How The National Council on Problem Gambling Prevents, Identifies, and Ultimately Helps Minimize Problem Gambling Addiction
Keith Whyte is the Executive Director of the National Council on Problem Gambling. The NCPG’s mission is to lead state and national stakeholders in the development of comprehensive policies and programs for those affected by problem gambling disorder.
The National Council on Problem Gambling
Founded in 1972, the NCPG advocates for problem gamblers without judgment. “We’re there to be neutral because we want problem gamblers who experience a lot of shame and stigma to feel comfortable in coming to us,” says Whyte, “but that stance and neutrality also helps us work with operators, regulators, vendors, and other groups.”
Their mission is to minimize harm for those with issues while still allowing operators to maximize revenue in a socially responsible way. Right now, the NCPG is working with legislators and regulators to ensure that public funds from gambling revenue go to problem gambling prevention and treatment programs.
No “Gateway” to Addiction
While there isn’t necessarily a “gateway” to problem gambling, Whyte notes that age definitely plays a factor in risk: like with tobacco or other addictions, those who delay use are less likely to experience issues with addiction later on in life. He’s found that some severe problem gamblers’ addictions began as early as 10-12 years old.
Now that sports wagering is legalized and lottery tickets are readily available in vending machines, Whyte expects that the NCPG and others in the industry will have to step up their countermeasures in order to protect people from potential risks.
“I think problem gambling is a preventable and treatable disorder…there’s a huge opportunity in the United States for vendors and operators to step up and say, ‘we want to get ahead of the curve.’” Keith Whyte
Whyte says that warning signs for problem gambling addiction include the failure to set and stick to time and money limits, a lower tolerance for excitement (so afflicted individuals bet more and more to achieve the same level of “high”), and harming loved ones financially or psychologically.
Stress and depression, each linked to problem gambling disorder, can manifest in physical ways as well. Whyte explains that young male veterans who prefer games of skill are particularly at risk for developing issues.
Everyone Plays a Role
Last year, the NCPG’s national helpline received over 220,000 calls. Hearing from these people drives Whyte’s passion to provide solutions. “We get an average of one call every 90 seconds… that’s more than enough motivation for most,” says Whyte.
Help for problem gambling looks a lot like help for traditional addiction therapy. The NCPG has a text and chat line, and 12 step programs are often successful when completed. Individuals may also choose to seek therapy, and soon there may be medications available to reduce the urges and cravings that many experience.
Gambling addiction cannot be eradicated, but it can be minimized. Everyone has a role to play. Payment providers like Sightline offer users the option to exclude themselves from gambling on all platforms or limit card use at facilities serviced by that provider.
Sightline and other payment providers are able to integrate with operators, advocates, and public health folks, among other stakeholders: this comprehensive approach to minimizing the disease that is gambling addiction is useful for prevention.
Responsible gaming awareness and education play an integral part in the discussion on problem gambling disorder, and Whyte believes that “for the sustainability of your business, for good economics and good ethics, responsible gambling is the way to go.”
Ultimately, “social responsibility is not an option anymore,” says Whyte. “It’s a requirement.”
Listen to Keith’s interview by clicking here.
Get in contact with episode guest Keith Whyte through the National Council on Problem Gambling.
Responsible Gaming Education Week
Responsible Gaming Education Week (RGEW) was created by the AGA in 1998 to increase awareness of problem gambling among gaming industry employees and customers and to promote responsible gaming nationwide.
The AGA and the entire gaming industry realize that education is essential to promoting responsible play and increasing awareness of gambling disorders, and RGEW provides gaming companies with an opportunity to expand on work they do every day educating employees and patrons about the issue.