Problems with the GA Approach to Gambling

Problems with the GA Approach to Gambling

For a very long time in the public sphere, Gamblers Anonymous has been associated with problem gambling. People that have found gambling problems inside themselves have gone to Gamblers Anonymous for treatment and support and for a long time the organization has been hailed as being a great way to remove people from problems with gambling addiction. Their public awareness campaigns have often conflated problem gambling with all gambling and because of that casinos are viewed in a way that many would argue is far more negative than they deserve.

But is the Gamblers Anonymous approach one that actually works? The flagship part of their approach is what they refer to as a detection system. This system, quite simply put, is a system that allows people to figure out early when they might have a gambling problem and because they can figure it out early, they can go ahead and get treatment in order to help themselves before they reach a big problem. This is the theory behind the Gamblers Anonymous approach and because it is politically incorrect to criticize a charity, nobody has really thought long and hard about whether this approach really works.

Well, as gambling issues start to become more important in the world arena, people are beginning to question that approach and hold it up to intellectual scrutiny in a way that never happened before. Part of the questioning has to do with examining cases of people that are gamblers or problem gamblers and one study in particular was done in New Zealand to look at the effects of things that happened. People in the study were interviewed about various facets of gambling addiction including the work offered by Gamblers Anonymous and the results were quite illuminating.

For starters, the study seemed to indicate that the Gamblers Anonymous method of doing things was not a method that really helped, with the famous gambling test being one of the worst detection methods ever judged in any field. The test itself might be a good judge of a problem gambler, but the problem is that even the worst gamblers around do not actually think they are problem gamblers and because of that do not end up taking the test until their gambling problem has become so severe that they end up losing much more than they ever thought possible. This type of problem is one that happens to a lot of people and only a small fraction of them end up taking the test.

Why is this? According to the study, it is because people are afraid of the negative public image they will get for thinking about it. Ironically, this negative public image has come about specifically because of negative campaigning against the concept of gambling by Gamblers Anonymous, so one of their tactics has ended up paralyzing another and preventing it from working at near the level they would have hoped. There is no easy fix to this problem, but the study does show that maybe Gamblers Anonymous is not the excellent and perfect organization that people had previously thought it was.

November 18, 2008 by : posted in Gambling and Legality No Comments