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Seeking Assistance for Problem Gambling

September 30, 2009

Problem gambling is always in the news. Problem gambling is when the player wagers more funds than he can afford to on gambling and spends so much time on the activity that his social life is in tatters. The fact that problem gambling exists has been one of the major roadblocks in the legalization of online gambling. Recently a bill was moved in the House of Representatives seeking to allocate federal funds for research in problem gambling. It is believed that problem gambling is a genetic disorder much like addiction to drugs or alcohol. It is also believed that about 3% of the population in America is afflicted with this genetic disorder. Many organizations are engaged in counseling problem gamblers.

No player should start with the notion that he is immune to problem gambling. Online casinos have devised several self-assessment tests which they advice their players to take from time to time. These tests can reveal to the player if he is heading towards problem gambling. Once a player realizes that he is in the danger zone then he must not hesitate to seek professional help.

The biggest obstacle to seeking professional help is the perceived stigma attached to it. It is the duty of family and friends to convince the player that there is no such stigma involved in seeking help just as there is no stigma attached in seeking treatment for any other medical abnormality. Therefore online players are advised that they should never gamble in secrecy. Spouses, parents and other relatives should be aware that the family member is engaging in online gambling. Constant discussion within the family or friends circle can in the first place ensure that the player does not fall in the problem gambling trap. Also it is easier for family and friends to recognize the symptoms of problem gambling in the player. Once they see those symptoms then it becomes their bounden duty to bring in a professional. If this is done with the player’s acquiescence then it is so much the better but even if the player is not agreeable, it still needs to be done.

There are several reputed organizations that offer assistance to problem gamblers. The leading organization in the United States is the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG). GamCare operates in the United Kingdom. Gamblers Anonymous is formulated on the lines of Alcoholics Anonymous. Many of these organizations have local bodies in the various local regions of the countries. If there is someone in the family or friend circle who is a regular online gambler then it is worthwhile to have ready access to the contact details of such organizations.

There are several ways in which these organizations can help problem gamblers. The traditional method was face to face counseling. This has some disadvantages. Firstly it is not very convenient to organize face to face meetings and this becomes an excuse for not seeking help. It is also felt that problem gamblers have reservations in discussing issues in face to face sessions. Therefore most organizations offering assistance for problem gambling do so over the telephone and also through the Internet. Live sessions on the Internet are preferable because a transcript of the session is easily available to the player and the counselor and can be saved for future use. Also it is virtually free, the only cost being the cost of Internet usage. Some organizations like GamCare have online forums where problem gamblers can have live chat sessions among themselves. Knowing that there are others like them is a great help in the acceptance of the problem.

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