State-appointed researcher Sarah Nelson has presented her findings regarding problem gambling in Massachusetts as well as a series of measures proposed to address the issue of lack of qualified staff.
Massachusetts Continues to Examine Problem Gambling
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is monitoring the state’s ability to provide adequate treatment to problem gamblers as part of the casino rollout in the state.
Cambridge Health Alliance specialists have been tracking the state’s preparedness in providing residents with care in cases of gambling addiction, analyzing demand for casino gaming.
An Alliance researcher, Sarah Nelson, cautioned that the company hasn’t been able to establish what the exact demand for treatment is:
“I think the question you have to ask — and that we don’t have a good answer to yet — is what that treatment demand is.”
Yet, she also noted that there have been no waiting lists in the current health centers indicating that everyone who has requested care has been treated right away. But therein lies the rub.
Similar to other maturing markest, pinpointing the number of sufferers is difficult, as most people do not speak openly about their gambling problem. Another issue Nelson has brought up is the overall availability of resources, and specifically awareness.
She questioned whether potential sufferers had access – or even knew – about the resources at their disposal to help them diagnose themselves and seek treatment. Many resources can be reached online, in fact. They include questionnaires, anonymous hotlines or looking up a meeting place for Gamblers Anonymous.
Meanwhile, the legalization of sports betting has been under question, with lawmakers not fully behind on the issue.
Not Enough Counselors and Available Follow-up Treatment Plans
Furthermore, Nelson said that out of 137 health centers in Massachusetts only 27 had a trained and certified counselor equipped to deal with gambling addiction in the first place. The numbers are sparser in southern Massachusetts, Nelson cautioned.
Another issue, the research believes, has to do with the lack of properly addressing the issue. After an individual has been diagnosed, the majority of counselors may end up sending sufferers to Gamblers Anonymous.
Nelson says that while this works for some, others might prefer a “more formal treatment in an outpatient setting.”
Instead of opening centers specializing in treating gambling patients, however, Nelson suggests that more counselors should be assigned to existing facilities. Nelson even proposes that counselors who work with drug and alcohol addicts could successfully make a transition and include problem gamblers.
Meanwhile, Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts member, Jessica Collins, has confirmed that medical specialists are already reaching out to find out how to best address problem gambling.
The Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling has been providing training to counselors. However, the facility’s director, Marlene Warner, warns about shrinking budget that has been reduced to just $700,000 from $1.5 million two years before.
Warner is also in charge of teaching players through an international program called GameSense. GameSense’s mission is simple – explain the common mistakes done in gambling known as the gambler’s fallacy by breaking down the mathematical odds of winning while playing casino games.
GameSense has been popular. Yet, whether it actually helps tackle gambling addiction isn’t quite clear.