While gambling can be a fun diversion, there are individuals for whom gaming can become a compulsive behavior. Problem gambling is real and destructive to many lives.
Problem gambling does not discriminate age, ethnicity, gender or wealth; anyone can develop an addiction to gambling.
In conjunction with civic organizations, the state of Illinois provide resources for those who struggle with gambling addiction and support for their loved ones as well. Problem gambling organizations provide the tools to help with compulsive gambling behavior and safeguard themselves from the risks.
These Illinois programs for problem gamblers are, by and large, free of charge. That’s crucial because problem gamblers often suffer from serious financial consequences.
Warning signs of a potential gambling problem
The first step to living a life in which a gambling addiction is under control is recognizing when the addiction is out of control.
Here are some indicators that you or someone you know may have a gambling problem:
- Borrowing or stealing money to gamble.
- Gambling more than you can afford to lose.
- Lying to family and friends about gambling.
- Gambling losses produce feelings associated with depression.
- Skipping family events and work to gamble.
- Gambling to avoid feelings of loneliness.
- Inability to enjoy usual activities and hobbies.
That isn’t a comprehensive list, nor is it an automatic guarantee that someone’s gambling has gotten out of control. However, if any of those items are true of someone you know or yourself, it’s worth looking into more.
The best way to explore your particular situation and treatment options is to take advantage of the free services available to all Illinois residents. Help is just an email or phone call away.
Illinois problem gambling resources
The most prominent organization is the Illinois Council on Problem Gambling (ICPG).
You can call 217-652-9611 or email [email protected] for information about their services. They can connect you with a counselor local to you, for example. The ICPG isn’t the only organization available for people with compulsive gambling issues in IL, however.
The National Problem Gambling Hotline is another great resource.
The number to call or text is 800-522-4700. The organization that operates that hotline, the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), is available at 202-547-9204.
The NCPG also offers an online chat for information about treatment. You can choose to remain anonymous when inquiring about services. All these resources are free.
Gamblers Anonymous is a support group for people who deal with gambling problems of their own. In the Chicago area, call 312-346-1588 or in East St. Louis, call 314-647-1111.
If you don’t have a gambling problem but know someone who does, there is support for you as well. Information about Gam-Anon is available at 708-802-0105.
Legal gambling tax dollars also go to fund programs for people with compulsive gambling issues. All licensed gaming companies in Illinois contribute to and participate in these programs.
Free help for people with gambling problems in IL
The Illinois Department of Human Services has a list of approved treatment providers throughout the state. The same state department maintains a website of resources for Illinoisans concerned with the issue.
Anyone can also access the Illinois DHS problem gambling services by calling 1-800-GAMBLER or texting ILGAMB to 53342. Trained staff are available 24/7.
In 2018, the state created a program specifically for those who struggle with abusing video lottery terminals (VLTs).
The Problem Gambling Registry sends enrollees regular emails providing information on problem gambling.
They contain links to problem gambling prevention and treatment resources available in Illinois. You can enroll in that registry online for free. You can cancel your enrollment at any time as well.
A more thorough step to safeguard for people with gambling issues is self-exclusion.
Self-exclusion in Illinois
The state operates a free, voluntary self-exclusion program.
Unlike in other states where you can choose two- or five-year terms, the only option in Illinois is to exclude yourself for life.
You can apply for removal from the exclusion list after five years if you desire, however.
A person who wants to end their exclusion must get a notarized affidavit from a mental health professional who is licensed with the state. The affidavit certifies in that professional’s opinion that the excluded person can gamble safely again.
There are other hoops necessary for removal from the list.
The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) states that removal will be a difficult process. The process of applying for exclusion isn’t complicated, however.
The IGB offers 11 sites for self-exclusion throughout the state. Illinoisans should call the number listed for the appropriate site to make an appointment.
Once enrolled, gambling companies are not allowed to accept wagers from you. These includes:
- Brick-and-mortar sportsbooks
- Off-track betting sites
- Online racebooks and sportsbooks
- Sports betting kiosks
- VLT machines
Once you’re on the exclusion list, it’s your responsibility to stay out of gambling spaces and off gambling websites. However, the program involves gambling licensees as well.
If you’re on the exclusion list and enter a gambling facility, the gaming facility must notify your presence to law enforcement.
Should law enforcement discover that you gambled while on the exclusion list, all your winnings will be forfeited. That includes online sports betting.
The law also bans gambling companies from sending marketing materials to you as well.
You can only exclude yourself, and you can only do so voluntarily. No matter how serious the need, no one can sign up another person for the self-exclusion list. Furthermore, Illinois courts cannot assign anyone to the list either.
Problem gambling is a serious issue for many people. With treatment, however, it’s possible to manage the addiction successfully.
Responsible gaming helps make gambling a better, safer experience for everyone.