March is National Problem Gambling Awareness Month. This year marks its 17th anniversary as recognized by the National Council on Problem Gambling. To commemorate, this year’s theme is “Awareness + Action.” The goals of the national campaign are to increase public awareness of problem gambling and the availability of treatment and recovery services, and to encourage healthcare providers to screen clients for problem gambling.
“We come together today to promote awareness of problem gambling and highlight community resources for individuals in need,” said Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Jen Smith. “Legalized gambling, especially online, is expanding as Pennsylvanians are home due to COVID-19, so we urge individuals and their loved ones to recognize when a recreational hobby becomes a more serious problem. Understanding that treatment and resources are available can help in having conversations with loved ones in need.”
“In observance of National Problem Gambling Awareness Month, the Pennsylvania Lottery urges players to play within their financial means and only for entertainment. We always remind our players to please play responsibly,” said Pennsylvania Lottery executive director Drew Svitko. “While we know most adults can play Lottery games without issue, we do understand that gambling can be problematic for some. Recovery is possible. The first step in recovery comes from recognizing there’s a problem and asking for help.”
For individuals suffering from problem gambling, there are numerous resources for support, including a Problem Gambling Hotline available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537), and a 24-hour chat service available at pacouncil.com. Additionally, the commonwealth offers a Self-Exclusion Program that allows a person to request to be excluded from legalized gaming activities within a casino and offsite venues.
Gambling, even through legal avenues, becomes a problem when individuals begin to develop strained relationships with loved ones, borrow money to gamble, gamble to experience a high or feeling, or miss work, school or other activities and obligations in order to gamble. These behaviors can have a serious impact on a person’s financial, physical and mental health. Other symptoms of problem gambling include trying to hide or lying about gambling, using gambling as an escape to avoid dealing with other problems, and feeling like the habit is out of control but being unable to stop.
Visit ddap.pa.gov for more information.