The general population of Alabama does not realize it, but there already exists a problem with problem gambling, despite gambling not being legal in the state.
The month of March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month, and Governor Kay Ivey has signed a proclamation to that fact. Unlike other addictions - and problem gambling has been designated as an addiction by the American Psychological Association - gambling is a hidden disease and has no outward signs. An individual addicted to gambling can do years of damage to his or her finances, and that damage is never discovered until the gambling addict’s world comes crumbling down.
For a problem gambler, money is the drug of choice. There is no saturation point when it comes to compulsive gambling. As long as someone wil pay, the gambler will play. By the time the addiction finally comes out in the open, there is no way to repair all of the financial damage that has occurred.
Paychecks, foreclosures, repossessions, 401Ks, retirement funds, fraud, embezzlement, payday advances, title loans, life insurance, children’s college funds, savings accounts and stocks are just a small drop in the bucket that reveals the damage of months and years of problem gambling.
Of those who enjoy gambling for recreational purposes, about five percent will become addicted. On average, compulsive gamblers cost the State of Alabama $2,000-$3,000 per year per gambler. This alone puts a burden on many state and private-run programs designed to help others.
It goes without saying that the problem gambler will borrow money from family and friends and never pay it back. The end result is prison, insanity or death. In fact, there is a higher rate of suicide and suicide ideation among problem gamblers.
The Alabama Council on Compulsive Gambling, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is the sole state affiliate that works with those addicted to gambling. The Alabama Council is 100 percent gambling neutral and is an advocacy group whose mission is to train counselors to become certified gambling counselors, educate the general public about the disease and provide information on where gambling addicts can find help. All of the certified, trained gambling counselors have taken 30 hours of gambling-specific training and are listed with the United Way’s 211 Program.
Anyone needing help can simply call 211 any time. This service is competely confidential. Problem gamblers can also visit out website, www.gamblingtrouble.com, or call our office in Montgomery at 334-277-5100.
As a recovering gambling addict, I will tell you it’s not your fault that you became addicted to gambling. It is your fault if you know that help is available and you don’t reach out to get that help.
In addiction to trained counselors, there are also support groups in the state such as Gamblers Anonymous, Gam-Anon and Celebrate Recovery.
If you think you or a loved one may have a gambling problem, I would encourage you to reach out to us and get the help that is available.
Resource Develop-ment Coordinator
Alabama Council on Compulsive Gambling
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.