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Georgia State emeritus helps fight problem gambling

Monday, March 1, 2010 – Jeremy Craig, University Relations

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Every now and then, someone might get an itch to play a game of poker, make a bet or buy a lottery ticket.

Some people bet more than others, hoping to make a lucky break — though the odds of winning, for example, the Powerball jackpot are 1 in 200 million. The odds of getting struck by lightning are 1 in 500,000, according to the National Weather Service.

Gambling can turn into a compulsion — a compulsion that can affect work, family, and personal lives. That’s why Georgia State’s Pathological Gambling Intervention Project is observing National Problem Gambling Awareness Week March 7-13, reaching out to raise awareness, to perform research into the extent of the issue, and to reach out to those who might be struggling with a gambling problem.

“The goal of National Problem Gambling Awareness Week is to increase awareness of the signs of problem gambling and of where to obtain help should you or someone you know have a problem,” said James Emshoff, director of the intervention project and associate professor emeritus at GSU.

A 2007 Georgia State study by Emshoff and his research team showed that almost 88 percent of Georgia residents have gambled at least once in their lifetime; about 4 percent of adult Georgians could be considered lifetime problem or compulsive gamblers.

While the prevalence of problem gambling within the general population ranges from roughly 2.5 to 5 percent, estimates show that approximately 8 percent of college students in Georgia and nationally have or had a gambling problem.

“Gambling has become an acceptable form of leisure on college campuses and there is little awareness of the warning signs of developing a gambling problem,” Emshoff said.

This year, Emshoff and collaborators will develop a model policy regarding gambling on college campuses that can be disseminated and adopted statewide, and they will also engage specialists in suicide prevention, as suicidal thoughts or behaviors tend to coincide with problem gambling.
They will also assess problem gambling and related high risk behaviors among members of the military, veterans and their partners in Georgia to see if this population should be targeted.

Last year, Emshoff and colleagues launched a media campaign in MARTA stations and on billboards to bring awareness to the problem. This year, Cedric Brown was selected as the first-place winner of a contest for local artists, sponsored by the project. His design will appear on four billboards across Georgia.

For more about the Pathological Gambling Intervention Project at Georgia State, call James Emshoff at 404-413-6270. More information about National Problem Gambling Awareness Week is available online at http://www.npgaw.org/.