Mark Bennett: Awareness of gambling disorders is essential for communities | News columns

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Few revelations are more shocking. Certainly, a study showing a doubling of the risk of developing a gambling addiction since 2018 and through the pandemic will not blow us away.

After all, what aspect of life hasn’t become more complicated in the age of COVID-19?

Additionally, anyone who has watched 20 minutes of a professional sporting event on TV has seen a sample of the many star-studded advertisements for sports betting companies.

“It’s like all the other sports betting ads,” said Mary Lay, program manager for the Indiana Problem Gambling Awareness Program at the Indiana University School of Public Health in Bloomington.

Against this backdrop, Terre Haute will soon enter the legalized gambling industry on a larger scale as Churchill Downs prepares to build a $260 million Queen of Terre Haute Casino and Resort, construction of which is expected to begin this year and be completed. complete in 12 to 16 months.

The facility will offer Churchill Downs bookmaker TwinSpires, online sports betting, on its gambling hall, the company announced in November after being selected by the Indiana Gaming Commission to operate the Terre Haute casino.

The ability to bet on sports events legally opened up in 2018, when the United States Supreme Court struck down a 1992 law that banned gambling on sports in most states. Nationally, sports betting doubled in the first 10 months of 2021, compared to the same period in 2020, according to figures from the American Gaming Association cited in the Los Angeles Times. The risk of developing a gambling disorder has doubled nationally since 2018, according to a survey by the National Council on Problem Gambling.

In Indiana, Hoosiers bet $3.8 billion on sports last year, a 116% increase from $1.8 billion in 2020, according to the PlayIndiana website. The state collected $29 million in tax revenue.

This increase also involved more calls to the National Problem Gambling Council’s hotline. It averaged 21,700 calls per month from 2021 through November, the LA Times reported, compared to 16,600 per month in 2018 and 2019. Hotlines in several states saw a similar increase. Calls to the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling hotline increased 87% in November compared to the same month in 2020, according to the Hartford Courant.

Calls to Indiana’s hotline (800-994-8448) also increased, though many were from callers complaining of a sports betting experience, said Chris Gray, director of the Indiana Council on Problem Gambling. Specific numbers on Indiana calls were not available.

These calls can be heartbreaking. Gray answered calls from two people on the verge of financial collapse. “They weren’t at the point of losing everything yet,” she said, “but they were getting there.”

Indiana’s Voluntary Exclusion Program — which allows gamers dealing with an addiction problem to opt out for one to five years, or for life — has seen a 38.4% increase in membership. last year versus 2020, according to Indiana Gaming Commission figures. 25.7% of VEP members also requested to be removed from the program in 2021. Of course, the pandemic skews this comparison, as casinos closed for three months in 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

By any calculation, access to legal gambling – whether it’s a bet placed on a football match via a mobile phone or a table game at a new casino – will be at its peak when of the Reine de Terre Haute overture. A small percentage of Wabash Valley residents may develop a gambling addiction. Living within 50 miles of a casino increases the likelihood that a person will engage in gambling activity, although such opportunities already exist through lotteries, office pools and fantasy sports clubs.

About 4.1% of the adult population had a gambling disorder, according to a 2021 study conducted by the IU School of Public Health for the Indiana Council on Problem Gambling. If these numbers are true locally, that means 3,489 adults in Vigo County will have gambling disorder. Statewide, the IU study – 2021 Adult Gambling Behaviors in Indiana – estimates that 206,554 Hoosiers have gambling disorder. Game.

The key to treating and coping with these people is awareness of gambling addictions. Vigo and its surrounding counties should be prepared to deal with the situation.

“The community should just be aware that some people won’t have any problems, but others will, and be aware of the signs,” said Lay of Indiana’s Problem Gambling Awareness Program.

Signs center on changes in a person’s behavior such as missing work while gambling, concealing betting losses, mood swings, placing larger bets to recoup losses.

“It’s that their general health and behavior declined” in new ways, Lay explained.

Communities should recognize the reality that a small but significant percentage of people will face these issues. “The biggest issue is getting people to know that problem gambling is a disease, like alcoholism or drug addiction, and that there is help out there,” said Gray of the Indiana Council on Problem Gambling.

In 2019, the Terre Haute-based Hamilton Center received state certification from the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction to provide problem gambling services. According to Natasha Newcomb, assistant chief of substance abuse and substance abuse services at the Hamilton Center, the center offers individual and group services, as well as case management and skills training to help people budget, manage their money and to perform other activities of daily living. The Hamilton Center also screens all new inpatients and outpatients for gambling, and has a variety of staff to provide problem gambling services.

For his part, Churchill Downs says the company trains staff at its gaming outlets to screen for people with gaming disabilities, and that those staff are “equipped to offer appropriate resources or action if needed.” according to the company’s statement to the Tribune-Star. Thursday. “We are proud to partner with responsible gambling councils in every jurisdiction in which we operate and intend to do the same in Indiana.”

Problem gamblers make up a small percentage of Hoosier adults, but the pool is large. IU’s study showed that 84% of Indiana adults participated in at least one form of gambling in the past year, 71.7% played a lottery, 46.2% visited a casino and 20.5% bet on sports.

As Terre Haute and the Wabash Valley eagerly await the jobs and economic activity surrounding the incoming casino, the community must also prepare to help the 4.1% who may not be handling it so well.

Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or [email protected]

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