Council Launches Problem Gambling TV Ad Campaign

By Liz Benston, Las Vegas Sun
7 March 2005

Starting today, Nevada residents may see their first television ad about gambling that doesn't feature any casinos or slot machines.

The ad features a blacked-out image of a framed family photo to illustrate how a gambling problem can ruin people's lives.

"One call can change the whole picture," the ad concludes.

The public service announcement, a first for Nevada, has been distributed to television stations nationwide by the National Council on Problem Gambling to kick off National Problem Gambling Awareness Week, which begins today and runs through Saturday. The National Council, founded in 1972, is a nationwide nonprofit network of education and training groups that maintains a neutral stance on gambling.

Locally, the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling, one of many state affiliates of the National Council, will be distributing posters and other materials to about 300 community organizations including health clinics and social service providers.

National Problem Gambling Awareness Week, launched in 2003, is modeled after other health care awareness efforts such as depression and breast cancer and initially focused on spreading its message among health care providers. More recently, the Nevada Council developed a partnership with the United Way and expanded its distribution list to include social workers and businesses across the state.

"We want as many people as possible putting posters up, whether it's a waiting room or a coffee shop," said Carol O'Hare, executive director of the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling in Las Vegas. "The materials are really general information for the public."

The posters, also available on the Nevada Council's Web site, are a first for the Nevada Council, O'Hare said. They are written in English and Spanish and list some warning signs for gambling addiction as well as the Nevada Council's 24-hour hotline.

The Nevada Council expects to make follow-up calls to agencies seeking the information to see whether they need further help, she said.

The council can write articles for employee newsletters, train employees in how to spot gambling problems, staff health fairs and offer guest speakers, among other things, she said.

"These things don't go away at the end of the week. This just shows people how to access the information," O'Hare said.

Last year the council expanded its regular programs to coincide with the event and posted its first-ever billboard in Las Vegas. It also introduced a program with the United Way of Southern Nevada to distribute information to nonprofit organizations that receive funding through United Way. The information helps social workers understand problem gambling and screen clients for gambling addiction. The council has since begun a similar partnership with the United Way of Northern Nevada.

This week, the Nevada Council is putting up a billboard with its toll-free hotline along Interstate 15 north of Craig Road.

The council's awareness efforts are working, O'Hare said.

In contrast with years past, most people who call the gambling helpline are calling because of their own gambling problem rather than on behalf of a friend or loved one, she said. About 82 percent of last year's calls were from the individual with the problem, with 16 percent coming from a spouse or relative.

"That tells us they know a lot more before they make the call," she said.

Also, more of the gamblers who call are acting before they hit rock bottom, she said.

"Not everyone is in their worst state when they make that call. They are calling before they've lost everything," O'Hare said. "Some people are saying, 'I lost my paycheck and I've never done that before.' There's earlier intervention because there's more awareness."

Last year the Nevada Council, which is funded largely by donations from casinos, assisted more than 2,600 individuals through a 24-hour hotline.

Other state affiliates will also participate in this week's event.

The Maryland affiliate will be donating videos on problem gambling to libraries and the Colorado agency will make a presentation to the Colorado Gaming Commission, among other things.

The event is separate from Responsible Gaming Education Week, a national event sponsored by a casino industry trade group. The American Gaming Association event, held every August, is primarily focused on increasing awareness of gambling addiction among casino employees.


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