Group addresses gambling risks

Ashley Rucker

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This week is Problem Gambling Awareness Week, and Michelle Harcrow, assistant director of health education and promotion, is helping to get the word out about the dangers of being addicted to gambling.

Harcrow said even though gambling is illegal in Alabama, it’s important to take notice of a national problem that can affect the community.

Benson Bolling, president of lending at Alabama Credit Union, is also joining the cause of raising awareness.

“Gambling is a very serious issue, and many people still gamble even though it is illegal,” Bolling said. “Gambling on campus is as prevalent as underage drinking, though both are illegal.”

The primary goal for any health and wellness initiative is to be diligent in preventing an issue from becoming a problem on campus, Harcrow said.

“Is it our intention to make sure that UA remains cutting edge with proven preventive strategies and education,” she said.

Problem Gambling Awareness Week began March 6 and will continue to March 12. Harcrow said during this week they had informational booths in both the Ferguson Center on Monday and the Student Recreation Center on Wednesday and will have other events during the week.

“We offered a program,” Harcrow said. “‘Understanding and Improving Your Credit Score,’ for faculty, staff and students on Tuesday night [led] by a local banking professional. We plan to offer the credit program again in April.

Harcrow said another reason for this event is to tell those who are addicted to gambling that there is hope.

“According to the National Counsel on Problem Gambling, research finds that 2-3 percent of the U.S. population will have a gambling problem in any given year,” she said. “That’s 6 million to 9 million Americans, yet only a small fraction seek out services such as treatment and self-help recovery programs.”

Bolling said there are financial consequences to problem gambling that can get in the way of every day life.

“Gambling losses lower the amount of income available for other expenses such as rent, utilities, car payments and other normal living expenses,” he said. “It can also result in excessive use of credit card and the accumulation of debt. The result is often the destruction of the gambler’s credit rating and overall financial standing as more and more resources are consumed by the attempt to recover gambling losses.”

Bolling said a person could get out of financial debt once he or she has been treated for the addiction.

“Full recovery of a credit score can take up to four years depending on the extent of the damage,” he said. “Recovering funds lost to gambling requires a structured savings plan and financial discipline, but it can certainly be done.

Harcrow said there are websites that tell the signs of a gambling addiction if you think you or someone you know might have a gambling problem.

Harcrow said the University can help with sending people to treatment, but only if the individual wants help.

“Gambling is an addiction and should be treated as such,” she said. “We have counselors here at UA who are trained to help with these issues. Please contact their office to schedule an appointment to talk with someone more about your concerns, 348-3863.”

Bolling said his best advice would be not to gamble at all.

“People who decide to gamble should treat it as a recreational expense and never gamble more than they can afford to lose,” he said.