Glenn Gorelick Sets The Tone

by: Glenn Gorelick, M.S.

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The explosion of the Internet has created a world where it is now possible for everyone and everything to be connected via the World Wide Web (WWW). For the first time in history, we have easy access to vast amounts of information at low cost, by merely utilizing the information superhighway that the Internet has created for us. However, even as the WWW as our resource, one in search of problem gambling products, services and information has to search all over the web to find the best sources. It is consuming to search out Web sites with unrecognizable and obscure domain names. The creation of Problemgambling.com is the beginning of a easily accessible portal to comprehensive problem gambling resources, including information about its pitfalls, means of prevention and cures.

Problemgambling.com will become the hub of the problem gambling field. One of its objectives is to be a place where problem gambling health care professionals, the gaming industry, state governments, financial community, educational institutions and the general public can come to browse and shop for quality products and services. Additionally, visitors to the site will be able to access and share information from every viewpoint, including the gaming industry perspective.. This aspect in and of itself is vastly important since to date I know of no centralized location where people from around the world can become part of such a shared centralized network. The more everyone shares information and the more the gaming industry, state governments, financial community, educational institutions and problem gambling professionals support each others' efforts to promote prevention, education and treatment, the more effective the results will be. The time has come where all involved stakeholders must join the effort for objective integration and synergy.

The recent shooting deaths by a day trader in Atlanta Georgia at a financial brokerage firm and the prior killing of his wife and two children is a case in point that illustrates why it is urgent that we work together. Day trading is attracting more and more participants. Many traders are novices who are really gambling rather than investing. Sometimes the results can be devastating, evidence the recent killing spree in Atlanta. No one knows exactly what caused the perpetrator to snap. No doubt there were many issues involved. However, one fact that the investigation shows is that the killer had taken substantial recent stock market losses. One must ask - did this man lose control of his impulses and cross the line into problem gambling? Was he chasing his losses? Could this tragedy have been prevented if the management/employees of the day trading firm were aware, educated and trained to recognize the symptoms of a problem gambler? Could the outcome have been different if other choices and resources had been available to the killer? Would the innocent people who lost their lives still be with us today?

Because we all know life is a continuous learning process, we learn from such a tragic mistake and make adjustments accordingly. I believe the lesson here is that the financial community must integrate problem gambling education into their brokerage-training curriculum. Awareness and more resources availability can go a long way in promoting prevention and treatment. It is a corporate and moral responsibility to the public, customers and employees to sincerely make the effort. It is my personal view that if a business is going to make profits from "gambling", minimally it should step up to the plate and support efforts to offset social imbalances that may occur as a result. Any other corporate policy is irresponsible. Everyone is aware of the most prominent example - in the past, the tobacco companies skirted their responsibility and are now paying for it in the billions of dollars.

Legalized gambling has now become so accessible, and as popular, as fast food restaurants. In the past ten years legalized gambling has exploded, nation wide and currently there is no end in sight to its expansion. Today, over half the states have casino gambling and almost all states have some form of lottery. In addition horse racing, dog tracks, jai lai, sports betting and the like are easily available.

The realistic solution (goal) is to make it "second nature" to educate and promote responsible gambling among those who choose to play, and to immediately and effectively provide help to those who slip into problem gambling. The state governments, the gaming industry, as well as the financial community and all problem gambling related organizations must work to achieve a synergetic relationship which can allow us to realizing this goal. My mission is to see that we achieve a balance within the social structure, in so far as it relates to responsible gambling and its counterpart - problem gambling.

Our current actions create the future. Unless more effort, and financial resources are invested in promoting prevention, education, and treatment, we are courting disaster. We are racing toward it now. The symptoms we are now experiencing, witness the Atlanta shooting spree, are only the tip of the iceberg. The Atlanta tragedy is a clear wake up call. More await us. It is foolhardy to think otherwise.

Though personally, I am not opposed to gambling as long as it is done responsibly. For most, gambling is a source of entertainment and recreation, much like a night out at a Broadway show. However, an increasing number of the people are crossing the line and developing a gambling problem. It is my view that the numbers are higher than most people think. Normally, current statistics are derived by monitoring state and national help line calls and treatment enrollment. Many problem gamblers get statistically placed in other social categories such as drug/alcohol, criminal, divorce, suicide, bankruptcy etc. A recent Connecticut impact study showed that approximately 5% of the population has or developed gambling problems. Until research funding is adequate to track more precise statistics there will be the current disagreement on impact levels. This disagreement should not, however, prevent the gaming industry, state governments, financial community and problem gambling organizations from working together to establish a coordinated responsible gaming initiative. Whether, the problem gambling statistics are high or low is not the most important issue. It is some form of a consensus agreement that increased availability, exposure and promotion of gambling effects lives. For some, it will result in a problem that wreaks havoc on normal functions. Consequently, it is vital for all involved to demand that all of us work to promote awareness and to take steps that will prevent the results of a hidden gambling problem such as the catastrophic Atlanta shootings previously mentioned.

In the Native American Indian tradition, an appreciation of Mother Earth is at the core of spirituality. Anyone truly connected appreciates that there is balance, beauty and a sense of harmony that exists within nature. I think it appropriate to mention an example, which I believe, sets a tone that we all should emulate. Some time back when one tribe began to plan the construction of their casino, the tribal council decided that every effort would be made to preserve the natural environment and to maintain a sense of balance with nature. There is clearly a sincere respect for Mother Earth. Social balance, in my view, is equally a part of the whole spiritual equation. The same commitment and effort needs to be made by those who are in the gambling business to mitigate any damage to our social balance that result from their operations. We must preserve healthy balance. It is my sincere hope that we can all join hands with the very wise tribal council, as we make our way into the year 2000.

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Mr. Gorelick is a psychotherapist specializing in problem gambling. He has written and produced four public service announcements on problem gambling for television and has received several awards for outstanding and distinguished work in the field. Mr. Gorelick has been influential and active in originating the concepts for the Problemgambling.com Web site. His progressive approach to furthering the objectives of IPG have been instrumental in establishing working relationships between the various stakeholders, including gaming industry representatives and spokespersons.


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