Whether at home, in the car or enjoying a night at the casino, residents and casino patrons throughout Missouri have been learning more about the state's resources to help problem gamblers due to the efforts of the Missouri Alliance to Curb Problem Gambling and the Missouri Gaming Association.
During the fourth annual National Problem Gambling Awareness Week this March, the Alliance launched eight new public service announcements (PSAs) - four for radio and four for television - designed to point out some of the risk factors of out-of-control gambling and highlight Missouri's 888-BETS-OFF problem gambling help line. The Alliance is comprised of the Missouri Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse, the Missouri Lottery, the Missouri Gaming Commission, the Missouri Council on Problem Gambling Inc., the Missouri Gaming Association and the Port Authority of Kansas City.
Produced with funding from the Missouri Department of Mental Health, the PSAs target a variety of audiences to encourage problem gamblers and their families to seek help. Some examples include the radio PSA "All In," which focuses on younger gamblers who may be active in the Texas Hold 'Em craze and the general resurgence of poker, and "Golden Years," one of the television PSAs, which is targeted to seniors. Other spots include messages from country music stars Wynona Judd and Crystal Gale, and Kansas City, Mo. R&B band Bloodstone.
An updated version of the Alliance's original PSA, "Numbers," sums up the Alliance's overall message for the PSA campaign: "If it ever feels like the numbers are getting the best of you, remember, there's one number that's always on your side. 1-888-BETS-OFF."
According to Shelly Perez, responsible gaming program coordinator at the Missouri Lottery and recent recipient of the Alliance's Service Award, while the PSAs have aired state-wide, they have been focused in the state's rural areas to increase awareness and usage among residents in those areas of local counseling and treatment resources, as well as the help line. Though no longer being actively placed, the PSAs have gained a position in some radio and television stations' regular community service programming schedules and continue to appear periodically.
"The PSAs are designed to highlight problem gambling risk factors and the 888-BETS-OFF help line," Perez said. "I don't think we can do either of them enough."
Casinos in Missouri also have found a unique new way to increase awareness about the 888-BETSOFF help line. The help line number currently is listed on each casino patron's player card, which allows them entry into the casino and helps properties enforce Missouri's $500 loss limit. The state's casinos also have begun a new initiative that features a series of four messages appearing separately on the tickets dispensed by ticket-in/ticket-out (TITO) slot machines. One of the four messages is a notice about the 888-BETSOFF help line. Mike Ryan, executive director of the Missouri Gaming Association, expects the new TITO tickets to be in use at all the state's casinos by mid-October.