Calls to Problem Gambling HelpLine Continue to Increase

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The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling (FCCG) has operated the statewide problem gambling helpline in Florida for the past 21 years. Fiscal year 2008/2009 statistics showed significant increases in statewide problem gambling. The FCCG received 13,998 contacts to its 24-Hour, toll free, problem gambling HelpLine, 888-ADMIT-IT, during this period, with over 4,400 of those requests for help and information. This represents a 5% increase in contacts in the past year and a 19% increase over the past two years.

As a result of the expansion of gambling in the state and the additional gambling opportunities and venues that will become available in the future, we would expect the number of individuals seeking help to continue to rise.

The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling (FCCG) has operated the statewide problem gambling helpline in Florida for the past 21 years. Fiscal year 2008/2009 statistics showed significant increases in statewide problem gambling. The FCCG received 13,998 contacts to its 24-Hour, toll free, problem gambling HelpLine, 888-ADMIT-IT, during this period, with over 4,400 of those requests for help and information. This represents a 5% increase in contacts in the past year and a 19% increase over the past two years.

Sixty-eight percent (68%) of contacts originated from south and south central Florida, with 35% coming from Broward and Miami-Dade counties. The percent of gamblers citing cards as a primary problem have more than doubled over the last two years (33% in 08/09 compared to 16% in 06/07). Twelve percent (12%) of gamblers stated lottery as a primary problem and 60% cited this form as a secondary problem which is an increase of 28% over last year. Females preferred slot machines over lottery 71% to 15% while males preferred cards over slot machines 50% to 26%. According to Pat Fowler, Executive Director, "As a result of the expansion of gambling in the state and the additional gambling opportunities and venues that will become available in the future, we would expect the number of individuals seeking help to continue to rise."

Eleven percent (11%) of the gamblers were business owners, with many stating that the bad economy put them into a position where they felt the need to gamble to try to make ends meet. Unemployed people seeking assistance with a gambling problem has doubled over the last 2 years to 16% (8% in 06/07). Callers reported average debt owed due to problem gambling was over $59,000 and 11% of the gamblers had enacted bankruptcy. Since collecting data on military experience in January, 2009, 8% of the gamblers stated that they were either retired, active or had past military experience.

Gamblers progress through a spiral of behaviors that can eventually lead to crime. "The gambler has a need to get money, frequently considered the "drug of choice" for the compulsive gambler," explained Fowler, "Eventually, when they have tapped out all resources and are in an extreme situation, they are faced with choices of turning to illegal activities as a means of continuing the addiction." This year, 33% of gamblers admitted committing illegal acts, up from 23% in 06/07, and fraud and embezzlement were the most frequently cited crimes committed. More than one out of every six gamblers (17%) has been subject to legal actions as a result of their gambling problems. In addition, as further documentation as to the severity of the problem, 10% of the gamblers had either attempted suicide or had serious ideations to do so.

Gambling addiction is a treatable disorder when assistance is sought and accessible.

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