The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Tuesday announced the release of its 2015 Compulsive and Problem Gambling Annual Report.
The month of March has been designated nationally and in Pennsylvania as an opportunity to educate the public and healthcare professionals about the warning signs associated with problem gambling and to assist those seeking help for a gambling problem.
"Without intervention, problem gambling can progress to financial hardships, relationship problems, criminal activity, and job loss," said DDAP Secretary Gary Tennis. "Treatment is available, and treatment with clinical integrity works."
Pennsylvania's Gambling Helpline (1-877-565-2112) received nearly 1,700 calls in fiscal year 2015 from individuals inquiring about help for gambling addiction.
The helpline provides crisis counseling and referral services to individuals and their families who may be experiencing difficulty as a result of problem or compulsive gambling.
The helpline employs professionally trained operators to take calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in a free and confidential manner.
Reasons prompting callers to call the helpline in 2015 included financial problems (1251), family problems (388), and marital problems (270). Slot machines (591) were identified as the most problematic type of gambling, followed by lottery/scratch-off tickets (161) and casinos (131).
Of those calling the helpline, 1,085 were referred to a treatment provider. Of those who were discharged from gambling addiction treatment, 58 percent reported they were no longer gambling and 9 percent reported they had reduced their gambling.
"For most, gambling is a form of harmless entertainment," Secretary Tennis said. "For some, however, gambling can become compulsive and problematic and can be a devastating illness that negatively affects every aspect of their lives, including their family members and significant others."
Warning signs of a gambling addiction include: Denying there is a problem; Lying about where the money is going; Borrowing money to gamble or pay off debts; Missing work to gamble; Losing touch with friends; and Looking for the "high" that comes from gambling.
Most individuals with problem gambling answer yes to one of the following two questions: Have you ever had to lie to people important to you about how much you gambled? Have you ever felt the need to bet more and more money?
DDAP contracts with outpatient agencies and licensed professionals to provide gambling counseling services to those affected by compulsive and problem gambling. Calls can be answered in English, Spanish and more than 60 other languages.
Additionally, no-cost training and case consultation is offered to clinicians who are seeking to enhance their skills in the treatment of compulsive and problem gambling.
A copy of the report is available online.
As part of its education efforts during March, DDAP sponsored two statewide conferences of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania.
In addition, the Gaming Control Board will be at the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on March 16 and 23 to provide more information about problem gambling and what Pennsylvania offers to assist those in need.To seek help or for more information about problem gambling, call the Pennsylvania Gambling Helpline at 1-877-565-2112 or visit the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs' Problem Gambling website.