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National Problem Gambling Awareness Week

4 March 2011 by admin

problem gambling posterNext week is National Problem Gambling Awareness Week in the United States. The campaign is a grassroots outreach and public awareness campaign by the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG). As a result, you will probably hear and read a lot about problem gambling next week.

I’m pretty sure I can predict the blogs, newspaper articles and quotes. There will be plenty saying that this week is highlighting how dangerous gambling is and that it is a destructive activity that we need to protect against. Gambling prohibitionists will seize upon the week to push an anti-gambling agenda by highlighting everything bad about gambling.

Meanwhile, there will be countless blogs and articles in the gambling community making fun of those prohibitionists, downplaying their concerns and saying that the problem of “gambling addiction” is exaggerated. So who is right? Well, both, or neither.

The number of people who are problem gamblers and the number dealing with a psychological addiction to the behavior is exaggerated by opponents of gambling. The problem is also often downplayed by gambling proponents, who don’t want to admit to the dark side of the industry. But ignoring the problem or exaggerating it does no one any good.

For those afflicted by it, gambling addiction is just as devastating as alcoholism or drug addiction. That doesn’t mean all gamblers are “degenerates” and it doesn’t mean the industry shouldn’t be vilified. Just as alcohol isn’t bad simply because there are some alcoholics, the same goes for gambling. Have you noticed how alcohol companies starting telling everyone to drink responsibly in their commercials? Most gambling companies preach the same awareness.

Prohibition of gambling isn’t the answer for problem gambling. In fact, it would (and does) make it worse. People with a gambling problem are less likely to seek help if gambling has a stigma or, worse yet, is illegal. Also, laws like UIGEA have shown that prohibition doesn’t prevent people from gambling. As the prohibition on alcohol showed, that only makes the activity go underground, where it’s tougher to police.

Next week is National Problem Gambling Awareness Week and I’m sure you’ll hear a lot about problem gambling then. I intend to write on the topic myself. Until then, let’s do everyone a favor and keep an open mind. Both sides need to back away from talking points and look at the very real problem in an accurate way that can lead to a better understanding. It starts with this post.

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