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Minnesota Opinion: Gambling problem? Talk about it at home

Forum News Service Gambling problems don't get a lot of attention in the region. But they should. People can still get caught up in pull tabs, Lottery games, Internet gambling, private card games, sports betting and other forms of gambling. An ad...

Forum News Service

Gambling problems don’t get a lot of attention in the region.

But they should. People can still get caught up in pull tabs, Lottery games, Internet gambling, private card games, sports betting and other forms of gambling.

An addiction to it can build slowly over time, until it damages not only bank accounts, but jobs, relationships, families and mental health.

It’s best to confront the problem earlier, while there’s time to get help before the problems seem insurmountable.

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During March, National Problem Gambling Awareness Month, the Minnesota Department of Human Services is urging Minnesotans to become informed and reach out to others in their communities. This year’s theme is “Problem Gambling: Have the Conversation.”

DHS is showcasing videos of individuals who had started their own conversations about problem gambling and used these conversations as a catalyst to changing their behaviors around gambling. The personal testimonials are featured at www.getgamblinghelp.com and at facebook.com/nojudgment and will be seen throughout the state at gas stations and sports venues.

“When you are in the midst of your gambling addiction, you aren’t thinking about asking for help, because you think you have everybody fooled,” said a man featured in the video campaign. “I didn’t have anybody to be accountable to,” said another.

Those who want to talk with someone about their concerns about their own or a loved one’s gambling can call the free statewide confidential helpline at 1-800-333-HOPE or texting HOPE to #61222.

“It’s critical that people who are concerned that their gambling is out of control reach out to get the help they need,” said Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper. “Having the conversation with loved ones, with people who have gambling problems themselves, or with professionals is a great place to start.”

Warning signs of a gambling problem include:

n Gambling longer than planned.

n Gambling until the last dollar is gone.

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n Thoughts of gambling preoccupy daily life.

n Bills begin to go unpaid.

n Attempts to stop gambling are unsuccessful.

n Criminal activity to fuel gambling.

n Borrowing money from friends and family.

n Feelings of depression or suicide after losing.

n Feelings of remorse after gambling.

n Gambling to meet financial obligations.

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If you have a gambling problem, you are not alone. Conservative estimates suggest that 6.2 million people in the United States experience problem gambling and 3.4 million individuals warrant a gambling disorder diagnosis, according to the National Problem Gambling Council.

The effects of a gambling disorder are often more than economic, leading to damaged relationships and high rates of substance abuse, depression and suicide.

If you or someone you know is struggling with gambling, get help. It all starts with a simple conversation.

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