Nevada Council on Problem Gambling Dispels Stereotypes about the “Degenerate Gambler”
The Nevada Council on Problem Gambling has an education campaign right now aimed at dispelling stereotypes about problem gamblers. The idea is gaming addicts come from all walks of life — that the behavior does not discriminate.
Carol O’Hare, president of the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling, to the Nevada Review-Journal that her people conducted research on problem gambling. The research was done on people who entered treatment at the nearby Problem Gambling Center.
Typical Picture Is Incorrect
Carol O’Hare said the typical picture of a “degenerate gambler” is a man with an unkempt beard and circles under his eyes, no doubt from after-hours gambling and a bit too much alcohol. Instead, the picture looks remarkably like a cross-section of the American people.
O’Hare said part of the reason for the stereotype is the ability of addicts to disguise their problems. A common phrase in the community, comparing gambling addiction to alcoholism, is, “You can’t smell a roll of quarters on my breath.”
2% of Gamblers Have Compulsions
The National Council on Gambling Addiction says compulsive gaming affects 2% of gamblers. In Nevada, the NCGA estimates that number might be 6%. No one knows what psychological and neurological triggers are a part of compulsive gaming, but studies have shown that those with shopping addiction and alcoholism are more prone to addictive gambling. Whatever the case, the activity costs Americans an estimated $7 billion a year.
The experts say problem gabmlers can be corporate executives, pro athletes, housekeepers, and bartenders. There have been cases of priests and public officials who had gambling addiction. Even casino executives themselves have been known to deal with compulsive gambling.
Problem Gambling Is a Medical Issue
Gambling addiction is like alcoholism or drug addiction — a real medical issue. Too often, people continue to treat the disease like it’s a character flaw or personal failing, as if the person has total control, but chooses to make bad decisions. For that reason, research and help programs for problem gambling receives only a fraction of the funding that alcohol and drug addiction treatment does.
One school teacher who dealt with gaming addiction described her situation.
Using a popular line from the help community (“Don’t Fall for Your Own Bluff”), she said, “I didn’t think I was falling for my own bluff, but I was. That was really deep. Every time I said, I’m only going to take 20 bucks, or I’m only going to take 100 bucks, or I’m going to leave my ATM card at home, or only go (gamble) for three hours. I fell for those things. I fell for my own bluff every single time.”
Self-Exclusion Lists and Panic Buttons
That is why self-exclusion lists and online panic buttons exist, because they work. The self-exclusion list is mandated by a number of states. A gambling addict, in their quieter or more sober moments, can ban themselves for 1-year, 2 years, 5 years, or a lifetime from casino gambling. Later, when their compulsion takes over, the casino (by state mandate) won’t let them gamble.
A panic button being tried out by William Hill Online has a similar effect. By mandate of the UK Gaming Commission, British bookmakers must include a panic button on their online sites. If a player is getting out of control, they can hit a button which bans them for a few hours, a few days, or up to 6 weeks.
William Hill’s Complaints about Panic Buttons
Both options work. William Hill has complained that the panic button is likely to cost them $25 million in profits this year — roughly 20% of their online revenue. Thousands of Americans have signed up for the self-ban.
Why People Have Addictions
At the heart of it, all addictions comes back to the same personal dynamics. Most people who become addicted to something deal with self-loathing and filling voids. They self-medicate, using something to fill the void.
These people might feel depression or might simply need stimulation. To stimulate themselves and get their mind off the everyday, they turn to some kind of prop or distraction: alcohol, drugs, shopping, gambling, romance, or pleasure seeking of some sort.
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