Throughout March, the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) leads the annual observance of Problem Gambling Awareness Month (PGAM) in the US. With the theme ‘Every Story Matters,’ this nationwide campaign aims to shed light on the issue of problem gambling and promote prevention, treatment, and recovery services.

Problem gambling affects approximately 9 million American adults, resulting in an estimated national social cost of $14 billion annually. Despite its prevalence, there is currently no federal agency specifically tasked with addressing problem gambling, and federal funding for related treatment and research is lacking. It’s a silent epidemic that quietly perpetuates social and economic burdens within our communities. The need to address this public health crisis is more urgent than ever.

Keith Whyte, NCPG Executive Director, emphasizes, “Problem gambling is a clear and growing public health risk, affecting millions of individuals and their loved ones. Yet, our research indicates that fewer than 50% of Americans know where to get help for a gambling problem.”

By increasing awareness and fostering an open dialogue about problem gambling, we can work to reduce the stigma surrounding gambling addiction and promote the resources available for treatment and recovery. Problem Gambling Awareness Month acts as a catalyst for collective action, drawing support from various sectors such as public health, sports leagues, and gambling operators.

The collaborative efforts are designed to reach diverse audiences with a message of hope and support, as well as to encourage those struggling with problem gambling to view their stories as integral components to a broader narrative of overcoming addiction.

The personal stories of those affected by problem gambling are pivotal in the outreach for PGAM 2024. The campaign encourages individuals to share their experiences and struggles, not only to seek catharsis but as a means to inspire and guide others towards help. It’s a powerful method to foster empathy and understanding while breaking down the walls of silence and stigma that often shroud the issue.

Raising awareness about the available resources for support and treatment is just as important as the act of sharing. This year’s theme underscores the diversity of available support structures and their accessibility to those in need. The more stories we share, the broader and more relatable the pool of resources becomes.

In December 2023, NCPG took a significant step forward by partnering with SG:certified to enhance the player protection protocol in online gambling. The Internet Compliance Assessment Program (iCAP) was supported to ensure that online gambling platforms adhere to the highest standards of responsible gaming initiatives.

The growing popularity of online gambling presents unique challenges — and opportunities — when it comes to problem gambling. With the right approach, technology can be leveraged to not only identify and intervene in problem gambling behavior but also to prevent it from occurring in the first place.

NCPG’s awarding of Fall 2023 Agility Grants to five non-profit organizations totaling $176,000 is a testament to its commitment to empower and support grassroots prevention efforts across the country. These efforts are crucial in ensuring that the message of PGAM reaches all corners of the nation and that localized support networks are strengthened.

Local organizations play a vital role in creating a network of care and support for those battling problem gambling. They understand the unique challenges within their communities and can tailor their interventions accordingly. The grants provided by NCPG encourage innovation and proactive measures, setting the stage for sustained awareness and support.

The collective efforts of Problem Gambling Awareness Month and the ongoing initiatives by NCPG and its partners are not just about spreading awareness; it’s a concerted effort to drive real change in how society perceives and addresses problem gambling. Each story shared, each resource promoted, and every preventive measure taken brings us one step closer to a future where problem gambling is neither stigmatized nor ignored, but acknowledged and treated with compassion and efficacy.

In support of the awareness campaign, it’s imperative for all of us to participate in the dialogue, to listen to the stories, and to ensure that the path to recovery is lit with knowledge and support. This March, and beyond, ‘Every Story Matters’ is not just a theme but a motto for a society that is genuinely invested in the health and well-being of everyone, no matter the challenge they face.

Stay informed, involve your community, and remember that every action you take can be a part of someone’s life-changing story. It’s time to come together and make a difference.

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