States Observe Problem Gambling Awareness Month

As access to gaming grows, concerns about at-risk players are on the rise. March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month. Here’s how states, health professionals and the gaming industry are collaborating on solutions.

States Observe Problem Gambling Awareness Month

March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month (PGAM). This is the 18th year of the grass-roots campaign, observed by the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) and 35 state councils. This year’s theme is “Awareness & Action.”

Throughout the month, the campaign will share the signs and symptoms of problem gambling and point to resources, hotlines and treatment centers.

New Jersey

In New Jersey, the Council on Compulsive Gambling (CCGNJ) will host a number of prevention- and treatment-centered activities this month. It will deliver presentations throughout the state, including webinars that explore how gambling affects different populations. It will also raise awareness among lawmakers at the State House in Trenton.

“March welcomes the change of seasons but is also deeply identified with the annual NCAA basketball tournament, known as March Madness,” said CCGNJ Executive Director Felicia Grondin. “For people with a gambling problem or in recovery from this addiction, March Madness is rife with temptation.”

A national hotline, 1-800-GAMBLER, operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Representatives provide a compassionate, listening ear and information about problem gambling, virtual and in-person Gamblers Anonymous and Gam-Anon meetings, gambling self-exclusion, treatment provider referrals and a great deal more,” Grondin noted.


Pennsylvania’s Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) joined representatives of the Pennsylvania Lottery, Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and others to mark the anniversary of PGAM.

Pennsylvanians spend $1 billion a month gambling, and about 2 percent of those may have a gambling problem, according to Josh Ercole, executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of PA. “Most people who gamble will not experience problems—we know this,” Ercole said. “But some will.”

Among them are Lancaster County’s Robert Grove.

“Over a number of years, I went bankrupt. I couldn’t stop,” Grove told WHTM-TV. Now a vice president at a security firm, Grove acknowledges losing some $1.5 million on gambling over the years. He says he nearly lost his family, and “went about as far as you can go” before seeking help.

He is now in recovery, and calls himself “living proof that the programs work if you work them.”

According to Ercole, calls from Pennsylvanians to 1-800-GAMBLER doubled in 2021, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Though many people were confined to their homes, they still had easy access to gambling through their mobile devices and computers.

New York

The New York State Responsible Play Partnership (RPP) marked the start of PGAM by announcing new technologies and creative initiatives to awareness of problem gambling and promote access to available prevention, treatment and recovery services.

It has premiered the nation’s first Quick Response (QR) code specifically designed to connect problem gamblers with specially trained clinicians, faster and closer to home than ever before.

State Gaming Commission Executive Director Robert Williams said, “Finding a safe and efficient way to bridge the gap between players looking for help and providing immediate access to that help via a dynamic QR code serves as a timely and necessary extension of New York’s voluntary self-exclusion (VSE) program.”

NCPG Executive Director Keith Whyte recognized the program as “the broadest of its kind in the nation,” and said the QR code offers an overdue solution to an issue faced by many problem gamblers.

“It is very likely that a person actively seeking help for his or her gambling problem is already in crisis or living or working with someone who is,” said Whyte. “New York’s QR code gives that person a chance to find, contact and get help from a trained professional in one discreet step, and increases their overall chances of receiving the help they need.”


Since legal sports betting and iGaming launched in Connecticut last fall, calls to the state helpline have quadrupled, said Diana Goode, director of the state Council on Problem Gambling, in comments to to legisla4tors in January.

According to the New London Day, Goode called on Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun and the Connecticut Lottery Corp. to ramp up their support of problem-gambling initiatives in the state. She noted that Mohegan Sun may fund a problem-gambling treatment program to be developed at Yale University. But it could take up to five years before clinical trials are completed and treatment is available.

“That doesn’t help us when we get calls on Monday morning from people who’ve lost everything on sports betting over the weekend,” Goode said.

Sports betting and online gaming generated $4.2 million for the state in November, their first full month of operation, and $3.9 million in December, the Day reported, with online gaming generating the majority of the total.

“The Connecticut Council isn’t for or against gambling,” Goode said. “We just want to make sure that as gambling becomes easier and more accessible that safeguards are in place to protect those who can’t gamble responsibly and right now they really aren’t.”


Michigan legalized mobile sportsbooks and iGaming in 2021. According to, in the past year, calls to the state’s problem gaming helpline have almost tripled.

Easy access to gambling “can lead to severe financial trouble, as well as strained personal and work relationships as people participate in these spaces more than ever before,” said Alia Lucas, gambling disorder program manager for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

To increase awareness, the state held a virtual symposium March 3-4 to share how to spot the signs of a gambling disorder and take steps to help.


In Nevada, Governor Steve Sisolak said the goal of PGAM is to “get people talking about this important community health issue that may affect up to 6 percent of Nevada adults—that’s an estimated 142,000 people who may be suffering the negative emotional, financial and personal consequences of a gambling problem.

“The impact of this disorder affects countless others around the gambler: friends, family, children, and all segments of the community,” he said.

Signs and Symptoms

Anyone can develop a gambling problem, but statistics show that 2 million U.S. adults (1 percent) are estimated to meet criteria for severe gambling problems in a given year. Another 4 million to 6 million would be considered to have mild or moderate gambling problems.

The percentage seems small, but the impact on individuals and society is not. According to a study by Baylor University, the social costs of problem gambling and pathological gambling are “immeasurable.” In the U.S., the cost in lost productivity, job losses, unemployment and treatment has been estimated at about $5 billion.

“Direct and indirect costs related to problem gambling could be minimized if this issue were adequately addressed,” the study indicated. “There is a need to screen those who have indicators of problem gambling, and to provide treatment, thus saving valuable resources and minimizing the costs of this problem.”

For some people, the problem brings grave financial and emotional consequences. According to the NCPG, “problem gambling or gambling addiction includes all gambling behavior patterns that compromise, disrupt or damage personal, family or vocational pursuits.”

The symptoms include:

  • An increasing preoccupation with gambling
  • A need to bet more money, more frequently
  • “Chasing” losses (betting even more to try to recoup previous losses)
  • Restlessness/irritability when trying to stop
  • Loss of control manifested by continuation of gambling in spite of mounting, serious, negative consequences

In extreme cases, problem gambling can result in financial ruin, legal problems, loss of career and family or even suicide.

Industry Initiatives

The gaming industry is doing its part to help. Here are just a few examples:

  • On March 1, MGM Resorts International and BetMGM announced the newest evolution of their responsible gaming initiative, GameSense. MGM Resorts’ casino floors now feature slot machines with QR codes that offer access to responsible gaming information and educational materials. And March marks the full integration of GameSense into BetMGM’s desktop and mobile platforms.
  • On March 2, the Entain Foundation U.S. launched the second edition of its responsible gambling app with new features and resources. The first‐of‐its‐kind mobile app, Gamble Responsibly America, provides practical tools, assistance and advice to anyone facing potential issues with problem gambling. Offered in English, Spanish, Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese, it provides self‐assessment tools including a daily gambling diary, and shows how users can access help, including a live chat feature and links to support services and organizations.
  • FanDuel sportsbook has launched a new responsible gaming advertising campaign and new RG-themed content from popular talk radio host Craig Carton, who has been candid about his own problems with compulsive gambling. This month, Carton will reinforce FanDuel’s Play Well messaging, encouraging customers not to chase bets and keep wagering as a form of entertainment. As part of Problem Gambling Awareness Month, FanDuel Group will also make a $100,000 donation to the NCPG.
Global Awareness

Earlier this year, the American Gambling Association (AGA) revealed that the U.S. commercial gaming industry made $53 billion in revenue in 2021, an increase of $23 billion from 2020. That broke the previous record of $43.65 billion set in 2019 by 21.4 percent.

EPIC Risk Management, a global gambling harm-prevention consultancy, is working with Entain, the NCAA, the NFL Players Association and other organizations in the U.S. to discuss how problem gambling “can adversely affect their performance and what measures they should be taking to mitigate such risks,” said CEO Paul Buck.

Buck said it’s vital to “destigmatize issues around problem gambling” to reduce shame around the disorder, enabling more people to consider treatment.

The issue has no borders, and EPIC works across 23 countries to reduce gambling-related harm. In Ontario, a recent poll by the Canadian Mental Health Association found that a third of gamblers in the province reported gambling more since the pandemic began.

To help Canadians make informed decisions about their gambling, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction created a set of evidence-informed lower-risk gambling guidelines that may be helpful to gamblers in every market:

  • Gamble no more than 1 percent of household income before tax per month
  • Gamble no more than four days per month
  • Avoid regularly gambling at more than two types of games

Buck noted that gaming operators have “a duty of care” to address problem gambling head on, in March and all year long. For more information about Problem Gambling Awareness Month, visit the NCPG website at