National Problem Gambling Awareness Week
Okay, I don't know a whole lot about gambling and I'm probably one of the few people whose favorite part of Vegas was the endless all-you-can-eat buffets. The fact however is that even though most people can separate themselves from the bells, sirens, flashing lights, and game tables (especially after losing more money than was budgeted), according to the National Council on Problem Gambling about 1% of the US population meets the criteria for pathological gambling and another 2-3% are problem gamblers. Problem gambling has also been referred to as the "hidden addiction" since few outward signs are visible until it is too late.
How can you tell if you or someone you know has a gambling problem? Well, according to the NCPG some key signs include the following: spending ALL your money on gambling and letting other bills go unpaid, financing your gambling by either borrowing money, breaking the law or considering breaking the law to get money to gamble with.
This is a real problem that affects not just the individual, but their families, their communities, and society at large. Initially I thought that if neither I nor anyone I knew had this problem then it had nothing to do with me, especially since those who have the problem are somewhere far from me sitting at a game or card table, slot machine, or race track. After thinking it through though, it occurred to me that maybe there are fewer degrees of separation between me and this problem than I thought. Picture it, Jack or Jill Doe, a problem gambler, loses every dime at the race track then gets depressed and distraught about it. He/she tries to hide this misfortune from the spouse and comes up with some "creative funding sources", let's say petty theft from the local mega-mart. Well, multiply that by 10 or even 25 other people with this problem over a span of time and eventually the mega-mart starts to feel the pinch. How does the mega-mart respond? Yes...price hike...so the next time I saunter in there to buy my springtime-fresh laundry detergent and clean-rainwater fabric softener, I end up indirectly financing a bad habit.
Alright, so maybe it's a little bit over the top and I have probably stepped on a few toes now but... The silver lining to this cloud is that there's help out there, lots of literature and gambling resources at the NCPG website.
Photos courtesy of david wilmot and aprilandrandy