Less than 10% of individuals with a gambling disorder will seek help, according to the Maryland Council on Problem Gambling. That sobering statistic is why the agency’s top priority is to increase public awareness about problem gambling.
Once an individual recognizes that they or someone close to them has a problem with responsible gambling, the agency can advocate and assist with treatment and prevention.
Look for the warning signs of problem gambling
Problem gambling is any behavior that causes disruptions in any major life area: psychological, physical, social or vocational, says the National Council on Problem Gambling.
Warning signs of problem gambling can include:
- Preoccupation with gambling
- Keeping secrets or lying about gambling habits
- Being unsuccessful at controlling or stopping
- Increasing amounts bet to feel more excitement
- Using gambling to chase financial losses
- Putting relationships, education or career at risk
- Needing to rely on others for financial support
Professionals say gambling addiction is a hidden illness. The disorder can affect not only an individual’s financial situation, it can also adversely impact family and friends.
Maryland Alliance for Responsible Gambling has several partners
The Maryland Alliance for Responsible Gambling is a statewide partnership that coordinates and maximizes resources to address problem gambling. Partners of the alliance include seven Maryland agencies and also representatives from local casinos.
One partner of the alliance is the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency. The agency promotes responsible gambling throughout the year, especially during Problem Gambling Awareness Month every March.
On its website, players can get tips on how to play responsibly, odds of winning lottery games to help people make informed choices and links to several resources to help with problem gambling.
The agency also operates a voluntary exclusion program for anyone wishing to ban themselves from Maryland casinos or other wagering activities within the state. The placement is voluntary and must be done in person at the Lottery headquarters in Baltimore or at any Maryland casino.
Online self-evaluation tools available to Maryland gamblers
The Maryland Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling is a program of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The goal is to promote healthy and informed choices about gambling and problem gambling. The center provides a free and confidential helpline (1-800-GAMBLER) and also works to educate individuals about the risks of gambling.
Additionally, training is offered to counselors and health care providers on how to assist gamblers and their families.
Individuals can take an online self-evaluation quiz administered by the agency. The assessment helps determine if other support or information may be helpful. Additional resources on the site include contact information on Gambler’s Anonymous and Gam-Anon, a program that helps friends and family members of problem gamblers.
Another program offered by the center is Peer Recovery Support. These specialists help individuals who want to limit, control or stop gambling. The program allows problem gamblers to have a “conversation from someone who has been there.” In 2022, 330 individuals sought assistance from the center and were referred to treatment and resources.
Remember, counseling and treatment programs are available at no cost to Maryland residents, regardless of insurance coverage.