Mark Bennett: Awareness of gambling disorders is key for communities | news columns
Few revelations cause more shock. Surely a study showing a doubling of the risk of developing a gambling addiction since 2018 and through the pandemic won’t blow our minds.
After all, what aspect of life hasn’t gotten more complicated in the COVID-19 era?
Also, anyone who has watched a professional sporting event on TV for 20 minutes has seen a sample of the many star-studded sports betting commercials.
“It’s like any other sports betting advertisement,” said Mary Lay, manager of the Indiana Problem Gambling Awareness Program at Indiana University School of Public Health in Bloomington.
With this in mind, Terre Haute will soon be entering the legalized gaming industry on a larger scale as Churchill Downs prepares to build a $260 million Queen of Terre Haute Casino and Resort, with construction expected to begin this year and be completed within 12 to 16 months will be.
The facility will offer Churchill Downs’ TwinSpires sportsbook, online sportsbook, on its gaming floor, the company said in November after being selected by the Indiana Gaming Commission to operate Terre Haute Casino.
The opportunity to legally bet on sporting events opened up in 2018 when the US Supreme Court overturned a 1992 law that banned sports betting in most states. Sports betting has doubled nationwide in the first 10 months of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, according to American Gaming Association figures 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 wagered $3.8 billion on sports last year, up 116% from $1.8 billion in 2020, according to the PlayIndiana website. The state collected $29 million in tax revenue.
This increase also included more calls to the National Council on Problem Gambling hotline. From 2021 through November, it averaged 21,700 calls per month, the LA Times reported, up from 16,600 per month in 2018 and 2019. Several states’ helplines saw similar increases. According to the Hartford Courant, calls to the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling hotline increased 87% in November from the same month in 2020.
Calls to the Indiana hotline (800-994-8448) also increased, although many came from callers with complaints about sports betting, said Chris Gray, director of the Indiana Council on Problem Gambling. Specific numbers for Indiana calls were not available.
These calls can be heartbreaking. Gray took calls from two people on the verge of financial collapse. “They weren’t at the point where they lost everything yet,” she said, “but they got to that point.”
The Indiana Voluntary Exclusion Program — which allows gamers with addiction problems to exclude themselves from it for one to five years or for life — saw a 38.4% increase in membership last year from 2020, according to figures from the Indiana Gaming Commission. Another 25.7% of VEP members requested to be excluded from the program in 2021 as well. Of course, the pandemic skews this comparison, as casinos were closed for three months in 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Regardless of the calculations, access to legal gambling – whether it’s betting on a football game via a mobile phone or playing a table game at a new casino – will peak when the Queen of Terre Haute opens. A small percentage of Wabash Valley residents may develop gambling addictions. Living within 50 miles of a casino increases a person’s likelihood of engaging in gambling, 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 from Vigo County will have gaming disorder. Nationwide, the IU study – 2021 Adult Gambling Behaviors in Indiana – estimates that 206,554 Hoosiers suffer from a gambling addiction.
The key to treating and managing these folks is awareness of gambling addiction. Vigo and the surrounding counties should be prepared for the situation.
“The community should just be aware that some people won’t have a problem at all, but others will, and be aware of the signs,” said Lay of the Indiana Problem Gambling Awareness Program.
The signs focus on changes in a person’s behavior, such as E.g. not working at gambling to hide betting losses, mood swings, placing larger bets to recover losses.
“It’s because her general health and behavior has deteriorated,” Lay explained.
Communities should acknowledge the reality that a small but significant percentage of people will face these issues. “The biggest problem is getting the word out that problem gambling is a disease, like alcoholism or drug addiction, and that help is 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, associate director of the Hamilton Center’s addiction and substance abuse services, the center offers individual and group services, as well as case management and skills training to help people with budgeting, money management and other activities of daily living. The Hamilton Center also conducts gambling screening of all new inpatients and outpatients and has a variety of staff offering services to problem gamblers.
For its part, Churchill Downs says the company is training staff at its gaming outlets to identify people with gaming disorders and those staff are “able to offer the appropriate resources or response where necessary,” according to the company’s statement to the Tribune-Star on Thursday . “We are proud to work 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 have participated in at least one form of gambling in the past year, 71.7% have played a lottery, 46.2% have visited a casino, and 20.5% have wagered on sports to have.
As Terre Haute and the Wabash Valley eagerly await the jobs and economic activity surrounding the new 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]