately 1,381,100 Californians.
Multiply that figure by the number of family, friends, employers and community members who are affected by each compulsive gambler and one gets the picture of how astoundingly far-reaching this problem has become. “Individuals, families and communities all suffer from problem gambling,” Kong noted.
Gambling is “any betting or wagering, for self or others, whether for money or not, no matter how slight or insignificant, where the outcome is uncertain or depends upon chance or ‘skill,’” states the website for Gamblers Anonymous, a worldwide 12-step recovery group also known as G.A.
The theme of the 10th annual problem gambling awareness campaign, “Anyone. Anytime. Anywhere.”
The issue of problem-gambling is one taken seriously by the management of the Paiute Palace Casino or Bishop Gaming Commission, who work in tandem to make related literature available to casino patrons.
“Compulsive Gambling Self Assessment” and “Responsible Gambling Guidelines” are two of the pamphlets on display at Paiute Palace Casino near the cashier’s cage and restrooms. The pamphlets also include Bishop Paiute Gaming Commission contact information and the hotline number 1-800-GAMBLER.
According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, for most people, gambling is a fun activity that they enjoy on occasion for entertainment. For problem or compulsive gamblers, it is much more than a bad habit or a financial problem. The National Council on Problem Gambling says that any “gambling behavior which causes disruptions in any major area of life: psychological, physical, social or vocational (is) a progressive addiction characterized by increasing preoccupation with gambling, a need to bet more money more frequently, restlessness or irritability when attempting to stop, ‘chasing’ losses, and loss of control manifested by continuation of the gambling behavior in spite of mounting, serious, negative consequences.” (For more symptoms of compulsive or problem gambling, see sidebar.)
The good news is that there is help for compulsive gamblers as well as co-gamblers, everyone that the addict affects.
Kong urges concerned citizens who want information and/or help about compulsive gambling to contact the Grove Street office of Inyo County Health & Human Services.
In addition to receiving pamphlets, Kong said, “You would receive a one-time session with an addictions counselor who will ask you why you think you’re addicted and offer advice on addiction and the process to break that cycle.” Health and Human Services also refers people to G.A.
Bishop’s G.A. meetings are now defunct, however G.A. offers start-up packets and guidance for persons wanting to launch meetings in areas that don’t offer them.
According to its website, the G.A. program, which is completely free of charge, works best when it is accepted as a program involving the support and understanding of other compulsive gamblers who have been there.
Like most problems, one must acknowledge it to start finding a solution. “The biggest thing is the desire to stop gambling,” said one G.A. hotline operator.
Recovered G.A. member volunteers operate the hotline so gambling addicts can talk to someone who started out where the newcomer is and found a way out. Their website helps locate the nearest meetings and the G.A. International Service Office provides guidance and start up packets so addicts can start meetings in areas where none exist.
The California Council on Problem Gambling offers free confidential help from masters-level clinicians 24 hours a day at 1-800-gambler. They offer up to five C2C or Call to Change sessions over the phone, free of charge to problem gamblers and co-gamblers, people who are affected by the problem gamblers.
“The mission of the National Council on Problem Gambling is to increase public awareness of pathological gamblers, ensure the widespread availability of treatment for problem gamblers and their families, and to encourage research and programs for prevention and education.”
One of the keys to recovery stressed by G.A. is willingness to get well.
It is in the spirit of willingness that the Paiute Palace Casino and Bishop Paiute Gaming Commission work in cooperation with problem gamblers themselves to remove temptation from the equation as they recover from their addiction.
In an expedient “15 minute process, compulsive gamblers can complete the barment paperwork to voluntarily ban themselves from the Paiute Palace Casino for one year,” explained Tribal Gaming Agent Gerome Fredericks of the Bishop Paiute Gaming Commission. He said that the casino also initiates barment program referrals to gamblers whom they identify as potentially compulsive.
There is also help for co-gamblers, the people who are affected by compulsive gamblers. Local, statewide and even national organizations offer life-saving support and empowerment systems, such as Gam-Anon, for the gambling addict’s spouse, family or close friends, who often feel just as isolated, desperate and ashamed as the gambling addict. And like the compulsive gambler, they can find acceptance, identification and healing guidance from those who have been there before them.
HELP and HOTLINE INFORMATION:
Inyo County Health & Human Services, Behavioral Health Division, 162-J Grove St. in Bishop, (760) 873-5888, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday, closed for lunch.
Bishop Paiute Gaming Commisson, (760) 872-6005, 877 Pa Ha Ln., Bishop.
mous 24 hour hotline, 1-888-G.A.-HELPS, www.gamblersanonymous.org .
For meeting start up packets: Gamblers Anonymous International Service Office, (626) 960-3500, www.gamblersanonymous.org , P.O. Box 17173, Los Angeles 90017.
For family and community: Gam-Anon hotline (818) 377-5144, www.Gam-anon.org .
California Council on Problem Gambling, hotline 1-800-Gambler, www.calproblemgambling.org . 24 hours a day.
The National Council on Problem Gambling, hotline (800) 522-4700, www.ncpgambling.org .