Harrisburg, PA – When does gambling turn from a fun recreation into an addiction? Pennsylvania is spreading awareness of gambling addiction and the recovery services through the National Problem Gambling Awareness Month.

Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) Secretary Jen Smith was joined in Strawberry Square by the Pennsylvania Lottery, legislative members, providers, and community members to kick off March as National Problem Gambling Awareness Month.

This year marks the 16th anniversary of National Problem Gambling Awareness Month as recognized by the National Council on Problem Gambling. To commemorate, this year’s theme is Awareness + Action. The goals of the national campaign are to increase public awareness of problem gambling and the availability of treatment and recovery services, and to encourage health care providers to screen clients for problem gambling.

 

“We come together today to promote awareness of problem gambling and highlight community resources for individuals in need,” said DDAP Secretary Jennifer Smith. “As legalized gambling expands and becomes more prevalent around the commonwealth, we urge individuals and their loved ones to recognize when a recreational hobby becomes a more serious problem. Understanding that treatment and resources are available can help in having conversations with loved ones in need.”

“In observance of National Problem Gambling Awareness Month, the Pennsylvania Lottery urges all players to please play responsibly, within their financial means, and only for entertainment,” said Pennsylvania Lottery Executive Director Drew Svitko. “We also want players to know that they can contact us to learn how to get help.”

Pennsylvania operates numerous resources to support individuals suffering from problem gambling including a Problem Gambling Hotline available 24 hour a day, 365 days a year at 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537), and a 24-hour chat services available at www.pacouncil.com. Additionally, the commonwealth offers a Self Exclusion Program that allows a person to request to be excluded from legalized gaming activities within a casino and offsite venues.

“While the self-exclusion list for problem gamblers is valuable, those on the list who enter a casino or video game terminal area need help,” said Rep. Jason Ortitay (R- Washington/Allegheny). “By encouraging treatment instead of criminal penalties for list violators, we can better address and stop this problem behavior. Our goal should be to support, not punish people with gambling problems so that they can stop their addiction.”

Gambling, even through legal avenues, becomes a problem when individuals begin to develop strained relationships with loved ones, borrow money to gamble, gamble to see a high or feeling, miss work, school, or other activities and obligations in order to gamble. These behaviors can have a serious impact on a person’s financial, physical, and mental health. Other symptoms of problem gambling include trying to hide or lying about gambling, using gambling as an escape to avoid dealing with others problems, and feeling like the habit is out of control but being unable to stop.

For more information on how to recognize the warning signs of a gambling problem and to find treatment options around Pennsylvania, visit www.ddap.pa.gov or 1-800-GAMBLER.