Losing Odds
Innocent entertainment or source of stress: March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month
By Penny Wiegert, Editor
March 4, 2021
Finding a bus trip to a casino isn’t too difficult in the 11 counties that make up the Rockford Diocese. 
In the eastern portion of the diocese, Aurora and Elgin both have popular casinos while just beyond the border to the west, Dubuque, Iowa, is home to another river casino. 
Soon Rockford will be home to the state’s newest casino, just down the street from the Diocesan Administration Center as a matter of fact. 
All of these venues promise delicious food, music and entertainment and of course gambling.

Need Help?

You may first want to contact your parish pastor for help and counseling. You may also reach out to About Behavioral Change (ABC) with offices in West Dundee, St. Charles, Schaumburg and Roselle. It is one of the places recognized by the state of Illinois’s gaming board toward which the board points those seeking help curtailing their gambling problems. The state has asked ABC and similar organizations to plan events and doings for March, which is National Problem Gambling Awareness Month. 
To find out more about the therapies offered, look for ABC at https://www.aboutbehavioralchange.org/ and on Facebook.
The National Council on Problem Gambling holds a screening day on March 9. To find out more about that and other programs and resources available to those who might have a gambling problem call or text the National Problem Gambling Helpline Network at 1-800-522-4700 or visit www.ncpg.org/chat for confidential help.
— Penny Wiegert, editor
Thanks to legislation passed in 2009, you can hardly visit any gas station, bar and grill and restaurant that is without a video slot machine or two. And that doesn’t count the storefront slots that seem to be popping up on every corner.
While a little trip to the casino with friends or an hour or two playing video poker sounds like a harmless social outing it can be a problem for some.
But is it a sin to go with friends for an afternoon at the casino or spend a few bucks on the video slots while you get a hamburger or stop for an oil change? 
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, games of chance or gambling is a moral issue attached to the Seventh Commandment. 
CCC 2413 states that “Games of chance (card games, etc.) or wagers are not in themselves contrary to justice. They become morally unacceptable when they deprive someone of what is necessary to provide for his needs and those of others. The passion for gambling risks becoming an enslavement. Unfair wagers and cheating at games constitute grave matter, unless the damage inflicted is so slight that the one who suffers it cannot reasonably consider it significant.”
Legal doesn’t mean it’s not a problem
Too much gambling, like too much alcohol, even though legal, can lead to big problems for individuals, families and employers. 
Ethicist for the Rockford Diocese, Father Kenneth Wasilewski covered the topic of gambling in his column Jan. 17, 2020, in The Observer.
In that column Father Wasilewski wrote “Like some other moral issues, gambling is not wrong in and of itself necessarily. Rather, the moral analysis is concerned with how it is done or the effects it has on the people involved. 
“As with other forms of entertainment, the same basic ‘activity’ can either be morally acceptable or not based on what it actually involves and how it is approached.”
In a nutshell, gambling for entertainment can be morally acceptable if it doesn’t lead to other moral failures, rob the individual of spending time with or taking care of their family, impede the completion of duties at work or cause financial hardship, even criminal financial behavior.
March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month and happens to be the most popular month for gambling thanks to March Madness when an estimated $10 billion in bets are placed on the NCAA basketball championship games. 
During the month of March calls to the National Problem Gambling Helpline (1-800-522-4700) spike an average of 30%.
And now that folks can place bets in the privacy of their homes on mobile apps or spend money on online games as seemingly harmless as Candy Crush, gambling addictions are growing and going unnoticed. 
Addiction to these games of chance along with day trading on the stock market have all been reported to have increased significantly during the pandemic by the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG).
Betting peaks in March
During the month of March consider that, according to the NCPG, approximately 2 million U.S. adults (1% of the population) are estimated to meet criteria for gambling disorder. 
Another 4-6 million (2-3%) are considered to meet criteria for problem gambling. 
And yet for many residents of the US, gambling remains a hidden addiction and puts even the young at risk, like a 6-year-old in Delaware who ran up $16,000 in charges playing Sonic Forces online.
In November 2020, the State of Illinois announced it’s commissioning a study about gambling in light of the rise of legal online sports betting. 
A month before the study was announced, Illinois reported $434.6 million in legal bets on sports were placed, mostly online. At the same time in the entire U.S., more than $3.26 billion in legal sports bets were placed.
With Lent being a time to examine our consciences and give our moral health a good check up, it might be a good time to think about the time and money we spend on filling out sports brackets, betting with sports apps, making risky day trades, stopping at the slots, making purchases while playing online games or spending excessive amounts on lottery tickets. 
Use the month of March and the season of Lent to keep gambling as innocent entertainment rather than a source of stress or occasion of sin.


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