FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — With it being Responsible Gaming Education Week, advocates are working to increase awareness about problem gambling in addition to promoting responsible gaming nationwide.
“Responsible gaming is very important,” said David Doyle, the general manager of Winner’s Circle in New Haven. “Honestly, it means a lot to me personally. My father was an avid gamer and gambler as well and, you know, just kind of growing up with that in my life. When I had the career trajectory that kind of put me into gaming, I really wanted to make sure that everybody was playing responsibly.”
In 2021, 84% of Indiana adults reported participating in at least one gambling activity in the past year, according to a new survey of adult gambling behaviors in the state. The same study found that the prevalence of problem gambling among Indiana’s adult population was less than 5%.
It also found that 4.1% of respondents had gambling disorders, 3.4% of respondents were “pathological gamblers,” and 2.5% of respondents reported severe problematic gambling.
“The survey results affirmed research by others that problem gambling affects about 3% of the adult population, yet we do not see this in the numbers seeking treatment,” said Mary Lay, a research associate at Indiana University School of Public Health.
Lay added that gambling can become an addiction, even though it’s oftentimes not treated like one.
“It’s seen as a failure of, well, ‘why are you spending your money on that?’ ‘Oh, why don’t you just stop?’ When you look at someone you can’t see that they’re intoxicated with gambling,” Lay said. “Further education of the risks of gambling for more than entertainment or recreation can improve the lives of many Hoosiers.”
Some red flags to be aware of include, if a person is lying to hide the extent of how often they’re gambling, or if a person is jeopardizing relationships or job opportunities because of it.
Doyle said one of the biggest keys to identifying a gambling problem is to pay attention to what a player is saying.
“You never want to hear somebody say, ‘Oh, I just, if this game doesn’t break right, you know, I’m not going to be able to pay my mortgage or anything like that,'” Doyle said. “So, those are some of the hot button phrases that I really kind of pay attention to and listen to, because you never know.”
IU’s study found that men reported to be more likely to pathologically gamble than women (6.9% vs. 0.5%). Lay added that gambling problems can also add to stress on families.
“If [individuals] aren’t seeking help, that may result in some family issues around money… lies and deceptions. There’s often cases of stealing or borrowing money and not repaying it so that creates problems with relationships, whether it be friends or family,” Lay said.
Doyle said the Winner’s Circle partners with the Indiana Gaming Commission and its hotline number is a “great resource” for anyone who may be impacted by problem gambling.
“We also have treatment providers in various parts of the state, and most addiction providers in the state also provide gambling treatment services. And the state does fund those services for people who have an have a problem with gambling addiction,” Lay said.
According to the survey, lotteries were the most popular form of gambling among Indiana adults, with 71.7% of respondents reporting playing any lottery. The survey also found that 46.2% reported visiting casinos to gamble, and 20.5% reported participating in any sports gaming in the past year.
Lay said the most statistically significant differences in overall gambling participation were found in relation to sports gaming, which Indiana legalized in 2019. She said since its been legalized, over $4 billion has been spent in Indiana.
She hopes the results of this survey will be used to “set priorities for treatment and awareness activities across Indiana.”