The Illinois Department of Human Services and the University of Illinois at Springfield launched a new campaign this fall to raise awareness of the resources available to problem gamblers in Illinois. The public awareness campaign, announced by Gov. George Ryan, will feature television, radio and outdoor advertising in major media markets throughout the state.
The awareness initiative is designed to show that problem gambling can occur in all segments of the population and that help is a phone call away through a toll-free hot line (1-800-522-4700). More than 300 trained counselors and therapists will offer individualized service through existing mental health and substance abuse programs. Training was coordinated by Bensinger, Dupont & Associates, which also operates the toll-free hot line under contract by the Illinois Casino Gaming Association (ICGA), the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery at Proctor Hospital, and the Illinois Council on Problem and Compulsive Gambling.
Prior to the state's recent involvement, public education efforts had primarily been funded by the state's casino industry. "We are delighted to see the state of Illinois now getting meaningfully involved in addressing problem gambling," said Susan Gouinlock, ICGA executive director, which coordinates much of the industry's efforts. "The state's public awareness campaign will be a terrific addition to the work of Illinois' casino industry to provide help for those impacted by gambling disorders."
The ICGA has been working with the Illinois Department of Human Services and other organizations on a task force to spearhead a comprehensive statewide prevention, education and treatment program for Illinoisans with gambling disorders. The Illinois Coalition to Curb Problem Gambling will be developing additional programs to help problem gamblers, whether they are experiencing their problem at a racetrack, at a casino, with the lottery, or with any other form of gambling. The coalition is modeled after a similar public-private sector organization created several years ago in Missouri. Other states, including Indiana, Iowa and Louisiana, are exploring similar partnerships.
Gov. Ryan began his gambling initiative in 2000 with a request to DHS for $1 million of existing funds to create a program to help problem gamblers. In its first year, the program focused on training staff from DHS, Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse and other related agencies to recognize, assess and treat problem gamblers. This year, Gov. Ryan pledged to allocate an additional $2 million to increase awareness of available resources and help problem gamblers in the state.