The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is highlighting problem gambling in March, hoping to educate state residents about the signs, dangers and reasons behind problem gambling.

The PCGB’s campaign includes an informational booth that will appear in the state capitol building. It will be active three days this month: March 14, 22, and 30 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Elizabeth Lanza, director of the PGCB’s Office of Compulsive and Problem Gambling, said that for gambling is more than just a way to pass the time or have some fun for problem gamblers.

“For some individuals, gambling is not simply a recreational activity, but something uncontrollable that can lead to debilitating problems that create negative consequences for the person, their family and society as a whole,” she said.

The PCGB’s move coincides with the National Council on Problem Gambling‘s (NCPG) declaration that March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month.

A two-tone blue ribbon and the hashtag #havetheconvo are the identifiers for the campaign.

The effort comes as the state considers an expansion of gambling in the state, including PA online casinos.

The month’s goals: Awareness and screening

According to the NCPG’s website, nearly 80 percent of Americans gamble at least once a year.

While most people can easily do a one-and-done session at a casino or website, those who struggle with problem gambling — estimates put the number at six million Americans — find themselves unable to control their urges or the time they spend gambling.

“Problem gambling touches every corner of our society, afflicting inner cities, suburbs and rural communities,” the NCPG’s website says. “No age, income or ethnic group is exempt.”

Self-exclusion program provides a way out

The state has put in place a mechanism to help problem gamblers curb their addictions. That is the Pennsylvania Self-Exclusion Program.

In this program, problem gamblers can submit their names to a list that. Inclusion on that list will bar them from entering a Pennsylvania casino for one year, fives years or their lifetime.

The program carries with it the possibility of criminal trespassing charges should individuals on the list enter a casino.

More resources on problem gambling

To learn more about problem gambling, head to the NCPG’s website. If you are a problem gambler and need help, call 1-800-GAMBLER.

If you or a loved one may have a gambling problem, but you’re unsure if it’s a legitimate addiction, head to PAproblemgambling.com to take a 20-question quiz.

J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren is a freelance writer and author. He is a three-time winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism contest. His work has appeared in numerous blogs and publications including Bespoke Post, Snooth, Our Amazing Norway, Barcelona Metropolitan and The Villages Daily Sun.