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Gambling addiction brings agencies together

Janice Mercredi, with the B.C. Responsible and Problem Gambling Program, speaks at a community dialogue presentation. - Cara Brady/Morning Star
Janice Mercredi, with the B.C. Responsible and Problem Gambling Program, speaks at a community dialogue presentation.
— image credit: Cara Brady/Morning Star

Gambling is here to stay in the community and so are the benefits and challenges.

The Responsible Gambling Awareness Week Community Dialogue brought together representatives of service agencies to discuss what the community response could and should be.

Janice Mercredi, problem gambling support specialist, who provides individual and family counseling in the North Okanagan and an instructor in the schools of social work for UBC-O and Thompson Rivers University, outlined how problem gambling develops.

“Many people who win big early develop unrealistic expectations,” she said. “Another influence is the feeling of self-worth when winning. Others use gambling to escape from loneliness or boredom. The problems start when gambling is taking time from family, work and other responsibilities, and it is affecting their mental and physical health, as well as their finances.”

The person who is gambling may find themselves spending more time gambling and thinking about gambling, placing more and larger bets, lying to get more money for gambling or in a “brown-out” or “space out” losing track of time and surroundings while gambling.

There are different types of problem gamblers. The normal problem gambler might have selective memory only about winning, have magical thinking that there are special times to gamble, or that they have developed a unique system to win.

The emotionally vulnerable problem gambler is usually someone who has difficulty managing the stresses of daily life and finds gambling is mood altering so that they don’t have to think about their problems.

Biologically based problem gamblers have issues with impulse control and may also have attention deficit disorder.

“The progression of problem gambling follows a general pattern,” said Mercredi.

“If people start with a winning streak and then start losing, they may cut down or quit. Others continue despite the negative consequences, including money problems. One complexity of gambling is that it is different from other addictions in that it has an element of invisibility and family friends may not be aware until there is a financial crisis.”

When people reach a sense of desperation and hopelessness with their gambling, they may come for help.

Mercredi, who can be reached through the toll free line, provides free and confidential counseling, helping clients set individual goals to learn responsible gambling or to stop completely.

Paul W. Smith, director corporate social responsibility, BC Lotteries Corporation (BCLC), spoke about how the corporation developed its program to inform people about gambling as a legitimate form of adult entertainment and problem gambling.

“BC Lotteries Corporation encourages people to take advantage of the services that are provided,” he said.

A survey done in casinos showed varying opinions, with many people who believed that the government should take some responsibility, while others thought adults should be responsible for their own actions, and most agreed there should be more awareness and information.

The BCLC approach in the GameSense program is to provide GameSense advisors in  the 17 B.C. casinos who give information and suggestions about gaming and resources for people who want to regulate their own gambling.

Dwayne Nittel, prevention specialist BC Responsible & Problem Gambling Program, provides prevention education for school, parents and community groups.

“People gamble for fun, entertainment, escape and to win. Gambling impacts a person’s time, money, energy and attitude and if these are kept in balance, there will be no problem. Gambling should be just one of the recreational activities you choose to do with your time.”

He mentioned some of the myths that some gamblers believe: I have my lucky charm; the hot slots are near the door; I feel lucky; I’m due for a win; you have to keep playing to win; and I have a system.

Research shows that while seniors often visit casinos, they tend to come more for the safe, comfortable atmosphere and the socializing, and are less likely to develop problem gambling. The most at-risk group is 18-35-year-olds, who are more likely to take risks in all areas of their lives.

 

Smith said parents don’t often think of gambling as something their children might be involved in as there are so many concerns but 45 per cent of youth say they have gambled in the past year and parents should talk with them about it and be good role models.

 

 

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