Is it Gambling or Gaming?

Gambling has been rebranded as “Gaming.” If the persons playing are enjoying themselves and being responsible it is called “Gaming.” But interestingly it is not called “Problem Gaming” or “having a Gaming Problem” when the person goes into debt or steals from friends and family to feed their need.

In November of 2012 Rhode Island voters passed Questions One and Two which asked for authorization of the addition of state-operated casino gaming in the town of Lincoln and the city of Newport. The purpose for these questions was the same: “Revenues generated by the State of Rhode Island from state-operated gaming in Rhode Island constitute the third largest source of revenue to the State, behind only revenue generated from income taxes and sales and use taxes.. . .” it is “anticipated that competition from gaming facilities recently authorized in Massachusetts could have a 25 to 40 per cent negative impact . . . amounting to losses to the State of $100 million or more in annual revenues” (http://sos.ri.gov/documents/elections/VoterHandbook_2012.pdf, pp. 7, 12). While this makes those looking to the state for funds happy, others have concerns of a more broadly moral than narrowly monetary nature.

When contacted by Joe Dilworth, for GoLocalProv, former Vice President of the Rhode Island Council on Problem Gambling John Mongelli responded, “I’m absolutely worried about it . . . Specifically because there’s been no prevailing study to assess the extent of the problem before table games were implemented.” That is, since we do not know how extensive is our current gambling addiction, the problem of how to identify, analyze and solve future problems is made more difficult.

Now the Gaming Industry does not deny the existence of problems. But they look at a larger picture. Spokesperson Patti Doyle responded: “We know that the majority of the playing public looks at gaming as a form of entertainment and that they are responsible in their gaming. That said, we fully recognize that there are those who need help and we collectively have an obligation to help them get it.” This help consists of programs for employees on problem gambling awareness, funding for gambling addiction, and self-exclusion programs for players.

But a critical issue is that legislators do not seem to recognize the need for secure funding for the gambling addiction programs and therapy. At one point in 2012 they completely eliminated funding for compulsive gambling programs. Though, as Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed pointed out in August: “When the Speaker and I learned that this funding was inadvertently eliminated, we immediately found the resources to restore these essential services.”

Proven measures to increase awareness of the symptoms of gambling addiction need to be in place before the gaming casinos arrive. The presence of casinos will increase the prevalence of problem gamblers. Funds for personal and family therapy must be certain and sufficient. This is not a game!

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