The “March Madness” NCAA tournament is right around the corner, but for people who struggle with problem gambling, this time of year can be anything but a Cinderella story.
March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month to highlight this important mental health issue and also the resources available if you or a loved one have difficulty with responsible gaming.
We remind you that plans through Maryland Health Connection cover mental health treatment under the Affordable Care Act, and your health insurance company may offer a program for treatment of problem gambling. For many health plans, treatment will be covered under substance use disorder cost-sharing, meaning you’ll pay less out-of-pocket for care, like your deductible and copay.
Problem gambling is defined by the University of Maryland as any activity that involves risking something of value, including but not limited to money or property, on an event whose outcome is uncertain. More than 6.2 million adults in the U.S. are problem gamblers, according to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission.
The Maryland Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling also offers a 24/7 free helpline, 1-800-GAMBLER, and you can visit www.mdproblemgambling.com/getting-help to find a counselor or gambling addiction meeting near you.
In addition, the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency offers the Voluntary Exclusion Program, which allows an individual to voluntarily agree to refrain from entering and gambling at all Maryland casinos. Call 410-230-8798 or learn more on the agency’s website.
Signs of a problem gambler include being preoccupied with gambling, being secretive about gambling habits and defensive when confronted, increasing bet amounts to achieve the desired excitement, being restless or irritable when not gambling, and gambling to escape problems.
Many problem gamblers are more likely to have other health issues in addition to gambling. Studies have shown that alcohol dependence, drug abuse, depression, bipolar or anxiety disorder, and certain somatic illnesses are attributed to the addiction of gambling.
Maureen Greeley, president of the National Council on Problem Gambling, recently stated, “Gambling disorder clearly falls within the ACA's behavioral health benefit and, equally important, the significant relationship between problem gambling and other behavioral health conditions simply requires that treating individuals with co-occurring conditions becomes a standard practice.”
Problem Gambling Prevention Tips
- Gamble for entertainment, not as a way to make money.
- Set a budget before you start to gamble and stick to it.
- Never chase losses.
- Limit your time to gamble.
- Don’t mix drinking and gambling.
- Balance gambling with other recreational activities.
About Maryland Health Connection
Maryland Health Connection is Maryland’s official health insurance marketplace for individuals and families to compare plans and enroll in health and dental coverage. It’s the only place to get financial help with health insurance. See if you qualify for financial help like tax credits or Medicaid/MCHP to make health insurance more affordable.