For some, the NCAA basketball tournament is a great way to relax and spend time with friends, especially as their favorite teams advance toward the national championship game. For others, the experience can spiral out of control into problem gambling.
We all seem to have that one co-worker who is a little too into gambling. This person could be the colleague who organizes an office pool for everything from basketball to the birth of a co-worker’s baby, they may arrange happy hour outings to the casino, or they might encourage colleagues to place bigger bets when they wager.
In addition to the tournament, March is also Problem Gambling Awareness Month, as well as a great opportunity to have an open dialog about problem gambling, particularly if someone you care about may be affected. Approximately 2 million adults in the U.S. are estimated to meet criteria for serious gambling problems, and another 4-6 million would be considered to have moderate gambling problem. Gambling remains a hidden addiction for many, costing about $6.7 million due to bankruptcy, divorce, job loss, home loss, and criminal justice costs each year.
How can you tell if your co-worker is heading down this path? Here are a few signs to watch for:
- Do they spend a lot of time thinking about or planning to gamble?
- Do they exaggerate about wins?
- Do they spend excessive time away from the job or their desk?
- Do they take unusual amounts of sick time, especially half-days?
- Do they suffer from depression, hypertension, ulcers and other health problems?
- Do they routinely arrive late, leave early, take long lunches, or experience difficulties remaining in their scheduled work location?
- Do they talk about money problems, which may lead them to ask for payroll advances or loans from fellow employees?
- Do they have a history of writing bad checks?
- Does their use of company money seem suspicious or inappropriate?
- Are you noticing changes in this person’s productivity or work quality?
If you are beginning to suspect that a colleague is demonstrating signs of a possible gambling problem, it is critical to support them in getting help. Start by speaking directly to your colleague and say what you have observed and encourage them to assess their risk by taking the Responsible Gambling Quiz. Finally, encourage them to check out treatment resources in your area or call the Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-589-9966. You can also contact your company’s Employee Assistance Program for help.
As Ohioans, it is important we look after one another, as we can all work to make sure the individuals around us are being responsible and safe in their gambling practices. And if you choose to gamble, remember to always get set BEFORE you bet.