This week is Problem Gambling Prevention Week in the Sault and Algoma area, and the Responsible Gambling Council will be on hand at Gateway Casinos at 30 Bay St. W. Wednesday through Saturday.
Not to lecture people, but to help.
Heather Ly, Responsible Gambling Council project coordinator, will be available to play interactive games with casino patrons.
The games are designed to dispel gambling myths, such as the erroneous belief that playing two or more slot machines at once can increase chances of winning money (you lose it faster, of course).
“We just want to have everyone educated so that when they do gamble, they can make an informed decision,” Ly told SooToday.
Ly will be at Gateway Casinos at 30 Bay St. W. from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
While anyone can develop a gambling problem, including the young, economically-struggling single parent, the middle-aged professional in a business suit, or seniors, Ly said younger people are more susceptible to problem gambling’s grasp.
“It could potentially happen to anyone over the age of 19, old enough to get into a gaming venue, but we have found the younger population, from 19 to 24, have a slightly increased risk because their impulse control isn’t as well formed,” Ly said.
The problem starts, Ly said, when someone is spending too much time and money gambling, gambling to win back money lost through gambling, and/or gambling as a way to make money.
“Some of the early emotional warning signs include feeling guilty, frustrated or worried about your gambling, thinking or talking more than usual about gambling, or you experience extreme highs from winning or extreme lows from losing. Those are emotional signs you shouldn’t ignore,” Ly said.
Add that, of course, to less money in your bank account, less food on the table and domestic disputes.
Ultimately, the problem gambler can lose his or her home and family and friends.
Ly said a gambling problem can develop anywhere, such as playing for money with friends around the table, or buying too many lottery tickets.
Ly added gambling problems don’t necessarily develop more often in communities like Sault Ste. Marie, where casinos are located.
Ly said the Responsible Gambling Council has not conducted a great deal of psychological research as to why a gambling problem can start, but said “for some people it could be the stimulation of the lights and the sound of a casino, for other people it could be they had a big win at one time and they could continuously try to chase that over the years.”
That said, there is hope for the problem gambler who wants to quit.
“There are 52 treatment agencies in Ontario that not only help the gambler but also help the friends and family of the gambler,” Ly said.
In Sault Ste. Marie, there is the Addictions Treatment Clinic at Sault Area Hospital (SAH) at 705-759-6684, as well as the Ontario Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-888-230-3505.
“We don’t actually do the counselling, but people do become reformed gamblers, people who have been in the hole for a long time and have managed to climb out,” Ly said.
“It can be beaten, absolutely.”
In fact, Ly said the Responsible Gambling Council board chair is a former problem gambler who has not gambled in decades.
Research from the Responsible Gambling Council shows that about 3.4 per cent of Ontarians have a moderate to severe gambling problem. That means about 2,800 adults in Sault Ste. Marie and the Algoma region are estimated to be negatively impacted.
The Responsible Gambling Council is currently on a province-wide tour of communities with casinos and bingo halls.
The Council is an independent, non-profit organization focusing on prevention and awareness of problem gambling.
The Toronto-based group is not affiliated with Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) but does work occasionally with that company on certain projects, Ly said.
More information is available by clicking here.