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What Is Problem Gambling?

Problem gambling hurts more than one million Californians, and the problem is felt in every level of California. Over the last 20 years, legalized gambling in the United States has expanded to the point where it is available in every state except Hawaii and Utah, transforming gambling into one of the largest forms of entertainment in today's popular culture.

Gambling has been defined in a variety of ways but can be best described as "putting something of value at risk on an outcome that is due to chance." It is one of the few social activities that occurs in nearly all cultures and in every period of time. It is a "universal phenomenon in human societies."

Lotteries are not new. In the 16th and 17th Centuries, during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth and Queen Anne, state lotteries raised funds for London's water supply, to pay salaries of civil servants and to finance the colonization of America. Throughout early American history, lotteries financed public projects such as bridges, roads, churches and universities.

A decade ago, gambling became part of modern mainstream America through the popularity of televised poker tournaments, fantasy sports, and Internet gambling. Not all gambling may be fatalistic and reckless, but for many gamblers, the addiction to "risk" is ruining their lives. Leisure or recreational gambling can become problem or even pathological gambling.

NCAA basketball's March Madness is the second largest annual sports betting event. To coincide with the office pools and the bets surrounding March Madness basketball, March has been nationally recognized as Problem Gambling Awareness Month.

Here are some of the signs of gambling disorder:

• Preoccupied with gambling and unable to stop
• Bragging about gambling, exaggerating wins and minimizing losses
• Restless and irritable when not gambling
• Gambling to win back what you've lost
• Borrowing money for gambling
• Lying to hide time spend gambling
• Jeopardizing a significant relationship or a job by gambling
In 2014, more than 4,100 people called the 1-800-GAMBLER helpline for a gambling disorder. More than 150 callers to the helpline said their primary gambling preference was sports betting.

If you think you or someone you know has a gambling problem, don't ignore the signs. Help is available on the CDPH website where you can take a self-assessment quiz. If you are a family member of a problem gambler, there is help available for you as well.

For help with problem gambling, call 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537) or text SUPPORT to 53342 (normal text messaging fees apply).

The OPG was established in 2003 and transferred in 2013 to California Department of Public Health within the Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. OPG is responsible for developing prevention and treatment programs to reduce the prevalence of problem and pathological gambling among California residents. It is funded by the Indian Gaming Special Distribution Fund, the California Lottery and California cardrooms.

Read more articles from the Office of Problem Gambling

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