PTTC Post Article - March 2024

Changing the Narrative about Problem Gambling: Using Storytelling to Raise Awareness and Break down Barriers

Overview of Problem Gambling

An estimated 2 million US adults (1%) meet the criteria for severe gambling problems in a given year. Another 4-6 million (2-3%) meet one or more of the criteria for gambling disorder and are experiencing gambling-related problems. The annual social cost of problem gambling is estimated at $7 billion, reflecting gambling-related criminal justice and healthcare spending as well as job loss and bankruptcy (NCPG, 2024). The International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviors at McGill University estimates that approximately 4-6% of high school students meet the criteria for gambling disorder and another 10-14% are at risk of developing a gambling disorder (, 2023).

Risk Factors

A recent study conducted by researchers at Canada’s McGill University surveyed 6314 public school students aged 10 to 19 in Wood County, Ohio, United States. The study aimed to examine how adverse childhood experiences (ACES) and specific ACES categories were associated with gambling/gaming behaviors. The study results indicated that the presence of ACEs increased the risk of problem gambling and disordered gaming. Specifically, childhood maltreatment resulted in a greater risk of problem gambling and disordered gaming when compared to household dysfunction (Richard et al, 2023).

Online Gambling Risk

An area of concern for gambling among young people is the expansion of online gambling. Online gambling and betting activities are easily accessible, available 24/7, and can provide anonymity without verification of age. Lack of awareness of potential problems and varying regulations from state to state can increase the risk to young people. The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health asked a national sample of parents of teens 14-18 years about online betting (Mott, 2024).  The Mott Poll Report is based on responses from 923 parents with at least one child aged 14-18. The report found that parents have specific concerns about the risk of online gambling as illustrated in the image below.

In addition, the Mott Poll Report found

  • Over half of parents do not know their state’s legal age for online betting.
  • 3 in 4 parents have not talked with their teens about online gambling.

  • 1 in 6 parents think that they would probably not know if their teen were betting online.

The Mott Poll report recommends that parents consider their approach to talking with their teen about gambling, check their state’s regulations for online betting, contact their state legislator about policies to support online safety, and learn about resources for prevention and treatment.

Proposed Legislation for Funding

On January 11, 2024, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and U.S. Representative Andrea Salinas of Oregon introduced the Gambling Addiction Recovery, Investment, and Treatment (GRIT) Act (Salinas, 2024). This legislation seeks to establish the first-ever federal funding stream dedicated to preventing, treating, and researching gambling addiction in the United States. The proposed legislation would

  • Set aside 50% of the federal sports excise tax revenue for gambling addiction treatment and research. 75% will be distributed to the states for gambling addiction prevention and treatment through the existing Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant program and 25% will go to the National Institute of Drug Abuse to fund grants for research into gambling addiction.
  • The legislation would authorize spending for 10 years and require the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to submit a report to Congress on the program’s effectiveness within three years of passage.

  • The legislation does not increase taxes, setting aside a funding stream for problem gambling treatment and research that will continue to increase as online sports wagering increases.

  • The legislation does not create new government entities but utilizes existing HHS programs and procedures.

Change the Narrative - Every Story Matters

Each March, the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) sponsors a nationwide grassroots campaign to increase public awareness of problem gambling and promote prevention, treatment, and recovery services. The 2024 theme “Every Story Matters,” is a reminder that every conversation, every narrative, every battle, and every triumph related to problem gambling is significant. NCPG has developed a Problem Gambling Awareness Month (PGAM) Toolkit to assist professionals, communities, and organizations with fact sheets, suggested activities, and resources. Organizations and communities are encouraged to participate in PGAM by

  • Holding a conference on problem gambling
  • Disseminating public service announcements
  • Providing community events and training

  • Hosting a Problem Gambling screening event

  • Developing social media campaigns ( #PGAM2024)

  • Plan events to encourage storytelling and conversation about problem gambling

In a recent post, Cait Huble, NCPG communication director describes the 2024 PGAM theme and the importance of using stories and narrative as a means to breaking down barriers in addressing problem gambling. “The stories of those who have faced the challenges of problem gambling are diverse, unique, and often filled with both struggles and triumphs. By recognizing the importance of these personal narratives, we aim to create a platform for individuals to share their experiences, fostering a sense of connection and hope. – “…It is the personal narratives that allow others to relate, empathize, and, most importantly, understand the lived experiences of those impacted by problem gambling” (Huble, 2024).

NCPG developed several Tips for PGAM 2024 to assist organizations in participating in PGAM using the “Every Story Matters” theme.

  • Use non-stigmatizing language when discussing problem gambling: Person-first language in discussing gambling disorders is crucial for creating awareness, reducing stigma, and affirming identity beyond the gambling disorder.
  • Provide resources for help including the NCPG helpline 1-800-Gambler: An individual or family member can call, text, and/or chat online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

  • Respect Boundaries and Privacy: Establish clear boundaries to demonstrate respect for privacy and comfort levels. Ensure that the individual retains control over their narrative and what and how much they want to share.

  • Encourage Authenticity: Encourage authenticity in narratives. Authenticity builds a connection between the storyteller and the audience.
  • Highlight Specific Moments: Highlight key events to provide a nuanced view of challenges faced and victories achieved.

  • Present Diverse Perspectives: Feature a diverse range of experiences associated with problem gambling including recovery stories, impact on loved ones, and input of professionals who work in the field to build an environment where everyone feels comfortable seeking help and support without judgment.

  • End on a Positive Note: Conclude shared stories with a positive takeaway, inspiring hope, offering advice, or suggesting actionable steps. Empower the audience with a message that fosters positive change and progress.

  • Share the National Problem Gambling Helpline: The National Problem Gambling Helpline (1-800-GAMBLER) is operated by the NCPG and serves as a one-stop hub connecting people looking for assistance with a gambling problem to local resources. This network includes 27 contact centers which cover all 50 states and the U.S. territories. NCPG developed a 1-800-GAMBLER Promotional Toolkit to increase awareness and access.

1-800-GAMBLER Services

The National Problem Gambling Helpline offers call, text, and chat services 24/7/365 and uses Language Line Solutions to provide caller translation services in more than 240 languages.

1-800-Gambler can connect individuals to a variety of resources that may vary depending on the region of the call. Services may include

  • Information and education about problem gambling

  • Referrals to local or national organizations, therapists, counselors or support groups

  • Treatment options in specific regions and areas

  • Guidance on gambling self-exclusion options

  • Financial counseling resources

  • Resources and support for family members


C.S Mott Children’s Hospital, (2024). Mott Poll Report Parent awareness of online betting among teens. January 22, 2024 | Volume 44, Issue 5.

Huble, Cait, (2024). Embracing Narratives, Increasing Impact: PGAM 2024 and the Power of Every Story.  National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) Online Post: January 30, 2024.

International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems, (2023). Myths and Facts.  International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviours at McGill University 2023.

National Council on Problem Gambling, (2024). Problem Gambling Fact Sheet. 2024

Richard, J., Deng, J., Ivoska, W., & Derevensky, J. (2023). Adverse childhood experiences, problem gambling and disordered gaming: The mediating role of internalizing and externalizing problems among adolescents. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction. Advance online publication., (2024). Salinas, Blumenthal Introduce Bicameral Bill to Combat Gambling Addiction, Promote Treatment. Press Release January 11, 2024.

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