Up Close and Personal at the 34th Annual Statewide Gambling Conference

Another successful conference is behind us, and there’s no shortage of highlights to discuss.

On Friday, September 16th, a diverse group of professionals ranging from social workers to gambling business representatives came together at the Council on Compulsive Gambling of NJ’s 2016 Statewide Conference on Compulsive Gambling to share knowledge, stories and statistics relating to gambling disorders (GD) and ways to prevent and treat this addiction. The annual conference is an integral part of a community dedicated to studying a behavioral disorder that often receives less clinical and media attention than it should.

With over 160 people from all walks of life in attendance, it’s safe to say that “Gambling From a Multicultural Perspective” was an appropriate theme for this year’s event.

The keynote speaker was Deborah G. Haskins, Ph.D., LCPC, NCGC-II, whose presentation, “Melting Pot or Mosaic?: Cultural Competency in Problem Gambling Awareness, Advocacy, and Treatment,” was riveting, to say the least.

Dr. Haskins showcased facts, images and videos that kept the audience engaged and entertained. Her presentation helped increase knowledge about the importance of cultural context and competency in the advocacy of problem gambling treatment. She also outlined the critical skills and resources needed to treat and prevent gambling addictions of all kinds.


In her presentation, she illustrated her points with real-life situations that helped the audience understand how different cultural backgrounds inform disordered gambling behavior. One anecdote discussed “Sam Smith,” a 55-year old African-American who served during Vietnam. Eventually, Sam was awarded housing where he then began hanging out with veterans who enjoyed gambling. Unfortunately, he gambled his rent money away, which spiraled him into a devastating gambling cycle where he was chasing his losses and trying to break even.


Dr. Haskins did a great job humanizing a common condition that many people never see up close or in person.


The plenary speaker was Mayumi Okuda Benavides, M.D., who discussed the importance of understanding risk factors for gambling disorders in minorities. Dr. Benavides is the Director of the Gambling Disorders Clinic (OASAS) at the Columbia University Medical Center.

Some eye-opening facts discussed in her presentation included:

  • In the United States, minorities constitute approximately 33% of the entire population, and are expected to become the majority by 2050.
  • Factors such as education level and socioeconomic status play important roles in developing problematic gambling habits.
  • Over 42% of the 562 Native American tribes in the US engage in gambling operations and run more than 400 casinos throughout 28 states.


In addition to these two amazing speakers, there were multicultural, interactive workshops that acted as continuing education credits including presentations regarding the family dynamic, Jewish identity and addiction & intimacy.


What a day!


We are incredibly grateful to be part of such a great network of problem gambling help advocates, and we are honored to be able to work together with such wonderful people with a common goal of helping those in need. There is always hope, and this event proved it!


Nobody goes home empty-handed:


Valuable resources were readily available at the conference. All attendees were given a swag bag filled with things like notebooks, pens and stickers branded with the 1-800-GAMBLER number—a novel way to spread the Council’s message of support, treatment and hope every day.

Attendees were also able to speak with vendors, grab brochures about different aspects of gambling disorders (which included information on how gambling disorders affect different minority populations) and were given a USB drive containing all the presentations and they needed to relive the conference’s lessons for their own purposes.


If you were unable to attend or forgot to grab a brochure, please visit for to access to free, downloadable content ranging from adolescent gambling addiction and fantasy sports gambling in Monmouth, NJ, to senior citizen gambling and sports gambling around Freehold, NJ.


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