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Problem Gambling Awareness Month joins Kentucky Lottery, state council in outreach effort

Given that 78 percent of adult Kentuckians gamble, and with further gambling expansion in Kentucky being considered, it is increasingly important to raise public awareness that gambling can be an addictive or problematic behavior.

And if gambling is out of control, individuals need to know that help is available by calling or texting Kentucky’s problem gambling helpline, 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537).

Gov. Andy Beshear has proclaimed March as Responsible Gambling Awareness Month in Kentucky. The Kentucky Lottery Corporation participates in Problem Gambling Awareness Month with the other public lotteries in the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries. In 2020, the Lottery is partnering with the Kentucky Council on Problem Gambling (KYCPG) to further the awareness message and promote responsible gambling.

The organizations, which have for years partnered to distribute the Choices addiction awareness curriculum to middle and high schools and youth behavioral health counselors and organizations, know awareness works. The Kentucky Incentives for Prevention (KIP) survey conducted in even-numbered years by REACH of Louisville, Inc., of public school sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th-grade students, reported 49 percent of high school seniors gambled in their lifetimes in 2006, the year Choices was released.

In 2018, the KIP survey reported the percentage of high school seniors that gambled was 26.6 percent.

Of course, the Kentucky Lottery promotes gambling, but its promotions always contain responsible gambling messages. KYCPG is not an anti-gambling organization. Its mission is to raise awareness that gambling can be addictive and promote the availability of help for those who cannot gamble in a safe manner.

Gambling exists, as it has for millennia. It is more effective to focus on awareness, education and prevention.

Addicted gambling is a public health concern, and it is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the Mental Disorders, Firth Edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association. Gambling becomes an addiction when individuals continue to gamble in spite of recurring negative consequences.

The 2018 IPSOS survey of Kentucky identified that 78 percent of adult Kentuckians gamble, both legally and illegally. A 2008 survey commissioned by KYCPG and conducted by the University of Kentucky Survey Research Center identified 9,000 addicted gamblers, 51,000 problem gamblers, and 190,000 at risk of developing a gambling problem or addiction.

It does not matter whether the gambling is with one the three legal Kentucky gambling methods (charitable gambling bingo halls, pull-tabs or raffles; pari-mutuel horse race wagering or Historical Racing machines; or Kentucky Lottery products or Keno) at out-of-state casinos and sports betting locations, illegally with bookmakers, or even electronic gaming, some Kentuckians are susceptible to uncontrolled gambling behavior.

Awareness can lower the possibility of developing a problem. Help from certified gambler counselors and Gamblers Anonymous can lead to healthy recovery.

Follow these steps to practice responsible gambling. Before gambling, ask yourself three questions:

-WHETHER you should gamble, knowing that losing is likely, that you cannot control chance, and that it doesn’t interfere with other responsibilities?

-WHEN is it appropriate to gamble, understanding that gambling is not a healthful way to deal with emotions or stress?

-HOW MUCH money and time can you gamble, recognizing gambling is entertainment and not an essential expenditure of time or money?

If you do choose to gamble: Keep track of preset time and money limits, take frequent breaks and avoid ATMs or other sources of money.

Ninety-five percent of people gamble for entertainment and suffer no long-term negative consequences. However, studies show that about 1 percent are addicted gamblers and about 3 percent are problem gamblers. For them, the problems can reach the level of criminal behavior, domestic abuse, bankruptcy and suicide.

Based on research and statistics, KYCPG estimates the social cost of addicted gambling in Kentucky at more than $80 million annually.

Practicing responsible gambling can result in a healthier life and reduce problems, but if problems develop help is available.

From Kentucky Lottery

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