Darryl D. McEwen

We’ve all seen it: “For a good time call [insert phone number].”

So, what if you’re in your favorite casino and not having a good time?

That’s when you can call 1-800-GAMBLER.

We see this number on billboards and posters, in emails and other casino promotions. But who’s behind it and what exactly happens when you call?

The toll-free helpline is just one part of an educational advocacy program sponsored by the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, Inc., according to Assistant Executive Director Daniel J. Trolaro. A private, non-profit organization, the Council is composed of concerned individuals from diverse backgrounds who try to represent the best interests of compulsive gamblers and their families.

The Council is a neutral entity, adds Executive Director Neva Pryor, and focuses on educating the public, training gambling addiction professionals throughout the state and — for compulsive gamblers and their families — referring them to treatment and advocating for increased treatment services.

Calling the helpline will connect you to someone who will respect your confidentiality and — to help determine the next step to take — ask a few basics: your first name, the county in which you reside, whether you have a family and what you do for a living.

After providing this background, you’ll be asked, “Why did you call today?” This starts a dialog which may include other questions about how much you gamble, any history of substance abuse, etc.

In addition, you may also be asked to answer the 20 questions on the Gamblers Anonymous website (GamblersAnonymous.org). If you answer yes to at least seven, you may be a compulsive gambler.

Your answers to these questions, as well as your conversation with the helpline staffer, determine the next step.

Among the possible recommendations:

•Attend a Gamblers Anonymous meeting. The Council is not affiliated with Gamblers Anonymous.

•See a Certified Gambling Counselor and seek treatment. Funding is available for these services.

•Register with the New Jersey Casino Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) Gambling Self-Exclusion Program at the DGE offices in Trenton or Atlantic City, or by visiting one of the five state horse racing tracks. You must register in person to exclude from land-based casinos and/or online gaming sites. You can register online if you want to exclude just from online gaming sites.

For more information about the Council, visit 800Gambler.org. You’ll find downloadable fact sheets and brochures, as well as other resources.

Recreational gambler Darryl D. McEwen, a former professional journalist, is president of his own consulting firm that manages several small national and international trade associations, and provides public relations and fundraising services for a number of charitable organizations. Have a comment on this or a question specifically related to an Atlantic City casino, players club or other promotion? Email Darryl at MrACCasino@gmail.com and he’ll try to respond to you personally. Your question — without your name — may appear in a future column.

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