March 13, 2013

OUR VIEW: Gambling a growing problem


— National Problem Gambling Awareness Week may have ended Saturday, but those affected continue to face the effects on a daily basis.

If you’re thinking problem gambling can’t possibly be a problem here, think again.

At a meeting held last week to discuss the issue, Kathy Coffing said it’s a fast-growing problem. The gambling counselor at Four County Counseling Center called it “an almost hidden problem.”

The opportunities to gamble in Indiana have been on the rise for some time.

In 1978, there were only two states that had legalized gambling and in 1998, 20 years later, there were only two states without some form of gambling.

The Hoosier Lottery started in 1989.

The Indiana Riverboat Gaming Act was passed in 1993 allowing riverboat gaming in Indiana. The first of the allowed 10 casinos opened in 1995.

The Hoosier Park Horse Track opened in 1994.

Then came the Indiana Downs horse track in Shelbyville in 2002.

That brief history doesn’t even include off-track horse betting parlors, which opened in several cities around the state.

These are the things people think about when they think gambling.

What they don’t think about are Bingo, Bunco, pull-tabs and athletic bracket competitions like those used in the NCAA tournament.

It doesn’t matter what form the addiction takes, it’s still an addiction, Coffing tells us.

Problem gambling is described as behavior that causes disruptions in any major area of life: psychological, physical, social or vocational. To make matters worse, it’s a progressive addiction, meaning the affected will become increasingly preoccupied by gambling. That’s when addicts find themselves flirting with rock bottom. They start chasing losses and getting increasingly desperate.

If any of this sounds familiar, you may have a problem or know someone who does. What Coffey and the group presenting in Logansport last night week are trying to convey is that it’s OK to admit you need help. There are countless agencies across the state and country trying to pull gamblers out of the shadows.

Six million adults and 500,000 teens nationwide meet the criteria for gambling addiction. Are you one of them? We encourage you to find out here:

If you are, get help. Call Four County gambling counselor at 574-722-5151 ext. 2417. If that feels too close for comfort, call the Problem Gambling Help Line at 800-994-8448.

There’s help out there, including state-funded treatment for those who can’t afford it. Coffing said she has seen families fall apart because of an addiction. There are support systems in place for gamblers and their families.

Don’t let yourself hit rock bottom before you decide to do something about it.