For those who enjoy gambling, Florida offers a number of ways to do so. Soon, the state may be offering even more.
Currently, Floridians can gamble in any of the state’s multiple tribal casinos and poker rooms, at racetracks and jai-alai frontons, and via the state-run Florida Lottery. Recently there have been significant efforts to expand legal gambling in the state as well. In particular, there have been attempts to legalize both retail and online sports betting in the state.
Given all of the gambling options in Florida as well as the prospects for those options to increase, it is vital for Floridians to know about the importance of responsible gambling. Both players and operators should understand what it means to gamble responsibly as well as how to seek help if gambling becomes a problem.
What is responsible gambling?
On the surface, “responsible gambling” might seem merely to refer to practicing self-control, sort of like “healthy eating” or “moderate drinking.”
However, within the gambling industry, responsible gambling refers more directly to specific, concrete guidelines meant to show both gamblers and gambling providers how to minimize and prevent problem gambling. Understanding and implementing best practices for responsible gambling can help ensure that gambling remains a fun and entertaining activity and doesn’t become problematic or even destructive.
A lot of what constitutes responsible gambling centers around education. Instructing gamblers about the potential dangers of gambling and the harm that can come to themselves and those who care about them can go a long way toward avoiding such hazards. Educating gambling providers can also enable them to avoid creating conditions that can contribute toward problem gambling.
In Florida, legislation authorizing gambling directs regulators to require license holders to acknowledge the importance of responsible gambling. Operators must follow rules and enact policies designed to encourage their patrons to gamble responsibly. If regulators find operators failing to follow such directives, they will not be able to retain their gambling licenses.
All of which is to say casinos, poker rooms, racetracks and other gambling providers all have to do their part to protect their customers against coming to harm while gambling. But the gamblers obviously have to assume some responsibility, too.
Responsible gambling tips for gamblers
Those who gamble in Florida should take into consideration certain do’s and don’ts before placing their bets.
- Do keep track of the money you spend when you gamble
- Do set limits and/or create a budget when gambling
- Do take breaks when gambling, and if necessary set limits on the amount of time you spend gambling
- Do understand that it is okay to ask for help if you ever think your gambling might be becoming a problem
- Don’t gamble with money needed for food, bills or other essentials
- Don’t borrow money with which to gamble
- Don’t let the emotional swings of gambling influence you to act impulsively or irrationally; that is, don’t “ride the rush” when winning, or “chase losses” when losing
- Don’t gamble when feeling depressed, when suffering from anxiety, or to escape life’s pressures
Responsible gambling tips for operators
Gambling providers, too, need to follow certain best practices in order to promote responsible gambling.
In Florida and elsewhere, these actually aren’t just tips or recommendations, but rather requirements operators must meet in order to hold gambling licenses.
- Inform patrons about responsible gambling and educate them with specific guidelines showing how to avoid problem gambling
- Make resources available providing patrons with information about how to practice responsible gambling and how to prevent or obtain help with problem gambling
- Train staff to improve their knowledge of responsible gambling and to help them recognize signs of problem gambling in patrons so they can act to prevent or minimize it
- Remain vigilant when enforcing restrictions against underage gambling
- Prohibit patrons who are drunk or obviously impaired from gambling
- Avoid marketing gambling in ways that make light of problem gambling or appeal to “degenerate” behaviors, and always keep responsible gambling front and center when advertising
What is problem gambling?
Much like responsible gambling, the term “problem gambling” has specific connotations both within the gambling industry and among health care providers and counselors trained to treat those who suffer from problem gambling.
Problem gambling can take many forms and doesn’t always manifest itself as obviously self-destructive addictive behavior. It’s true that sometimes problem gambling can introduce easy-to-spot dangers that threaten a person’s health and well-being. When a person’s gambling starts to impact his or her relationships or employment in conspicuous ways, it’s clear that person is suffering from problem gambling and is in need of help.
That said, sometimes problem gambling is more difficult to identify. Much as those who suffer from drug or alcohol misuse sometimes find ways to keep their addictions secret, so, too, can problem gamblers hide from others that gambling is having a negative impact on their lives. It is important to be aware of the signs of problem gambling so as to prevent even small issues from developing into bigger, more serious problems.
Knowing the signs of problem gambling can help friends and family recognize them in their loved ones. Having such awareness can also help individuals be aware of such issues arising in themselves. Here’s a list of some common symptoms of problem gambling ranging from the most conspicuous to the very subtle:
- Becoming defensive about one’s gambling
- Arguing with others about one’s gambling
- Lying about one’s gambling or otherwise keeping others from knowing about it
- Growing irritable or appearing unstable when not gambling
- Letting gambling distract from other activities
- Experiencing severe emotional swings such as euphoria or depression as a result of gambling
- Failing to pay bills
- Missing work or class frequently
- Asking to borrow money from friends or family
- Selling one’s possessions unexpectedly or engaging in other activities to raise money
- Neglecting one’s diet, personal hygiene or health
Resources for responsible and problem gambling in Florida
Florida provides several ways to learn about responsible gambling and to get help with problem gambling. Here are a few state-level resources designed to provide many different types of guidance and support in Florida.
Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling
The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling (FCCG) is a non-profit educational and advocacy program sponsored by the state government. First established in the late 1980s, the FCCG’s mission includes increasing public awareness about the risks associated with gambling, assisting problem gamblers and those affected by their behavior, and advocating for programs, funding, services, and other ways to support those in need.
The FCCG operates a 24-hour toll-free help line, 888-ADMIT-IT (888-236-4848). It also conducts educational and prevention programs, trains health care practitioners to assess and treat problem gambling, and sponsors research into problem gambling. The organization additionally represents the public whenever gambling legislation or policies are being considered, including gambling expansion.
The website provides print materials, videos, toolkits, research materials and more to those seeking information about problem or “compulsive” gambling. Among other information gathered there, visitors can find information regarding Florida’s self-exclusion program that enables problem gamblers voluntarily to exclude themselves from casinos or participate in other gambling activities.
Florida Lottery’s Play Responsibly – The Player’s Guide
The Florida Lottery sponsors an initiative called Play Responsibly. Its website includes “The Player’s Guide,” a comprehensive resource containing a wealth of information and contacts.
The site includes tips showing how to play the lottery responsibly, including a quiz designed to help players assess their own habits. The site also shares details and contact information for multiple gambling addiction resources.
National Council on Problem Gambling – Florida
The National Council on Problem Gambling also provides a detailed Florida page that lists state-specific resources.
National resources for responsible and problem gambling
In addition to Florida-based resources, there are many national resources available to Floridians both to learn about responsible gambling and to get help with problem gambling. Here are some of the better-known national organizations.
National Council on Problem Gambling
The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) supports numerous programs and services to help those affected by problem gambling. The website also provides an extensive informational hub collecting many different kinds of gambling resources for all 50 states, including Florida.
Floridians can call or text the NCPG at 800-522-4700. They can also receive 24/7 live chat support from the NCPG at ncpgambling.org/chat.
International Center for Responsible Gambling
The nonprofit International Center for Responsible Gambling (ICRG) is affiliated with the American Gaming Association and sponsors different responsible gambling programs that focus on educating the public about gambling disorders. The ICRG is also involved with funding research into gambling addiction.
Since the AGA is a lobbying organization for casinos, some have interpreted the ICRG’s affiliation with the AGA as having influenced the center to focus more on casino operators than their patrons. Even so, the ICRG nonetheless provides a great deal of useful information about problem gambling as well as connections to other resources.
Many know about Gamblers Anonymous (GA), a resource that dates back to the 1950s and has connections to Alcoholics Anonymous. Similar to AA, Gamblers Anonymous foregrounds a self-directed 12-step program designed to help problem gamblers rehabilitate themselves.
The GA website features information and other resources for problem gambling, including where to find meetings nearby. They also provide a questionnaire designed to help learn if you or someone near you might be suffering from problem gambling. Those in Florida can also get help by calling the GA Hotline Number at 855-222-5542.
Gam-Anon is another national organization that focuses on helping friends and family of those who are affected by problem gambling. Gam-Anon has its own 12-step program and also sponsors meetings and other resources for finding help.
Finally, GamTalk is another national group that offers different tools and programs designed to enable those dealing with problem gambling to connect and help one another. Its focus is similar to that of Gam-Anon in that Gam-Talk concentrates primarily on helping those affected by others’ problem gambling, such as friends and family.
Importance of responsible gambling
Gambling can be a great source of entertainment and fun. Many Floridians have discovered as much while visiting the state’s casinos and poker rooms, playing the state-run lottery, placing wagers at the state’s racetracks, and engaging in other forms of legal gambling. But like many adult-oriented activities, it is important to avoid extremes when gambling.
Not practicing moderation or failing to follow the recommendations listed above for responsible gambling can cause serious harm both to the person engaging in risky behavior and to those who care about that person. Take advantage of the resources available to you.
Even if you don’t suffer from problem gambling, it is worthwhile learning about the signs and symptoms. Doing so can help you guard against gambling’s many pitfalls, thereby preventing harm from coming both to yourself and to others.
Learn what it means to gamble responsibly, and also how to recognize when gambling-related issues arise. Most importantly, if you do sense gambling is becoming a problem, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.
Gambling necessarily involves taking risks. Doing so recklessly or without imposing limits can make gambling much riskier than it should be, potentially turning a fun recreational activity into something much more threatening and destructive. Learn about responsible gambling, use the resources that are available, and make sure when you gamble to take conscious steps to keep it positive and enjoyable.