This Black History Month, it’s important that we take the data into account. Better studies of the rate of problem gambling in different ethnic groups and the comorbidity of problem gambling and other contributing factors will allow organizations such as CCGNJ to better provide resources to individuals in need.
For some Americans, gambling is an activity that they have to seek out. For many others, including Black Americans, gambling is deeply enmeshed in many aspects of their cultural experience. When approached from a healthy standpoint, gambling can be a fun way to escape life’s daily stressors, but it’s easy to get caught up in the high once you’ve won. For problem gamblers, this cycle can be hard to break, and seeing people casually gambling can become a trigger.
Card games, like spades, are a big part of how people spend time together.
Though Black Americans are not predisposed to problem gambling habits, they may encounter gambling activities more often. Gambling activities, family stressors, and sports games are possible gambling triggers. For people who often encounter their triggers, the cycle can feel impossible to break.
Black Americans may be more likely to encounter regular casual gambling activities, such as card games, sports bets, family game nights, and petty wagers, because games like these are common pastimes in some communities.
Mental health can play a part in problem gambling.
Problem gambling is often a symptom of underlying mental health problems. Black Americans account for roughly 13% of the population, but as many as 16% of Black Americans have reported mental health issues in the last year. That doesn’t account for the people who don’t report it, don’t seek help, or even recognize that there is a problem.
Casinos are often built within close proximity to marginalized communities.
In addition to triggering activities, casino developers have targeted inner-city communities for new properties. In the past, people may have had to travel over an hour to reach the nearest casino, but in many communities, the nearest casino may only be a 20-minute drive or bus ride away. The increased accessibility can increase the temptation to gamble and make it difficult for problem gamblers to break the cycle.
Many casinos also offer prepaid gambling “debit cards” cards, which can create a disconnect between the gambler and the money they are spending.
Spiritual communities may offer conflicting messaging.
Faith and religion are important sources of community for many Black Americans. Some pastors may preach about the sorrows of gambling, which can create shame for problem gamblers who already keep their wins and losses a secret. In these settings, combined with the overarching cultural zeitgeist of gambling, it can be challenging for people to seek help.
In contrast to some of the biblical context for gambling shame, many church organizations use raffles, game nights, and other potentially triggering activities to fundraise. For problem gamblers, these seemingly harmless events can snowball into serious problem gambling habits that can be difficult to escape.
If you or a loved one is struggling with problem gambling in NJ, don’t hesitate to reach out today. There is hope. Call or text our 24/7 free helpline at 800-GAMBLER to get access to helpful resources.