With the rise of daily fantasy sports and sports betting in Louisiana, educating everyone involved in gaming has never been more important in the state.
That includes not just the entities offering the gambling but also those who take part and their loved ones as well. Responsible gambling certainly touches nearly every part of the industry. Unless it is a foremost priority, the economic benefits and entertainment value of gaming can quickly be outweighed by the negative consequences.
The best way to avoid those negative consequences is for everyone involved to understand their roles in responsible gambling. Additionally, best practices for responding to gaps in responsible gaming policies should be clearly communicated, and plans should be put in place with easily actionable steps.
From the person who visits a video lottery terminal room a few times a year all the way up to the general manager of Harrah’s New Orleans, everyone shares responsibility. Vital information includes what responsible gambling is, what the term problem gambling means, local resources for responsible gambling, and the importance of understanding, practicing, and emphasizing responsible gambling.
What does responsible gambling mean?
Gambling responsibly simply means taking part in gaming in a way that minimizes potential harms to vulnerable groups and/or individuals to the greatest extent possible.
Most often, when people think of this term, they think of people with compulsive gambling issues. However, it’s larger than just that population. In this context, vulnerable populations also include:
- Adults with developmental disabilities
- Adults under the influence of controlled substances
To protect those populations, gambling companies take many precautions. These include participating in jurisdictions’ responsible gambling programs, TIPS training, and verifying gamblers’ identities. In order for responsible gambling to be the standard, just as much of the burden is on gamblers, too.
Ways to play responsibly include:
- Don’t gamble while dealing with an unusual life event that puts you on an emotional high or low
- If you find yourself getting too emotionally worked up while playing, take a break
- Learn the odds of winning and the rules of the game before you make your wager
- Never gamble to make money. Look at playing as a form of entertainment only
- Set dollar and time limits, then stick to them
For most people at most times, following these steps helps them enjoy gaming. They spend their entertainment budgets learning to play a new game, mastering a familiar one, and socializing with friends. They know they are very likely to lose their allocated money but have fun along the way.
For others at different times, though, gambling stops being fun and instead becomes a problem.
How is problem gambling different?
Problem gambling is when gambling behavior causes disruptions in any major area of life. This can include one’s emotional, mental, and/or physical health. It also incorporates personal and professional relationships.
It is an addiction that anyone can develop at any time. However, it is also possible to curtail that development if caught early. Warning signs of problem gambling include:
- Borrowing money to gamble
- Chasing losses with bigger and more bets
- Constantly thinking about gambling
- Feeling guilt or shame about gambling habits
- Gambling with money that should be invested or spent on actual needs
- Loss of interest in normal activities
- Lying about gambling activity
- Pawning or selling essential possessions for gambling money
- Restlessness when thinking about quitting gambling
- Skipping out on family events or work to gamble
- Stealing money or possessions to sell in order to gamble
It’s possible for many people to deal with this issue on some level throughout their lives. A lot of those people can improve their situations by putting a few safeguards in place for themselves and enlisting the aid of others close to them. Such measures can include putting daily spending limits on bank cards and just having someone to talk to while dealing with the symptoms of the addiction.
In Louisiana, there are more formal resources available to residents struggling with problem gambling, many of which are confidential and free to access.
State resources for responsible gambling in Louisiana
There are various nonprofit organizations that devote services to helping Louisianans gamble responsibly. Additionally, gambling companies in the state lend their efforts to this cause as well.
That goes beyond simply funding treatment for people with pathological gambling behaviors. It also includes providing information on how to access resources and assisting individuals in their efforts to remove themselves from dangerous situations.
For example, the Louisiana Lottery provides information on how to access treatment at every retailer and on every ticket. The lottery also donates half a million dollars annually to a state fund that covers the cost of that treatment.
As a Caesars property, Harrah’s New Orleans participates in Caesars’ self-exclusion program. Through that, people can limit the activity they can take part in at all Caesars properties around the world.
Nonprofits who advocate for responsible gambling in Louisiana include the state chapter of the National Council on Problem Gambling and the Louisiana Association on Compulsive Gambling (LACG). The Louisiana Department of Health’s Behavioral Health division also offers resources specific to residents experiencing symptoms of problem gambling. To access these resources, which include confidential and free counseling, call or text 1-877-770-7867. Alternatively, there is a chat function on the LACG site as well.
While those services answer the needs of gamblers who live in Louisiana, not all who take part in gaming in the Pelican State actually live there. For those who might reside in other parts of the country and deal with this issue, there are national resources available.
Responsible and problem gambling national resources
Several nonprofit organizations that promote and help treat responsible gambling offer their programs for people across the country.
People who struggle with compulsive gaming, those who love them, and individuals who simply want to learn more about responsible gaming can find help.
- National Council on Problem Gambling: With robust chapters all over the country, this is the foremost advocacy group for responsible gaming in the US. Their work involves connecting counselors, educators, people who deal with problem gambling in their own lives, and people whose lives are touched by someone else with a gambling problem with the resources they need to promote responsible gaming.
- National Problem Gambling Helpline: Funded and operated by the NCPG, anyone can access the line 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling or texting 1-800-522-4700. There is also a chat function. The helpline is confidential and free.
- Gamblers Anonymous: This group provides peer support for people with compulsive gambling issues. Meetings and one-on-one assistance are available in both face-to-face and virtual forums.
- Gam-Anon: Coworkers, family members and friends of those who struggle with pathological gaming find mutual aid with this group. Through in-person and virtual dialogue, such individuals can help each other process their own feelings on the issue.
- GamTalk: A completely virtual forum for anyone affected by problem gambling. The anonymous forum functions as a message board and is free to access. Trained moderators frequent the boards to ensure a healthy space.
Importance of responsible gambling
Naturally, even the best resources in the world are mere tools. Their effectiveness relies completely on individuals’ awareness and use.
Perhaps the greatest tragedies in responsible gambling occur not when people with compulsive gambling issues suffer symptoms but when they ignore those symptoms or choose not to take advantage of available resources to curtail those symptoms. The aftermath affects not just individual gamblers but also loved ones, friends, and coworkers surrounding them.
That’s why gambling establishments, nonprofit agencies, and state bureaus work to make gamblers aware and fund programs.
However, it’s true in this instance that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Practicing responsible gambling measures, including making the choice not to gamble, can head off problems before they start.
Even in the throngs of compulsive gambling, there are resources available. At those times, admitting to a problem and seeking out resources is no gamble at all. It’s a sure thing.