Earlier this month, Neva Pryor was named the next executive director of The Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey (CCGNJ), the premier nonprofit organization that works to prevent and remedy problem gambling in New Jersey. You know that line at the end of every casino and lottery commercial that comes on the radio? “Gambling Problem? Call 1-800 Gambler.” That’s their hotline.
Pryor is well suited to working with gambling addicts and organizing prevention and help programs for those struggling with this type of addiction. Before she became the executive director of the CCGNJ, she served as the gambling supervisor for the Office of Addiction Services of Philadelphia. She also operates a private therapy practice where she works with patients dealing with addiction problems.
Gambling addiction is a serious social issue. Just like other addictions, including alcohol, drug, pornography, and even shopping addictions, gambling addiction destroys relationships and lives throughout New Jersey and the world.
When Gambling Becomes a Problem
When an individual can not stop him or herself from engaging in gambling behavior, he or she is exhibiting signs of what the American Psychiatric Association has labeled “pathological gambling.” Pathological gambling, also sometimes known as compulsive gambling, is a clinical disorder that can be treated with therapy. An estimated 1% of American adults suffer from gambling addictions.
Some indications that an individual could be struggling with a gambling addiction include the following:
- He or she spends time away from work or family to gamble.
- He or she borrows or steals money from others to gamble.
- He or she lies about his or her gambling or its extent.
- Attempting to escape one’s problems through gambling.
- Denying that he or she has a gambling problem.
- Taking larger, more frequent risks than he or she can afford while gambling. This is because of the thrill that the individual gets from making wagers – like the high that comes from controlled substances, the rush of gambling gradually requires higher and higher “doses” to be sufficient.
If somebody you know exhibits any of the above behaviors, talk to him or her. Be a friend and let him or her know that you are concerned about their gambling habits and that you want to help. When these behaviors go unaddressed, the individual runs the risk of sinking further into his or her addiction. Once an individual’s gambling reaches the point that it affects his or her relationships with family, friends, work, and/or school, it’s time for serious help.
Know When to Stop Before You Start
You’ve seen this slogan inside physical casinos and on gaming websites before. It’s the corporate program Caesar’s Entertainment has in place to promote responsible gambling, starting with its employees. Other companies have similar programs and slogans in place.
Making responsible gambling choices is much easier when you have a plan in place. Before you even get to the casino or open your browser, know how much you plan to spend and stick to it. This is easy when you’re playing in a physical casino – simply bring cash and if you run out, you’re done playing. Have your friends hold you accountable for this and hold them accountable as well. With an online casino, follow a similar principle: deposit one sum of money and, no matter how you’re doing, do not add more during your gaming session. Some websites have settings you can check to prevent you from depositing more than a specified amount of money.
If You or a Loved One have a Gambling Problem
The CCGNJ has programs in place that can help. Call 1-800-GAMBLER at any time to speak with a representative for the CCGNJ. The Council has multiple treatment options, each geared toward specific communities and their needs. For example, you can reach out to find a Gamblers Anonymous group near you or set up an appointment with an individual therapist. There is information available in Spanish as well as English and specific information about the issues women, adolescent, and senior gamblers face.
Do not wait to reach out for help. Gambling addiction can be cured. Sometimes, working with a therapist either alone or as part of a group is the key to curing a gambler’s addiction. For others, it is easier to remove the temptation and focus on healthier means to stress reduction. Technology makes it easy for these individuals to stay away from New Jersey’s gambling websites. Players can lock themselves out of websites during certain time blocks, after logging a specified number of hours on the site, or limit the amount of money they may spend on the website. These options are available at the website operator’s discretion. The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) also gives players the opportunity to limit their gambling through its Self-Exclusion program. With this program, individuals can have themselves barred from gambling websites and physical casinos for one year, five year, and lifetime periods.
Responsible gambling can be a lot of fun. Taking a small amount of money and possibly turning it into a huge payout through a game is, for many Americans, an exciting way to spend some free time. When you find yourself feeling like you “need” to gamble, stop. When you lose control of your gambling, you are no longer playing responsibly.