March 4th, 2011


Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board
Commonwealth Tower, Strawberry Square
303 Walnut Street, 5th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17101


Doug Harbach or Richard McGarvey (717) 346-8321

Pennsylvania Observes 'problem Gambling Awareness Week' March 6-12

HARRISBURG: The state departments of Health, Revenue and Agriculture – along with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board – are working together to highlight "Problem Gambling Awareness Week," March 6-12, to ensure that Pennsylvanians with gambling addiction problems know that help is available.

"A gambling addiction may not be as easy to detect as an alcohol or drug addiction," said Dr. Eli Avila, Acting Secretary of Health. "While gambling can be recreational for many, for some residents it's an activity that can have detrimental effects. We want citizens to know that gambling is not a risk-free behavior and that help is available for those who need it."

"The vast majority of those who participate in lottery, casino and horse race wagering find these forms of gambling an affordable recreation," said Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Chairman Greg Fajt. "But for some, any form of gambling can lead to devastating consequences which can ruin finances, damage relationships with family and friends, and cause personal anguish. We want these people to know that there are professional and compassionate problem gambling programs available for them."

"The Lottery takes the social issues around compulsive gambling very seriously. While we want the public to enjoy playing Lottery games, we want people to play responsibly," said interim Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Lottery Drew Svitko. "The vast majority of players are able to do so, but National Problem Gambling Awareness Week draws attention to the issue, making the public aware of the issue and informing the 1 to 3 percent of people affected by problem gambling of ways to identify a problem and find treatment options."

"We invite Pennsylvanians to enjoy the excitement of live thoroughbred and standard bred racing at any of our six racetracks," said acting Agriculture Secretary George Greig. "When visiting, remember to wager responsibly."

The agencies offer information, assistance and referrals to services to increase public awareness about problem gambling behaviors. In early January, the Department of Health launched a statewide problem gambling awareness campaign featuring television and radio ads along with a website,, to reach out to problem gamblers and their families.

Additionally, the Department of Health has approved 70 problem gambling treatment providers across the state that offers counseling services to those in need. Assistance is also available by calling the department's 24-hour Gambling Addiction hotline at 1-877-565-2112. The free call is confidential and anonymous.

According to the Department of Health, more than 16,000 Pennsylvanians called the gambling help line in 2010 for all forms of gambling including: slots, card games, lottery, horse racing, sports and internet gambling. Callers were nearly evenly split between male and female, and affected all age groups from teens thru seniors. Individuals most frequently reported why they called the help line as being: financial, family/marital and mental health issues.

The Gaming Control Board Self-Exclusion Program has continued to grow into a very effective and proven tool to assist a problem gambler in removing himself or herself from the temptation of gambling at casinos. With more than 2,200 individuals self-excluded from PA casinos, this program is making a real difference in the lives of gamblers and their families.

Individuals who wish to place themselves on the Self-Exclusion List can obtain the request and instructions by visiting the Gaming Control Board website,, and choosing the Compulsive and Problem Gambling link located under the Gaming menu.

Representatives of the PA Gaming Control Board, Department of Health and the Pennsylvania Council on Compulsive Gambling will set up a booth at Strawberry Square Shopping Center in Harrisburg on March 7-8; in the State Capitol Mini-Rotunda on March 9-10; and at the Council on Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania's Annual Statewide Conference in Pittsburgh on March 8 and in Philadelphia on March 11. The booths will have information and handouts on problem gambling, including 12-step programs, the Self-Exclusion Program and treatment providers.

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