Maryland recently authorized the expansion of legal gambling opportunities in the state. Now, in addition to the state’s several casinos and the Maryland Lottery, the state will soon introduce legal retail and online sports betting in Maryland.
Certainly, it’s an exciting time for those who like to gamble, including those who enjoy wagering on the Baltimore Ravens, Baltimore Orioles, or the Washington Football Team.
However, as more ways to gamble become available, the need to understand the importance of responsible gambling increases. Those who engage in gambling and operators who offer gambling need to educate themselves about how to gamble responsibly and how to identify and avoid problem gambling.
Everyone involved in gambling needs to understand the risks. Failing to do so can not only cause gambling to become less entertaining but also invite serious problems for all. Problem gambling can be devastating for those who suffer from it as well as for their family and friends.
Let’s talk about responsible gambling and best practices both for gamblers and operators, information about detecting and preventing problem gambling, and resources for Maryland gamblers seeking information about responsible gambling and/or help with problem gambling.
“Responsible gambling” is not simply a generic way of describing how gamblers understand and take responsibility for themselves when they gamble. Within the gambling industry, the term refers both to an overall approach to gambling and a set of specific guidelines designed to help patrons and operators keep gambling fun and positive.
Such guidelines help gamblers understand how to use moderation when gambling. They also create awareness of the many pitfalls that can arise when gambling, educating them on how to avoid extremes and other behaviors while gambling that can cause harm to themselves and their loved ones.
In Maryland and elsewhere, whenever lawmakers write gambling legislation and regulators establish rules for gambling providers, they typically include requirements concerning responsible gambling. Operators have to follow these rules in order to retain their gambling licenses, which means enacting policies designed to promote responsible gambling both for themselves as providers and for their customers who gamble with them.
Such responsible gambling initiatives help guard against the many potential negative and harmful effects of gambling. Their impact increases when gamblers are made aware of what constitutes responsible gambling and operators consciously work to provide such information while following recommended practices themselves.
Here are some dos and don’ts designed to help gamblers practice responsible gambling:
As noted, gambling laws and regulations generally require operators to abide by certain guidelines associated with responsible gambling. Here are a few best practices Maryland operators can follow to help create conditions for responsible gambling:
Responsible gambling involves educating both patrons and providers and establishing guidelines to prevent gambling-related problems from arising. By necessity, understanding responsible gambling also involves being able to recognize problem gambling when it does occur despite efforts to avoid it.
Recognizing signs of problem gambling in oneself or in others can sometimes be difficult. Sometimes the signs are easy to see, especially when a problem gambler engages in conspicuously self-destructive behavior. In these cases, problem gambling can resemble drug or alcohol addiction, bringing obvious harm to a person’s health and well-being.
In such situations, it can also become obvious there is a problem when a person’s gambling negatively affects relationships with others and/or employment status.
Other times, problem gambling can be more difficult to notice. It is important to be aware of the more subtle signs of problem gambling since these can often serve as early indicators that more serious issues might develop. Even what could appear to be very minor negatives associated with gambling could grow into much more severe concerns.
Often gambling laws include specific language regarding problem gambling. For example, Maryland’s new sports betting law references the Problem Gambling Fund maintained by the state’s Department of Health. The law specifies various uses of the fund to help compulsive and problem gamblers. These uses include using the fund to provide 24-hour phone support, to create outreach programs, and to provide treatment and prevention for problem gamblers.
Here are some common symptoms of problem gambling, some of which are obvious and others more subtle:
There are many different resources of information about responsible gambling in Maryland, as well as avenues for receiving help with problem gambling. Many of the organizations listed below in fact combine their resources in an effort to provide as much coverage as possible to those seeking information and/or help.
The Maryland Lottery provides a number of valuable resources for lottery players and anyone who gambles. The lottery’s website includes recommendations for how to play responsibly, warning signs of problem gambling, and links to various Maryland-specific and national resources.
The website also provides information regarding the Maryland Lottery Voluntary Exclusion Program, a self-exclusion program in which problem gamblers can enroll to prevent themselves from gambling further.
The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency is another hub for information about problem gambling and a resource for anyone seeking assistance. There, too, visitors can find information about the Voluntary Exclusion Program and how to enroll.
The Maryland Center on Problem Gambling offers a wide range of information and support via its website. The organization also invites those in need of help to phone the toll-free Maryland Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-GAMBLER, which is available 24 hours a day.
The center can put individuals in touch with counselors, support groups, and other resources. The website also features comprehensive information (including videos) about self-assessment, warning signs, and safety tips related to problem gambling.
The Maryland Alliance for Responsible Gambling is another source of information and support for Maryland residents suffering from problem gambling. This statewide partnership coordinates and maximizes the state’s resources to help with problem gambling in the state. In fact, several groups comprise the Alliance, including:
Casinos in Maryland are also represented in the Alliance’s regular meetings.
Another resource in the state for help with problem gambling is the Maryland Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling. The program runs out of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and is funded by the state’s Department of Health Behavioral Health Administration.
The center provides education to the public about gambling and gambling addiction. It also helps to train counselors, educators, prevention specialists, and other health care and social service providers working to help those affected by problem gambling. Furthermore, the center provides public policy information while engaging in research designed to help further understanding and treatment of gambling-related problems.
In addition, the center offers Peer Recovery Support Specialists to help anyone seeking to limit or stop their gambling. Maryland residents are eligible for free problem gambling assessment and even free counseling and/or treatment via the center, making this an especially valuable resource.
The Maryland Council on Problem Gambling is yet another nonprofit group focused on advocacy for those affected by problem gambling. The organization provides information and assistance for those in need of treatment, education, prevention and research about problem gambling. They even offer small grants to those working to “increase problem gambling wellness.”
Not only do Maryland residents have access to state resources for responsible and problem gambling, but they can also find a wealth of information from national agencies. Here are a few recommended national organizations:
The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) is a well-known organization that provides support to many different programs and services for people affected by problem gambling.
Those in Maryland can learn more about what the NCPG offers by calling or texting the National Problem Gambling Helpline Network at 1-800-522-4700. Those who call or visit the NCPG website can also get information about various problem gambling resources in Maryland. The NCPG offers 24/7 live chat support as well.
The International Center for Responsible Gambling (ICRG) is a nonprofit organization that concentrates on funding research into gambling addiction. Affiliated with the American Gaming Association, the ICRG offers a variety of responsible gambling programs designed to inform the public about gambling disorders and the harm caused by gambling addiction.
The ICRG is the new name for what had been the International Center for Responsible Gambling. Since the AGA lobbies for casinos, the ICRG’s connection with AGA has caused some to regard its focus as being more casino-centric than other problem gambling organizations. In any case, the ICRG does provide many useful resources for those seeking information about problem gambling.
Gamblers Anonymous (GA) is one of the best-known resources in the country for help with problem gambling. Established in the 1950s, GA is historically linked to Alcoholics Anonymous. Similarly, GA has its own 12-step program to help rehabilitate problem gamblers.
GA has a detailed website with information and a frequently recommended questionnaire to help determine if you or someone you know is suffering from problem gambling. GA also invites those in Maryland to call the toll-free Maryland Hotline Number at 855-222-5542.
Another well-known national group is Gam-Anon, a self-help organization that concentrates on helping family members and friends of those affected by problem gambling. Gam-Anon has its own 12-step program, and it also helps groups organize meetings in order to help themselves and others.
Another organization that operates according to the self-help model is GamTalk. In addition to various tools and programs, the GamTalk website hosts online chat rooms where members can meet to support each other and receive help. Like Gam-Anon, GamTalk primarily seeks to support family and friends who are affected by a loved one’s problem gambling.
Many adults in Maryland and elsewhere enjoy gambling as a leisure activity or favorite pastime. Betting on sports and other casino games can be enjoyable, either in person or online.
However, some have difficulty practicing moderation when it comes to gambling, failing to realize the significant risks involved with the activity. By not practicing responsible gambling, individuals can become exposed to all sorts of dangers, potentially causing grievous harm for themselves, friends, and family.
Take advantage of the many resources available to ensure you practice responsible gambling and avoid the pitfalls of problem gambling. Even those who are able to monitor their gambling activity and avoid the extremes that can cause problems can benefit from learning about responsible gambling. Knowing about and following recommended practices can ensure gambling remains a fun and positive activity.
Understanding such practices can also help you spot potential problems in others and prevent harm from coming to them. Learn to recognize the signs of problem gambling, whether in yourself or others, and don’t hesitate to seek help and take advantage of the many resources available.
Life is full of risks. Those who enjoy gambling deliberately invite additional risk into their lives, in a way, although in many cases do so while imposing limits and making certain those risks remain comfortably small. Learning about responsible gambling and taking advantage of resources available to prevent problem gambling can ensure the risks associated with gambling don’t threaten your life or well-being.