40 Years of Service: Nevada Council on Problem Gambling

Guest Blog by Ted Hartwell, Executive Director, Nevada Council on Problem Gambling

As Heather Haslem highlighted in her excellent recent article,  the month of March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month across the country. Here in Nevada, the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling is celebrating 40 years of service to Nevada Communities on this issue. With the increased access to and availability of legal online gambling (particularly in the sports world), as well as the potentially severe consequences for that small percentage of people who develop a gambling disorder, up to and including heightened suicide risk, there has never been a more important time in our state to increase public awareness about this significant public health issue. I’d like to thank CASAT for inviting me to contribute to this article by focusing on the information and resources available to everyone through the Nevada Council.

The Nevada Council is a statewide private non-profit with a mission to generate awareness, promote education, and advocate for quality treatment of problem gambling in the State of Nevada. While the Council doesn’t provide treatment itself, it does function as a referral resource to both professional help and self-help resources that are available in the state.  By clicking on the Council’s website resource locator, one can find information on how to contact organizations that have at least one certified problem gambling counselor on staff (in Nevada, treatment is free for both those suffering from a gambling disorder and for affected others!), as well as information about upcoming Gamblers Anonymous and Gam-Anon meetings in the state in addition to other resources such as telehealth and regular online meetings, which are now available 24/7 through sites such as Gamblers, Family and Friends In Recovery – In Recovery across a Connected World (gamblersinrecovery.com) and Recovery Road Online.  Our state-funded resources, as well as a short quiz to help a person decide whether or not they may have a gambling problem, can be found on the Project Worth website.

As an affiliate of the National Council on Problem Gambling, the Nevada Council takes no position for or against legalized gambling.  This allows the Council to work with all stakeholders, including individuals seeking help or information, treatment providers, educators, and the gaming industry itself, to name but a few.  In addition to administering its signature When the Fun Stops™ gaming industry employee training program, the Nevada Council supports community education, awareness, and prevention of problem gambling through multiple focused presentations, including several youth gambling awareness programs, programs for families and seniors, and a recently-developed student-athlete gambling awareness (SAGA™) program to acquaint student-athletes at every level of the potential impacts that gambling, and especially sports betting, can have on their lives, including their finances, relationships, and eligibility to represent their school or university on the field or court. In addition, the Nevada Council has recently begun to focus on the emerging crossover features between gambling and video games.  This information is available in a presentation called The Impact of the Games We Play,  designed to educate youth and parents about the specific features within video games that may mimic gambling’s effect on the brain and lead to problematic play or gambling in the future.  Most of the above programs are available free of charge to non-industry organizations, groups, and classrooms upon request.

Every year, the Nevada Council secures a proclamation from the sitting governor proclaiming the month of March to be Problem Gambling Awareness Month (PGAM) in the State of Nevada.  In 2024, Governor Joe Lombardo’s renewal of this proclamation coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Nevada Council’s first efforts in the state, and to celebrate both these happenings, the Council has a special community event planned for Saturday, March 16th from 1:00-4:00 pm at the East Las Vegas Community Center, located at 250 N. Eastern Ave. in Las Vegas.  This event, which follows the national PGAM theme of “Every Story Matters,” will highlight problem gambling stories from across the spectrum, including personal stories of addiction and recovery, family stories of impact and recovery, and even some stories from industry and research on problem gambling.  You might even hear a little live music if you get there early!  Special guest William Hung, famous for his audition during Season 3 of American Idol and the subsequent fame he experienced afterward, will share about his struggles with gambling and how he has been able to reduce the harm that gambling once caused in his life.  Immediately following William’s presentation, Dr. Rory Reid, a Research Psychologist with the UCLA Gambling Studies Program and an Internationally Certified Gambling Counselor who directs one of Nevada’s state-funded problem gambling treatment clinics, will facilitate a discussion of William’s path of recovery and how it differs from other concepts of recovery that many are more familiar with.  Whether you are someone who has struggled with a gambling problem yourself, have been affected by someone else’s gambling problem, or are simply curious about the subject and want to learn more, we encourage you to drop in for all or part of the afternoon.  Several of our community partners will have resource tables at the event.  Snacks, sodas, and water will be provided!

For those of you who are energized to learn even more, each year the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling organizes the annual State Conference on Problem Gambling.  The 17th iteration of this event will be held on May 23-24 at the Suncoast Hotel and Casino, located at 9090 Alta Dr. in Las Vegas.  Registration is already open via the link above, and discounts are available for students.  Up to 12 CEUs are available over the course of the two-day conference, which will feature presentations relevant to clinicians, researchers, individuals from the recovery community, and others!  Please join us for either of these amazing events!

In closing, while March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month, every day of the year presents an opportunity to connect yourself or someone you care about to more information and resources to help prevent and combat this insidious illness.  As a person in long-term recovery from a gambling problem myself, I deeply appreciate that you’ve taken the time to learn a little more about the community resources that are available to Nevadans through the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling, your state clearinghouse for information on problem gambling.  If you require immediate assistance, please call the Problem Gambling HelpLine at 1-800-GAMBLER, text 800-GAM, or go to the online chat at 1800GAMBLERCHAT.org.

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  • Denise Quirk

    A warm thank you and congratulations to Ted and all the Nevada Council staff and supporting Board members for 40 years of amazing service to Nevadans affected by Gambling Disorder. This is a wonderful success story! I stand with those who are affected as an advocate for health and continued healing. I am excited for the SAGA program and so many more resources that the Nevada Council offers. It is good to know where to find compassionate people who sincerely care about others affected by gambling disorder and the problems that come with it. Many good wishes for continued growth in reaching out and sharing what the Nevada Council offers.

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