Maryland Supports Responsible Gambling and Problem Gambling Awareness

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

In recognition of the National Council on Problem Gambling’s annual campaign, Governor Martin O’Malley has declared March to be Maryland’s Responsible Gambling and Problem Gambling Awareness month.

Since voters approved expanded gaming in 2008, four casinos have opened in Maryland with two more slated to open by 2016. The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission (MLGCC) regulates these facilities. Maryland’s casinos offer visitors safe and fun entertainment. While the overwhelming majority of patrons at these casinos gamble responsibly, a small percentage grapple with gambling as an addiction that can wreak havoc on their personal relationships, finances, careers and more. A study conducted by Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) indicates that 3.4% of adults over the age of 18 identify themselves as problem or pathological gamblers.

The MLGCC, in collaboration with other partners, has implemented numerous programs and services to address the issue of problem gambling:

  • Voluntary Exclusion Program (VEP): This program, which is a tool of personal responsibility, allows individuals to legally ban themselves from casinos. Once enrolled, participants are prohibited from entering Maryland casinos and subject to arrest for criminal trespassing and fines should they be found on casino property. When signed up on the list, individuals are scrubbed from the casinos’ marketing lists so they will no longer receive direct mail or vouchers for free play.  The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency (MLGCA), which administers this program, recently launched a VEP for traditional lottery as well.
  • Toll-free problem gambling helpline (1-800-522-4700): This helpline is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is a resource for gamblers and their families to receive crisis counseling and be matched with counselors in their area. This helpline, and the Maryland Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, is funded by the state’s Problem Gambling Fund.
  • Responsible gambling programs at casinos: Responsible gambling messaging is displayed throughout state casinos on cards and tickets and other marketing materials. Facilities also must operate with an approved responsible gambling plan, which includes annual training for all employees. These plans are reviewed and approved by the MLGCA’s responsible gambling coordinator.
  • The Maryland Alliance for Responsible Gambling (MARG): The Alliance was formed in 2011 as a statewide partnership focused on coordinating and maximizing resources. MARG’s website, mdgamblinghelp.org, serves as yet another resource for those affected by gambling addiction. Members include the MLGCA; DHMH, which manages the state’s Problem Gambling Fund; the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services; the Maryland Council on Problem Gambling; the Maryland Judiciary; Senator Katherine Klausmeier on behalf of the Maryland Senate; Delegate Kirill Reznik on behalf of the Maryland House of Delegates; and representatives from each casino.

Additionally, the MLGCA is supporting HB275/SB481 during the current legislative session. This legislation is the product of a collaborative effort of MARG members. Working with Senator Klausmeier and Delegate Reznik in the interim, MARG studied the best ways to address the problem of underage gambling and developed a consensus bill. Senator Klausmeier and Delegate Reznik introduced the legislation that would create civil penalties for those under 21 who enter casinos.

Maryland is committed to responsible gambling awareness and problem gambling treatment. Please join me in letting people know that that these programs are available to Marylanders. For more information, contact Jennifer Wetherell, the MLGCA’s Responsible Gambling Coordinator, at 410-230-8798 or jennifer.wetherell@maryland.gov.

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