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March Is Problem Gambling Awareness Month

(Chicago) – March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month (#PGAM), intended to help raise awareness of the prevention, treatment, and recovery services available for those adversely affected by gambling.

Approximately two million U.S. adults are estimated to meet criteria for severe gambling problems in a given year, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG). Another four to six million do not meet the full diagnostic criteria for gambling addiction, but are experiencing problems due to their gambling behavior. 

“With billions of dollars being wagered on sports alone, that means a lot of people are losing money,” says Rev. Dr. Rodney Walker, director of youth and family services for TASC. “Nobody ever thinks they’re going to become addicted to gambling, but it happens to too many people. They can end up in the justice system for offenses such as theft, financial credit card fraud, forgery, or other behavior that they believe will get them out of the hole. But in fact, it becomes a downward spiral.”

More than 2 percent of adults in Illinois are estimated to have gambling disorders.  Illinois ranks ninth in the U.S. in gambling addiction, and leads the country for the most gambling related arrests per capita.

Awareness + Action

The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) dedicates the month of March to encouraging conversations about problem gambling issues while directing people to the help they may need.

Using the tagline #AwarenessPlusAction, Problem Gambling Awareness Month (#PGAM) brings together a wide range of stakeholders, including public health organizations, treatment providers, advocacy groups, and gambling operators working together to let people know that hope and help exist.

The March Madness men’s college basketball tournament, along with the annual Super Bowl in February, represent the two biggest sports betting events in the U.S. each year. The American Gaming Association estimates that Americans gamble some $10 billion on college basketball games in the month of March, with nearly one in five adults placing a bet. The vast majority of those gambles take place outside of legalized betting means.

In Illinois, the General Assembly passed and Governor JB Pritzker approved a large gambling expansion package in 2019; rules for legalized sports betting in the state are still being worked out. Betting on minor league sports events and Illinois collegiate teams remains illegal.

“Gambling has been part of human behavior for thousands of years,” says Tanya Bibbs-Smith, gambling awareness outreach coordinator for TASC. “But whether it’s legal or not legal, gambling can be addictive. It’s important for people to know that help is available if they think they may have a problem.” 

In Illinois, if you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call 1-800-GAMBLER, text ILGAMB to 53342, or visit

Nationally, contact the National Problem Gambling Helpline Network at 1-800-522-4700 or visit


About TASC
TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities) is a statewide, non-profit organization that serves and advocates for people involved in criminal legal systems and youth and family service systems, and who have mental health and substance use disorders. TASC also conducts screening and makes referrals to treatment for problem gambling.

About We Know the Feeling
With support from the Illinois Department of Human Service, We Know the Feeling is a program designed to help people learn how to gamble more responsibly. It is built on a model of empathy and self-awareness, urging people who gamble to recognize when they are getting out of control and reach out for help when they sense that feeling.

About the National Council on Problem Gambling
NCPG is the national advocate for people and families affected by problem gambling. NCPG is neutral on legalized gambling and works with all stakeholders to promote responsible gambling.  

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