The Minnesota Conference on Problem Gambling, produced by MNAPG, took place in mid-November. The theme was Connecting. Reflecting. Moving Forward. Assessing the state of problem gambling. Our conference featured counselors, researchers, an economist and individuals with lived experience.
In this issue of Northern Light, we’re highlighting two of our most powerful presentations, both from those with lived experience. Stories of recovery are always among the most popular sessions at our conference. While each of these stories is unique in terms of games of choice, length of addiction and recovery motivation, they also share common elements, such as greater self-awareness and a much-needed sense of peace.
Women’s Panel Discussion
The women’s panel discussion included four women of various ages and backgrounds detailing their experiences: three were gamblers in recovery and one was an affected family member. Each of the panelists were mothers and were motivated in their recovery to do better not just for themselves but for their children as well.
Among the perspectives shared was the need for there to be safe spaces for woman in recovery, particularly for women of color. Many incorrect assumptions are made about women gamblers and clinicians don’t typically pursue gambling behaviors with their female clients, not realizing that it can be a part of their addiction or mental health story.
Other takeaways from the presentation include:
o Women’s betting isn’t any different than men, though other aspects of their stories are different.
o It’s important to have women-only safe spaces for those whoe have experienced sexual traumas.
o Recovery is not one-size-fits-all, and finding spaces to meet their particular needs was vital to their recovery.
o In some instances, there was generational trauma/addiction, necessitating the need to have frank conversations to break the chain.
Several times throughout the presentation, the women expressed the desire for clinicians and researchers to pay more attention to women, to ask questions about gambling, and to dig deeper into the behavior. They felt that women have been long ignored and that diagnosing the gambling addiction didn’t come to light until each were far along in the addiction.
It takes tremendous courage to relate one’s story to an audience. MNAPG is so grateful to each of these women for agreeing to participate and sharing some of their insights and experiences.
Financial Risk Discussion
Chris Farrell of Minnesota Public Radio and Dan Trolaro of Epic Risk Management spoke about financial literacy and financial freedom and its relationship to gambling. Chris, who has a background in finance and investments, emphasized the importance of weighing risks. Dan, formerly a finance and investment trader, is a person in recovery who used gambling as a salve after experiencing first-hand trauma and tragedy from the World Trade Center attack. His gambling led him to embezzle millions and he ultimately served time for his crimes. Together, Chris and Dan offered a great dialogue about investing today, understanding the differences between risk – appropriate vs. inappropriate, and reframing the understanding of financial literacy.
The speakers emphasized that investing is not a bad thing, but stressed that if one is to do it, they need to understand the vehicles in which they are investing. Additionally, before any investing takes place, it’s important to have conversations with yourself and family as to what you want your money to do for you. Is it for retirement, college, family vacations or long-term health needs? It’s important to set goals and hold yourself accountable to those goals.
Chris talked about peer groups that come together with similar investing goals and values, holding each other accountable and supporting one another as they try to obtain those goals. There’s nothing wrong with putting some money into the market as long as you fully understand what you are putting at risk. Financial literacy is meant to inform you about the risks and to develop good habits; it’s not a tool to determine what to invest in. Establishing goals and holding particular values about money is key.
Financial literacy is about freedom, opportunity and risk, and creating a life that incorporates these three elements. We want people to make appropriate decisions by asking, “What does financial freedom look like to you?” “What do you want your money story to be?” “What are the appropriate risks to get you there?”
The question was raised as to whether people who are early in their recovery should invest at all. Dan said it was important in his early recovery not to invest. He feels a sustainable and meaningful long-term recovery must be a total transformation. Recovery is the path that leads to a whole new life where there isn’t room for gambling. It’s a wholesale change to the way one lives one’s life.
It’s been a busy late summer and early fall at MNAPG. We’re pleased to announce the
following additions to our staff.
Sonja Mertz, Community Educator Sonja joined MNAPG in August as our new community educator. She will provide an MNAPG presence at conferences and in various other outreach efforts.
Sonja worked as a prevention research specialist for the Minnesota Prevention Resource Center for four years and previously worked at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. She brings a passion for sharing information with people so they’re educated and are aware of resources that can help them.
Sonja’s first impressions are that awareness about gambling addiction is an obstacle. “I think there is a big barrier of information and facts,” says Sonja. “Most people don’t even know what types of gambling are legal in Minnesota and I don’t think there’s a good understanding of what gambling disorder is. Ultimately, I think most people don’t know what they don’t know.”
Sonja received her Bachelor’s of Science in Sociology and Theater Arts at North Dakota State University and her Master’s of Library and Information Science at St. Catherine University. She previously worked in professional theatre as a stage manager.
Eboun Wibourn, Office Manager Eboun joined MNAPG in September as our new office manager. She will perform a variety of duties and help ensure that MNAPG runs smoothly.
Eboun has experience in operations, communications, podcasting and video production, and worked for more than ten years at the Minneapolis Television Network. She most recently worked at BCT Corporation.
Eboun is pleased to come back to the nonprofit world where she hopes she can make a difference in helping people. Eboun was raised in the Lao community, which has struggled an inordinate amount with gambling addiction, and is familiar with gambling addiction.
A Star Tribune article highlighting how youth sports organizations manage the complexities and risks of gambling to achieve lower participation fees, enhancements to their programs and more kids playing sports included comments from Susan Sheridan Tucker, executive director of MNAPG, emphasizing the need for gambler protection.
Pandemic, Technology and Gambling Expansion are Perfect Storm for Problem Gamblers
Susan Sheridan Tucker authored an Opinion in the September 24, 2021 edition of Minnesota Reformer. The commentary detailed the factors coming together to produce gambling addiction, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the expansion of legal gambling and technological advances that are making games more attractive than ever.
Minnesota Lottery and Northstar Problem Gambling Alliance Participate in National Holiday Responsible Gambling Campaign
The Minnesota Lottery and the Northstar Problem Gambling Alliance (NPGA) announced today they are participating in a national responsible gambling campaign to raise awareness about the risks of underage lottery play during the holiday season. Both organizations will promote the importance of responsible gambling through various media channels, joining a growing effort to raise awareness about this issue around Minnesota, the United States and North America.
The campaign, now in its eleventh year, is led nationally by the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) and internationally by the International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviors at McGill University.
December is a time when many cultures share in gift giving, and some may consider giving scratch tickets to young people as gifts. “While a scratch-off ticket may provide momentary excitement, underage recipients don’t have the cognitive development to discern the potential risks of gambling,” says Susan Sheridan Tucker, Northstar executive director. “This is why tickets sales are limited to adults.” When a trusted adult provides a ticket to a minor, it sends the message that the activity is an acceptable practice.
Youth gambling is particularly concerning because researchers have established a link between the age at which a person first gambles and the occurrence of excessive or problem gambling later in life. Studies have also shown that many adolescents gamble at least occasionally, and that lottery products, particularly scratch tickets, often serve as an introduction to gambling activities for youth.
For some youth, lottery products may be a gateway to excessive or problem gambling. Youth gambling has been linked to other risky behaviors, including smoking, drinking and drug use.
The NCPG reports the following statistics on youth gambling:
Young people report their first gambling experience occurs, on average, around 9-11 years of age
Approximately 80% of high-school aged adolescents report having gambled for money during the past year
2-4% of adolescents presently have a gambling problem while another 10-14% are at-risk for developing a gambling problem; in contrast, adult problem gambling rates for the general population are about 1-2%
Adult problem gamblers report an earlier onset of gambling, often beginning between the ages of 10-19
Early gambling experiences are a risk factor for later problem gambling
While male adolescents gamble more frequently than females, female adolescents are more actively involved in lottery play
Lottery scratch-off tickets have been shown to present a possible gateway to other gambling activities
“While we think lottery tickets make for fun gifts for adults, they are not appropriate as a gift for minors,” says Robert Doty, executive director of the Minnesota Lottery. “The commitment of the Minnesota Lottery and so many other lotteries around the country demonstrates our interest in ensuring that lottery participation is both fun and safe.” Both Tucker and Doty feel that responsible gambling is a positive approach to minimizing gambling-related harm and maximizing public benefit.
Problem gambling, also known as gambling addiction or compulsive gambling, is defined as the urge to gamble despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to stop. It’s estimated that approximately 160,000 to 214,000 Minnesotans struggle with this addictive disorder, which can destroy lives, threaten family relationships and empty personal and family savings. For more information about problem gambling in Minnesota, visit NorthstarProblemGambling.org.
About Northstar Problem Gambling Alliance Northstar Problem Gambling Alliance is a nonprofit, gambling-neutral organization dedicated to improving the lives of Minnesotans affected by problem gambling. A 501 (c)(3) nonprofit, NPGA is funded by membership fees, financial and in-kind donations, and state and private grants. NPGA serves as Minnesota’s affiliate to the National Council on Problem Gambling.
About Minnesota Lottery The Minnesota Lottery raises money for programs that positively impact the lives of Minnesotans. It offers uniquely Minnesotan games of chance that are held to the highest standard of integrity and security. Since 1990, the Lottery has returned more than $2.9 billion to programs that benefit all Minnesotans, including the state’s most precious natural resources, education, health care and more.