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Observing National Public Health Week: Problem Gambling in the United States

Every April, the American Public Health Association (APHA) brings communities across the United States together to observe National Public Health Week. They take this time to spread awareness of issues that we as a country must tackle in order to improve our nation’s physical and mental health. National Public Health Week not only provides us with an opportunity to discuss how problem gambling affects our society – it also gives us the chance to reduce the stigma that accompanies the behavior.

According to the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), between 2-3% of American adults – roughly three million people – are problem gamblers. The impact of disordered gambling on our friends, families, and communities is not always easily seen. Due to guilt or shame, many people that struggle with illegal sports betting in New Jersey and other gambling activities hide their behavior. By using National Public Health Week to promote understanding of this disorder, we can help improve our country’s overall mental health, reduce the damage this disorder inflicts on our economy and infrastructure, and encourage improvements to our public health systems.

How does problem gambling affect mental health?

The National Center for Responsible Gambling states that over 95% of disordered gamblers also struggle with at least one other mental disorder. Many of these gamblers suffer from mood disorders like depression and anxiety. As they grow frustrated due to their inability to control their behavior on their own, they experience feelings of hopelessness and despair. Fear of judgment from friends and family also takes a toll on their mental state.

How does problem gambling affect our country as a whole?

If a disordered gambler does not receive support or treatment, they may experience severe consequences. They can develop substance use disorders as a misguided attempt to cope with the stress of financial issues. Eventually, problem gamblers may grow so desperate that they steal or commit fraud so that they can continue to fund their gambling activities. The NCPG estimates that the costs of disordered gambling in the United States – bankruptcy, incarceration, and welfare and unemployment benefits, for example – amount to over $7 billion every year.1 With improved public health systems, we can not only make treatment more accessible for disordered gamblers – we can help improve our nation’s economy and infrastructure.

If you or a loved one struggle with a gambling activity like casino gambling in Atlantic City or elsewhere throughout New Jersey, call or text our 24/7 hotline, 1-800-GAMBLER. We offer support, treatment, and hope.