When visiting a casino in Colorado or placing a bet at one of its sportsbooks, it can feel as though there is a divide between the customer and the house. Almost like the two sides are adversaries. And when it comes to winning and losing bets, they are.
But when it comes to gambling responsibly and making sure that people don’t bet any money that they can’t afford to lose, it’s a total team effort. Colorado likes its vices. Casino gambling has been legal since 1991. In 2000 the state legalized medical marijuana, with recreational legalization coming in 2010.
And in 2019, sports betting was legalized. But making sure that there is no abuse and that people use what the state has to offer within their limits is in everyone’s best interest.
For gamblers, there are self-exclusion lists. That means that if people recognize that they have a gambling problem, they can request to have their name added to the list, which means that they will become legally banned from casinos and sportsbooks.
And for their role, casinos and sportsbooks make sure their customers have access to the resources provided by the National Council on Problem Gambling, which includes 24-hour access to counselors.
How Colorado casinos protect problem gamblers
Self-exclusion lists require the cooperation of Colorado casinos and sportsbooks. When a player self-excludes, the casinos will make it illegal for you to enter, and legally they can charge you with trespassing.
They will also cancel slot club memberships, remove you from all casino marketing lists and cancel any check cashing privileges that you might have.
A portion of the taxes collected from Colorado casinos and sportsbooks goes to counseling services and to fund the gambling crisis hotline that is provided by the Office of Behavioral Health.
What problem gamblers can do to help themselves
One of the most powerful things problem gamblers can do is add their name to the self-exclusion list. Not only is it an admission of a problem, but it’s an active step taken to cut off access to the source.
But beyond that, recognizing the problem is key. It’s not about the frequency of betting or the amounts, but more about the control the gambling has over the rest of your life. And once you recognize the problem, you can begin work to control it.
Join a peer support group, like Gamblers Anonymous. GA is a 12-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous that connects you to a sponsor who has faced the same struggles.
Often there are underlying issues that lead to a gambling addiction, such as depression, anxiety or substance abuse. If there is another problem that is leading to gambling abuse, be sure to seek treatment for it.
Strengthen your support network. Make sure your close friends and family know that you have a problem that you need help controlling. Then find new friends that provide new activities and enjoyments in your life.
Ways Colorado casinos can implement responsible gaming
Casinos are set up to draw people in and keep them betting. Slot machines are near the entrance to attract attention. Drinks flow, there are no clocks or windows, and there is always a flashing light and the sounds associated with big payouts.
But there are ways that casinos can keep the bells and whistles that we enjoy, and also make money, while still promoting responsible gaming.
- Train employees to more easily spot problem gamblers. This is now a mandate from the American Gaming Association as it tries to make its member casinos more transparent with customers and more proactive in addressing addiction.
- Be better and more vigilant about tackling underage gambling, which continues to be a problem. The younger the gambler, the more likely it is that the gambler will make bad choices. Both casinos and regulators are continuing to work on this.
- Raise the requirements and standards to have lines of credit extended to customers. Most of us just bet with what is in our pocket, with perhaps one or two trips to the ATM. But when problem gamblers are chasing a win, they will use any means necessary to get funds, including obtaining credit from casinos. Making that credit harder to get is something casinos can do to help, and should.
- Clearly explain to customers the real odds of winning and losing on specific casino games. Also, remove all advertising that promotes the notion gambling is a viable way to make money and achieve financial freedom.
- Become full participants in self-exclusion lists, and then thoroughly police those lists. If a person was self-aware enough to identify a problem, follow that person’s lead.
How to spot a problem gambler
Some people can gamble daily and have it not be a sign of a real problem. While others gamble only once a week, but they can quickly become addicts. So how does someone identify gambling addiction?
Money obsession: If someone is always looking for money or ways to get money to gamble, like borrowing money or pawning items, that is a big red flag.
Mood swings: As with most addictions, a gambling addiction comes with a certain amount of shame. Or when that person is on a winning streak, a euphoric high that borders on manic. If a person goes from the depths of despair to the highest of highs, based on nothing more than a winning bet, that might be a problem.
Unaccounted time: If people are gambling a lot, chances are they’re spending a lot of time doing it. It’s not uncommon for them to disappear for long periods, to miss work or to miss family events. If this is happening with someone you know, pursue it.
Available resources for problem gambling in Colorado
As mentioned, it is in everyone’s best interests to identify people with a gambling addiction and then provide them the help and resources to treat that addiction. On both the federal level and on the state level in Colorado, there are several really good programs available to treat gambling problems.
Problem Gambling Coalition of Colorado
The PGCC is the state affiliate of the National Council on Problem Gambling. Its mission is to increase awareness, advocate treatment, and promote research and education on problem gambling.
The PGCC, in a partnership with the Colorado Gaming Association, provides a 24-hour confidential helpline, and the full list of resources available to people with gambling addictions is on its website. This is also where you can find the application forms for the state’s self-exclusion program.
Colorado Department of Revenue — Division of Gaming
Known mostly as the arm of the state government that manages the rules and regulations of gaming in the state, as well as the applications for sports betting licenses, the Division of Gaming is also the enforcement arm of the self-exclusion program.
For those who have added their names to the self-exclusion list, they are no longer allowed to enter casinos or access sportsbooks, and the Division of Gaming ensures that those casinos and sportsbooks are preventing access.
You can also go to its website to access a variety of other customer-based resources.
Originally founded in 1957 in Los Angeles, Gamblers Anonymous now has more than 1,000 self-supporting chapters around the world, including chapters with regular meetings in all 50 states.
GA helps counsel its members on financial and legal matters while also working to help them control their addiction. Membership in Gamblers Anonymous is completely free, and it says the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop gambling.
The International Center for Responsible Gaming
Formerly the National Center for Responsible Gaming, in 2020 the organization changed its name to reflect the global impact that it has had.
It is the world’s largest private funder of research and study of gambling disorders, as well as funding evidence-based education programs.
These programs include a website dedicated to college students, parents and campus administrators on the prevalence of gambling on college campuses. It runs an employee training program for the gaming industry.
It provides materials to parents who want to speak to their children about gambling. And finally, it runs the annual ICRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction, which brings in industry experts, researchers, policymakers and clinicians to discuss the latest research on gambling disorders.