(The Center Square) – As Illinois gaming revenues soar to record highs in 2022, so has gambling debt.
Calvin Miller, associate director of the Illinois Council on Problem Gambling, has heard some heartbreaking stories in his work on the council.
“People can lose their life savings in a weekend,” Miller told The Center Square. “But there is always a way out. If you are losing your house, if your marriage is falling apart, the same thing has happened to other people and we can help.”
In Illinois, 400,000 people have a gambling problem and another 700,000 are at risk for developing a problem. It is almost too easy to gamble these days, Miller said. People play the lottery on their phones. People bet on video games like “Call of Duty.”
“We are betting on just about anything these days,” Miller said. “They bet on whether a player will make the next shot. They bet on whether somebody’s going to play the whole game. More than a billion dollars was bet on the Super Bowl. A lot of people have fun with it, but plenty of folks get themselves in real trouble.”
Like any other addiction, a gambling addiction will only get worse unless the person faces up to it and gets help. Call the anonymous hotline 1-800-GAMBLER anytime to talk to a trained counselor.
The “Are You Really Winning” website has a short quiz to take to see if gambling is becoming a problem. The website is an effort of the Illinois Department of Health and Human Services and lists warning signs and places people can call anonymously to connect with a sympathetic trained counselor.
Some of the questions include whether someone thinks about gambling a lot, betting more money every time to keep it exciting, chasing losses like upping bets to try to make back the money lost.
Just like problem drinking, problem gambling is an addiction that can take over a person’s life. People with substance abuse disorders can be at higher risk for gambling problems, Miller said.
ICPG has a self test that people can take to figure out how problematic their gambling is, Miller said.
Miller encourages therapists, counselors, ministers and youth leaders to take the Illinois Council on Problem Gambling training to earn certification to work with clients who have gambling issues.
On March 17 at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, practitioners can earn continuing education credits at the symposium “Gambling Disorder, Mental and Physical Considerations for Practitioners.” Scholarships are available at the event’s website.