Problem gambling awareness events planned for March

Problem gambling awareness events planned for March

PAWTUCKET - The nonprofit Rhode Island Council on Problem Gambling will kick off its month of raising awareness for the addiction on Thursday, March 6, with an event at Anchor Recovery Center, 249 Main St.

The day will start with the presentation of a Governor's Proclamation at 10 a.m., followed by a panel of speakers, including Dr. Henry Lesieur, the RICPG vice president who will speak about awareness and treatment; Janet Barry Rogers, a nationally certified gambling counselor who will speak on domestic violence and gambling; Tawny Solmere, an outpatient counselor at NRI Community Services who will talk about substance abuse and co-occurring disorders; and Deb Carroll, an advocate for those struggling with mental illness and addictions.

The National Council on Problem Gambling has declared March National Problem Gambling Awareness Month, which had previously only been recognized the first week of March.

Other upcoming events include National Gambling Screening Day on March 11, when those who suspect they have a problem are encouraged to complete a screening questionnaire and get help. An event including workshops and a panel of speakers will also be held on March 28 and 29 at Salve Regina University.

Denise Russell, RICPG board member and committee chairwoman for the month's events, said problem gambling is one of the most hidden of the addictions, yet has the highest suicide rate.

"You can't smell it on your breath," she said, noting that the only warning signs may be depression or changes in behavior, like lying or spending more.

Russell explained that it is an emotional illness that starts off as recreational and fun and ends up "(taking) away a lot of the common sense."

Finances do not play as large a role as some may think, she said.

"It's always equated with the money," she said. "There is never enough money."

Raising awareness during March - when March Madness is at its peak - will hopefully put information and resources in the hands of those who need it, Russell said.

Tables will be set up in the lobbies of Twin River Casino and Newport Grand all month, Russell explained, to provide resources to those going in and coming out. She added that the council focuses on advocacy and takes no stance on the presence of casinos.

Twin River spokeswoman Patricia Doyle said the casino provides employee training to identify potential problem gamblers, information throughout the casino floor, and a hotline number posted throughout the casino.

Russell said problem gamblers may be advised to turn their finances over to someone else and not carry an ATM card. They can also "self-exclude" themselves from casinos, like Twin River, by being photographed by security officials with the understanding they are not allowed on casino property.

Resources include the confidential help line available 24 hours a day: 1-877-9GAMBLE, or 1-877-942-6253. The Cranston-based Problem Gambling Services of Rhode Island, at 401-383-0301, can offer services to those with or without insurance.

Visit or call 401-248-5606 for more information.