Problem Gambling Awareness Week Recognizes Sports Gambling as Growing and Serious Addiction

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With statistics documenting the increase in this type of gambling in Florida, the statewide organization dedicated to helping compulsive gamblers is using Problem Gambling Awareness Week (PGAW) to spread awareness about problem sports betting and its devastating effects. During the week of March 6-12, the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling (FCCG) will focus on the impact problem sports betting can have on both the gambler and their families, and spread the message of hope, that help and treatment is available for those adversely affected.

Compulsive gambling can become very destructive, very fast.” says Pat Fowler, Executive Director of the FCCG. “Sports’ betting is such an acceptable activity in our culture, regardless of the legality, no one even thinks twice about doing it. But for som

“Football, baseball, hockey, and my favorite sport, basketball, were always on the gambling menu, season after season. Early games, late games, sports packages, playing halftime bets on insignificant teams and games; the deadly mix of sports betting and easy Internet access to make these bets was in full swing,” -- Joe, a recovering compulsive gambler, remembering the days when sports betting consumed his life.

With statistics documenting the increase in this type of gambling in Florida, the statewide organization dedicated to helping compulsive gamblers is using Problem Gambling Awareness Week (PGAW) to spread awareness about problem sports betting and its devastating effects. During the week of March 6-12, the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling (FCCG) will focus on the impact problem sports betting can have on both the gambler and their families, and spread the message of hope, that help and treatment is available for those adversely affected.

Joe’s gambling began when he was just a teenager and he would bet on games through bookies. “A few football betting sheets were passed around in high school and for a buck you could pick parlays and make a few dollars if you could guess right,” he remembers.

Those were the days before he crossed the invisible line into uncontrolled sports gambling. The days before he moved to Florida, where he knew no one and had nothing but time, the Internet, and a television to keep him entertained while his wife was working and the kids were sleeping.

According to statistics from calls to the FCCG HelpLine, suicidal thoughts and/or attempts were confirmed in eleven percent of those who called. The FCCG is urging Floridians to help raise awareness about the resources available through the confidential and multilingual HelpLine, 888-ADMIT-IT (236-4848).

In Florida, sports’ gambling is a growing problem. According to the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, over the past year, almost 60 percent of the sports bettors surveyed had resorted to selling or pawning assets in order to obtain money to gamble.

For Joe, sports betting turned his great credit into a thing of the past.

“The amount of money I was wagering was increasing; the credit cards were maxed; the bills finally caught up to me. I had a second mortgage on my house and the housing market took a tumble. I couldn’t even sell my house to get me out of this hole I had fallen into. I had to face the facts and declare Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which was a hard pill to swallow.”

“Compulsive gambling can become very destructive, very fast,” says Pat Fowler, Executive Director of the FCCG. “Sports’ betting is such an acceptable activity in our culture, regardless of the legality, no one even thinks twice about doing it. But for some, it is the beginning of a very destructive addiction, and at the sound of the buzzer the urge to make a bet becomes overwhelming.”

This year’s PGAW focus, part of a national annual awareness movement, is timely, given that the week falls between major annual sporting events like the Super Bowl and the NCAA basketball division tournaments. The games create excitement and anticipation for the average fan, but for many compulsive gamblers, the outcome of the games can bring their debt and desperation to a point of crisis.

More than a dozen Florida municipalities across the state as well as organizations including the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Mardi Gras Casino, Magic City Casino, and the Miccosukee Resort and Gaming, have joined with the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling in this year’s theme of “Don’t Throw it Away: Blow the Whistle on Problem Gambling” to raise public awareness and highlight treatment options available to gamblers and their families. FCCG has also launched a Web site dedicated to PGAW, http://www.BlowTheWhistle2011.com.

The good news is that Joe got help for his problem. Said Joe: “Today is better and tomorrow will be just as good. Not gambling has allowed me to regain control of my life. I can now see the glass as half full instead of half empty. There is no answer to the question of how I could do this to my wife and young daughters. I will always have to live with the ramifications of my actions, but I now try to make amends on a daily basis and to help other compulsive gamblers before they crash and burn like I did.”

ABOUT PROBLEM GAMBLING AWARENESS WEEK

Problem Gambling Awareness Week (PGAW) is a national, annual outreach campaign to educate the public, policymakers, educators, businesses, mental health service providers, criminal justice professionals, and others about the adverse effects of gambling as well as available treatment. The goal of PGAW is to educate the general public and health care professionals about the warning signs of problem gambling and to raise awareness about the help that is available for families of problem gamblers. Problem Gambling Awareness Week will take place March 6 -12, 2010.

ABOUT THE FLORIDA COUNCIL ON COMPULSIVE GAMBLING

The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling (FCCG) is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that provides information, resource referrals, and support services for problem gamblers, their families, employers, and others. The organization offers prevention and education programs, as well as professional training for mental health, addiction and medical practitioners, gambling operators, governments, businesses, academia, law enforcement authorities, faith-based organizations, and others. The FCCG is gaming neutral, taking no position either for or against legalized gambling, and is one of more than 35 affiliates of the National Council on Problem Gambling.

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