In a previous post, Who is Responsible for Responsible Gambling, I did not suggest that gamblers should not be responsible for their actions. I did contend that there is not a vacuum that those actions happen in. And, I have always wondered how the State sleeps with itself knowing it is causing as much harm to its citizens as illegal gambling did/does. Or maybe the State will make the claim that is not true. Whether it is or isn’t I have yet to see the State research the question. I will tell you that the 70-year-old women I know losing everything they have and finding “legal” predatory funds to gamble would have never searched out a loan shark or a bookie. The State has allowed legal predators in their house.
I was once interviewed by Carol Marin for a PBS piece on gambling treatment in Illinois. I was not in the aired piece and I wondered if it was because when I was asked the question, Do you think the State is doing a good job with treatment, I answered yes. My guess is that I was not a good fit for their story though I do wonder if my yes kept me on the cutting floor. I know people with State who oversee the treatment side and I know people who offer treatment that is funded by the state. I used to work for two agencies that offered those services. I trust that side of the equation to do their best.
What I do not trust is the lack of introspective analysis that the State has not seemed to have any urgency in doing. The percentages above are derived from the funds set aside for prevention/treatment and the losses gathered from gamblers. Those percentages do not come close to the damage done to the 1%-3% of people with a gambling disorder and the 3%-5% of people at-risk to develop a gambling disorder. And that does not include the others affected by the gambler which I have seen estimates of 8-17 others on average. In 2019 there was $800,000 set aside for prevention and treatment. In 2020 there will be 6.8 million set aside though I believe over 1 million will be used for a prevalence study. That is to treat over 100,000 to maybe 400,000 gamblers not including their loved ones and other members of society.
You will hear correctly that there have been times in the past that the funds allocated where not always used. I worry that the State will use the higher number to say, look at us-we want to help and when the funds are not used they will take the money back and say, we tried. My opinion is that they haven’t come close to trying. Trying would make their headline numbers look worse. That is true. Trying would make the fabric of societies numbers look so much better. That’s where introspective analysis, courage, and honesty would be needed.