Gambling is an enjoyable pursuit for tens of millions of people around the world, but it also causes serious problems for a segment of players. Awareness of these problems is at an all-time high, and new initiatives are being implemented around the world to address them.
Gambling is one of the oldest pastimes in the world. The lure of having something staked on the outcome of an event both enhances the enjoyment derived from a successful result and pays a financial reward for the desired outcome.
People are often drawn by the potential of winning significant sums from gambling. While people enjoy partaking in all forms of gambling, whether table games like blackjack and roulette, slot machines, or betting on their favorite sports events, the financial element is always in the equation.
Most gamblers manage to keep their efforts in check and avoid getting beyond their means. However, there are those individuals who take things too far and gamble with more money than they can afford to lose.
Inevitably, this leads to serious problems, such as lying to friends and family, borrowing money, and being unable to fulfill financial obligations.
Only in the past decade or two has awareness of the potential pitfalls in gambling grown, both among the authorities and the gambling community as a whole. There are now many restrictions on gambling companies to help deal with problem gambling.
How big is the issue?
Millions of people suffer from gambling-related issues. A 2016 study by the National Center for Responsible Gaming showed that approximately 1% of adults in the United States have a serious problem with gambling.
One area particularly affected is the large state of Texas, where as many as 2.2% of the state’s population has a gambling problem. That means that about 450,000 people in the state are affected.
Problem gambling is defined as being “persistent and recurrent problematic gambling behavior” that results in significant distress or impairment, according to the American Psychiatry Association.
Gambling is big business, with more than $5bn (£3.88bn) gambled annually in Texas alone. People are inundated with gambling ads and stories of people winning big. Thankfully, many groups and individuals are pushing for changes to be made to help problem gamblers.
Problem gambling initiatives
Around the world, people are becoming more aware of the potential pitfalls of gambling. This has led to many different types of initiatives to help those who are in trouble.
With the issue growing in the United States, especially now with the legalization of sports betting being a concern for many, the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) is fighting for funding to help treat those with gambling addiction.
Sports betting legalization is being debated in many states across the country, and a handful have already passed legislation to legalize it. The NCPG is working to ensure that any state that legalizes sports betting also allocates resources to help with the prevention and treatment of problem gambling.
This will now be a key consideration for all new legislation in any state because of pressure from the non-profit organization.
Several interesting efforts catch the eye and garner publicity for problem gambling awareness. In New Zealand, for example, more than 70 clubs and pubs that are pausing their pokie machines for an hour in September to further raise awareness of gambling-related issues.
This will be part of Gambling Harm Awareness Week, which takes place between September 3 and September 9. This initiative has been called “Pause the Pokies” and is being organized by the Pacific Counselling Services (Mapu Maia), the Problem Gambling Foundation, Asian Family Services, and community groups throughout the country.
Australia is gripped with gambling problems, and this has led to significant reforms in recent years.
The country has started to ban gambling ads from being shown during live sports events, online poker has also been banned, and third-party platforms will no longer be allowed to offer national lottery games.
Now further reforms are being sought by the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) to clarify provisions related to problem gambling in the relevant legislation, as well as requiring that board members and casino workers undergo extensive training about problem gambling.