As lottery nears, gamblers need to know their limits

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Most people engage in legalized gambling for fun and entertainment without developing a gambling problem, says Rita Conley, Cooperative Extension Program family resource management specialist at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. But, for those who have experienced a gambling problem among family members, friends or coworkers, one person with a gambling disorder is one too many.

"The financial consequences of this problem can be devastating," says Conley.

The National Council of Problem Gambling (NCPG) estimates that as of 2006, about 2 percent of Arkansas adults, or 42,394 people, are struggling with problem gambling. About 1 percent can be characterized as struggling with pathological or compulsive gambling.

Research shows that problem gambling among adolescents in the U.S. has increased in recent years. Suggested causes include exposure to gambling at younger ages, expanded access to gambling in many forms (including Internet gambling) and acceptance of legalized gambling as a form of entertainment.

Gambling disorders can be contributing factors to some stress-related illnesses. However, these disorders as health risks are not included in most health screenings, so many people that could benefit from treatment go undiagnosed, says Conley.

With the lottery set to begin soon, Conley offers these tips from NPCG, the Institute of Gambling Research at the University of Memphis and the Responsible Gambling Council in Ontario:

* Consider any money you spend on gambling an entertainment cost. Budget for recreational spending and do not go over budget. Consider any money you win a bonus.

* Do not think of gambling as a way to make money. Significant financial gain rarely occurs. All forms of gambling are set up to take in more money than they pay out. The vast majority of gamblers lose so that a very small minority can win. Always accept loss as part of the game.

* Do not chase losses. Chances are that you will lose even more trying to recoup losses. Special strategies, such as playing the same numbers in a lottery each week or stopping the spin on a slot machine at a certain time, does nothing to increase your chances of winning. The outcome of most games of chance, particularly lotteries and slot machines, is completely random. You cannot influence it.

* Set a time limit and stick to it. Artificial lighting is often used in gambling establishments to mask the passage of time. Leave when you reach your limit whether you are winning or losing.

* Do not borrow money to gamble.

* Do not gamble alone or use gambling to cope with emotional or physical pain. Gambling should never be essential to a good time. Include socializing with friends, family or colleagues while eating or enjoying other forms of entertainment as a part of your activities.

* Gambling should be your choice. Do not let anyone pressure you into making a bet. If you struggle with addictions, you may not want to gamble at all.

* Limit indulgence in alcoholic beverages while gambling. They can affect your judgment and interfere with your adherence to predetermined limits.

* Know the warning signs of problem gambling.

* Become concerned when gambling behavior interferes with finances, relationships or employment, advises Conley. Knowing your limits is important to reducing the risk of unhealthy behaviors and the loss of your financial security and that of your family.

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