March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month. With that in mind, the Pennsylvania Lottery has some strong words for those who may be descending into compulsive gambling behaviors.

In a press release published on Mar. 1, the lottery’s executive director, Drew Svitko, said that, many gamblers can buy lottery products without becoming addicted. Nonetheless, everyone should play responsibly.

“As part of our commitment to be socially responsible, we ask every player to always play responsibly. That means playing within your financial means and only for entertainment.” Svitko said. “Most adults can play lottery games without issue, but anyone who may be struggling with gambling addiction should not play at all.”

He went on to point out that parents should never give their kids gambling games. Moreover, you have to be at least 18 years old to play. If you aren’t, you’re breaking the law.

The announcement is certainly relevant to PA residents, whose appetite for lottery games produced $4.14 billion in 2017. that number equates to about $323 per resident.

Pennsylvania group focuses on signs of problem gambling

It’s the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) who spearheads the nationwide awareness campaign. However, it is the Council on Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania (CCGP) is the organization who does the year-round work of helping the state’s problem gamblers and those whom they affect.

The organization’s gambling hotline number is 800-848-1880. The hotline is open 24 hours a day.

Here’s the organization’s definition of problem gambling:

“Any gambling, betting or wagering that causes family, financial, legal, emotional or other problems for the gambler, their family or others. Gambling problems can be mild or quite severe and can worsen over time.”

Identifying problem gambling can be difficult. There tends to be some mechanism for hiding the addiction but, per the CCGP, the following signs could be an indication there is a gambling problem:

  • Gambling more frequently or for longer than intended
  • Lying about where money goes
  • Declining work or school performance
  • Borrowing money in order to gamble
  • Increasing preoccupation with gambling
  • Distancing or isolating from family or friends
  • Unable to pay bills or cover expenses
  • Chasing losses, or returning the next day to win back what was lost
  • Have you committed or considered committing a crime to finance your gambling?
  • Have you made repeated unsuccessful efforts to control or stop your gambling?

According to the group, 1-4 percent of Americans are either pathological gamblers or problem gamblers.

What causes problem gambling and are casinos to blame?

The CCGP’s explanations for problem-gambling and whether or not casinos play a role in it are pulled from the NCPG’s curriculum and are, presumably, the standard national explanations.

According to both organizations, a variety of factors ranging from genetics to circumstances can cause problem gambling. A job loss and other stress could drive people to gamble — there really is no single type of person who gambles.

“Many people who develop problems have been viewed as responsible and strong by those who care about them. Precipitating factors often lead to a change in behavior, such as retirement or job-related stress,” the organizations say.

Both groups noted that casinos and lotteries aren’t to blame for problem gambling because the addiction is something that emanates from the individual’s “inability to control the gambling”.

The CCGP has a chat line available for those who need help, the 24-hour hotline listed earlier and a page for finding Gamblers Anonymous meetings in your area.