ADDICTION

Responsible Gambling Awareness Week encourages gamers to play it safe

Seeking help 'a little less stigmatized than it was'

Halifax’s Responsible Gambling Awareness Centre provides visitors with reminders of this year’s campaign theme.   Lexi Harrington

It’s all about helping to end the stigma around problem gambling.

This week is Responsible Gambling Awareness Week and staff members at the Responsible Gambling Awareness Centre, located in Casino Nova Scotia’s Halifax location, say the initiative makes a difference.

Over the years, employee Pam Vidal says she has seen more people utilizing the resource centre, particularly during awareness week.

“There’s an increase because I find it’s a little less stigmatized than it was,” says Vidal.

“Good word,” agrees co-worker Serena McIntyre. “That’s exactly what it is.”

Vidal has been with the centre for eight years and says people used to be more hesitant to use the resources they provide, or even come inside.

“There was a husband and wife walking by and the husband decided he was going to stop and have sweets and the wife grabbed him and said, ‘don’t go in there, that means you have a gambling problem’,” Vidal says.

Now in its 15th year, Responsible Gambling Awareness Week aims to inform players about the risks associated with gambling, and highlight problem gaming habits.

The Nova Scotia Auditor General’s Office reviewed the province’s responsible gambling programs in 2015. The audit found room for improvement, but noted that only 445 calls were made to the gambling help line during 2013-2014 period.

“This is very low relative to the number of people in the province believed to be experiencing gambling-related harms,” the auditor general reported.

McIntyre says gambling becomes an issue when it starts to become a priority.

“What we’re all about is balancing gambling as a leisure activity with all of your other leisure activities, so one does not overtake the other,” she says.

The resource centre is hosting open houses throughout the week, where visitors could participate in activities teaching how to play responsibly. Guests could also complete a survey about their gaming habits and could spin a wheel for prizes.

Guests could also take home discreet manila folders. Inside are pamphlets about responsible gaming and contact information for various gambling resources, including Take5, an anonymous gambling addiction hotline, and the meeting schedule for gamblers anonymous.

McIntyre says that any casino guest, or anyone concerned for another person, can reach out to the centre. They will point them in the right direction.

MacIntyre says, most of the people that contact the resource centre are doing so on behalf of someone else, rather than someone with a gambling problem seeking help.

“They can come here for information as easy as just a few pamphlets that explain responsible gambling,” she says.

“We can get them in with an intake worker or a counsellor, into debt counselling … to know where all the gamblers anonymous meetings are, things like that.”

Stacy O’Rourke, manager of communications for the Nova Scotia Provincial Lotteries and Casino Corporation, says that the theme of this year’s campaign is balancing gambling with other activities in your life.

O’Rourke says the campaign aims to raise awareness that responsible gambling resources and programs are available year-round.

The awareness week “highlights the work that is done 365 days a year to promote responsible gambling,” she wrote in an email. 

In the 2015-2016 year, NSPLCC generated a revenue of $441.1 million, up from $396.6 million in 2014-2015.

Last year, $6.3 million of the total revenue went to prevention, education and treatment of problem gambling, and there was a slight increase to $6.4 million this year.