Don’t leave it in the hands of the judges.

It can be nerve-racking waiting for a decision. The seconds seem like hours when you are waiting to see who’s hand is going to be raised in triumph: yours, or that of your opponent’s. There will always be the chance that things don’t go your way, that the judges didn’t see what you think they should have seen, that points you should have been awarded somehow went to your opponent. How will the match be called? Hard to say. My coach always said “don’t leave it in the hands of the judges.” Meaning: put them down; end it by knockout, and there will be no question who won. Likewise, when it comes to problem gambling, we might shake our heads and say “I hope they do something about this.” But who are “they?” If you are worried about what is being done in your community to prevent problem gambling, or to get those who develop problems connected to help, there are a lot of options that require only a little effort. March is National Problem Gambling Awareness Month (PGAM). It’s a great time to think about ways to increase public awareness of gambling disorder and the help that is available. I recently competed in an athletic event and wore a t-shirt designed to educate athletes about our increased risk for problem gambling. I also gave away t-shirts and information cards to some of the other participants, in order to help spread the word.

This is just one example of some of the things we can do to help. Whether or not our communities are prepared to prevent and address problem gambling? Not something we want to leave to chance. Consider some of the ideas below:

  • write a letter or e-mail to your community leaders asking them about their efforts to prevent and address problem gambling. Cite what you know about the gambling available in your community, and the importance of all aspects of the community coming together to prevent any unintended social costs of problem gambling.
  • reach out to your local gambling counseling program and seeing what they need. Do they have brochures you can keep in the lobby at your place of business? Do they have an awareness event you could share fliers for, sponsor or contribute to? Do they need help getting information out about their services? We are so fortunate to have a volunteer at our program that helps organize data from outreach events and send mailings out to groups we hope to connect to, in order to provide public awareness materials. This has been immeasurably helpful. Can you offer your organizational skills similarly? Who knows how you can help?!
  • offer up your space for a support meeting
  • host a public awareness event
  • Print out and post information on problem gambling (check out http://www.ncpgambling.org as a starting point) and local help
  • add the Problem Gambling Awareness Month image (below) to your email signature line
  • discourage underage play. Most people don’t know that letting kids gamble (ex. giving them lottery tickets, placing a bet for them at the track, or a sporting event) increases their chance of developing a gambling problem. So, tell them. (But tell them nicely. We don’t know something until we do!)
  • Can’t think of anything? E-mail gamblingservices@nicasa.org, and we can brainstorm. Thanks for reading.

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