DHS news release
March 3, 2005
Gambling problem? Help is free, confidential, and it works
This column appeared in the March 2005 issue of ORHealth magazine.
By Jeffrey Marotta
When I was channel-surfing the other evening, I was surprised to find two television shows about gambling. Yet what I was seeing in my living room reflects a gambling intensity that we're also seeing in Oregon, which is fast becoming one of the nation's most gambling-friendly states.
Consider: Oregon adults spend an average of more than $445 a year on some form of gambling, or about 25 percent higher than the national average. For many people, buying a lottery ticket or playing a little video poker is a form of occasional entertainment.
But for 2.3 percent of Oregonians – that's a surprising one in 45 – it's a serious problem that costs money, marriages, jobs and can even prompt criminal behavior and suicide.
The good news is that we can do something about it. These are examples of what you can do to avoid problems with gambling.
Set limits on how much money you're willing to lose.
Limit the amount of time you're willing to spend gambling.
Remind yourself that gambling is entertainment, not a money-making venture.
Expect to lose. Most people do.
Don't lose so much that you have to borrow to cover losses, and never borrow money to pay for more gambling.
Know the warning signs of problem gambling, such as concealing gambling losses, risking relationships, gambling to try to recoup losses, or finding you cannot stop.
Never use gambling to escape from life's problems.
But if you are a problem gambler, or know of one, effective help is available. Even better, it's free, confidential and it works.
Oregon has developed a network of Lottery-financed services to prevent and treat problem gambling, including prevention programs and treatment centers here in Marion, Polk and Yamhill counties.
To learn more, call the problem gambling hotline: 1 (877) 2-STOP-NOW.
Treatment is free because the Oregon Lottery pays for it with the money lost by problem gamblers. Treatment is confidential to encourage people who need it to enroll, although voluntarily involving supportive family members increases the odds of treatment success. And treatment works: We know this because six months after treatment, 80 percent either are gambling significantly less or not at all.
People who come into treatment often tell us they're amazed at the power gambling has over them.
Who are these people?
Their average age is 44. Forty-one percent are married, and 46 percent are women. Average annual income exceeds $39,000, and average education is 13 years. Some people suspect problem gamblers have addictive personalities, yet 71 percent of those coming into treatment have no history of alcohol or other drug problems. Their gambling-related debt typically equals their annual income.
Increasingly, youth are gambling more. Talk to virtually any local high school or middle school student, and you will probably find either that they gamble occasionally -- or they know someone who does. In fact, many parents are encouraged to see their sons playing poker at home with their teenage friends because the parents know where the teen is and what he's doing.
"Should I worry about this?" some parents ask. Yes, you should at least monitor the gambling, talk to your teen about the risks of gambling, and watch for the same warning signs that you would in an adult. Research shows that teens who gamble excessively also are vulnerable to higher rates of tobacco, alcohol and other drug use.
At any age, people who gamble should do it for entertainment, do it in moderation, and do it expecting to lose.
Jeffrey Marotta is problem gambling treatment manager in the Oregon Department of Human Services.