Guest writers focus on Problem Gambling Awareness Month; Letting the chips fall where they may
Welcome to the March edition of Tips and Topics and guest writers focused on Gambling in honor of
In SAVVY, George Mladenetz informs us about Gambling Treatment Diversion Courts.
In SKILLS, Olubukunola Oyedele, PhD shares results from a small sample study he did on gambling and COVID-19 in New Jersey residents.
In SOUL, I share some natty little phrases that are rich in concept and meaning, but poor in follow through – easy to say, but hard to do.
In recent years I have invited guest writers in March to focus on one forgotten manifestation of addiction – gambling disorder. March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month. So again this year, two guest writers highlight the importance of problem gambling.
George Mladenetz informs us about Gambling Treatment Diversion Courts; and Olubukunola Oyedele, PhD shares results from a small sample study he did on gambling and COVID-19.
I have taken their content and arranged it in Tips and Topics format.
What are Gambling Treatment Diversion Courts and what services do they provide?
- Gambling Treatment Diversion Court (GTDC) is a court-supervised comprehensive outpatient treatment program for defendants in the criminal justice system with gambling problems and other addictive behaviors.
- The first GTDC Court was established in Amherst, New York, by the late Judge Mark Farrell, but is no longer active.
- Currently, the only active one in the U.S. (and the world) is in Las Vegas, Nevada, established in November 2018 by now-retired Judge Cheryl Moss, who presided over the court for two years.
- Treatment includes individual and group counseling focused on problem gambling, substance misuse and mental health counseling, wellness education, peer support, and drug and alcohol testing as indicated.
- Additional treatment services may include residential, intensive outpatient, anger management, impulse control groups, gender-specific and trauma, grief and loss, family therapy and treatment targeting criminal behavior.
What are the benefits of participating in GTDC versus incarceration?
- Promotes Gambling treatment; very few prisons offer treatment services for problem gamblers.
- Reduces recidivism; treatment works!
- Saves taxpayers money; annual cost of incarcerating an individual in New Jersey is approximately $61,000.
- Offers monitoring, guidance, support, and encouragement from the Judge and the GTDC team.
- Gives restitution to victims; if the offender is incarcerated he/she is not able to pay restitution.
Who might be eligible for GTDC and what are the costs?
- Defendants are eligible upon conviction of a crime in furtherance or as a result of problem gambling (gambling-related crimes).
- A qualified mental health professional (certified problem gambling counselor) must conduct an assessment and determine the defendant is a problem gambler.
- The defendant is NOT eligible for the program if the crime is a violent crime against a person, child, or a sexual offense.
- An administrative fee may be assessed for the program.
- Treatment costs may be covered by insurance and/or state grant funds.
- The defendant pays drug testing costs, but funding may be available in some cases.
Program Duration: the Nevada GTDC is 12 to 18 months minimum, and a maximum of 36 months.
Why are GTDCs not widespread like Drug Courts?
- Drug Court programs were implemented in the 1990s in most states.
- Gambling disorder, the “hidden addiction,” is generally not discussed or understood enough by many.
- Professionals are recognizing it more since it was moved into the DSM-5 category with substance use disorders, chapter title “Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders.”
What can be done to establish the GTDC in your region?
- There is a growing interest in expanding the GTDC model of Nevada to other states and even countries, especially in light of the explosion of online gambling.
- New Jersey (NJ), in particular, has begun a movement to establish GTDCs closely following Nevada’s legislation.
- Visit the NJ Gambling Court initiative website at to learn more about the Nevada GTDC and the NJ initiative.
- Consider becoming a NJ Advisory Group member; there are over 100 members through the country and world.
- Share the NJGCI link with your colleagues and legislators regarding pursuit of a GTDC in your state.
- GTDCs are problem solving courts. They save money, reduce recidivism, help individuals become productive citizens again, reunite families and save lives.
Bio: George Mladenetz worked in the field of substance use disorder and mental health for over thirty years within the New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health & Addiction Services. George possesses a Master’s degree in Counseling from Trenton State College (currently The College of New Jersey). He has been licensed as a Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LCADC) since 2005 and is an International Certified Gambling Counselor (ICGC- II). George worked for six years at the Council on Compulsive Gambling of NJ (CCGNJ) as the Assistant Director of Clinical Services, Treatment and Research and then later, Treatment Coordinator. He retired from CCGNJ last year but remains active in the addictions field as a Clinical Consultant. George can be reached at email@example.com.
1. Mee-Lee, D., GD Shulman, MJ Fishman, Gastfriend DR, Miller MM, Eds. The ASAM Criteria: Treatment Criteria for Addictive, Substance-Related, and Co-Occurring Conditions. 3rd Edition; The Change Companies, 2013.
2. “Meet Your GTDC Team: Nevada’s First Gambling Treatment Diversion Court.”State Bar of Nevada. May 29, 2020.
3. “Silver State Court Aims to be Gold Standard to Address Those in the Justice System due to Gambling Issues.” EightJDCourt. November 6, 2018.
4. Velotta, Richard N.”Nevada launches first Gambling Treatment Diversion Court”. Las Vegas Review-Journal. December 8, 2018.
In previous editions on problem gambling I wrote in SKILLS, March 2017 about the importance of understanding why Gambling Disorder is the “invisible” addiction.
Because gambling can be “invisible”, I challenged the field in April 2016 to get real about Screening and Assessment for Gambling Disorder.
In SKILLS this month, Dr. Oyedele shares results from a small sample study in which he was responsible for the Survey Collection, Analysis and Report on New Jersey residents Online Gambling participation during COVID-19.
Olubukunola Oyedele, PhD, MPH is currently the Public Health Specialist at the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey. Dr. Oyedele is an experienced researcher and has spoken at various events and conferences about disordered gambling.
Consider if there is an uptick in online gambling due to COVID-19.
- The consensus, although research is limited and just being studied, is that the pandemic has increased the opportunity for individuals to begin or exacerbate their online gambling.
- In New Jersey, the Council on Compulsive Gambling was interested in finding out if there was an increase in online gambling activity due to COVID-19; and in particular how many people created new online betting accounts?
What did the researchers do?
- The Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey recruited a convenience sample of 47 participants from our list serve and by advertising on our website and LinkedIn page.
- Participants took an online survey that asked if they ever gambled online prior to COVID-19, their level of participation since COVID-19 and the amount of gambling activities since COVID-19.
- The survey also assessed if participants created new online betting accounts during COVID-19 and their views on gambling related problems.
- Demographic information such as race/ethnicity, gender and sex were also collected.
What did they find?
- 34% of people had gambled online prior to COVID-19.
- 11% indicated that they there were first time online gamblers.
- 52.4% of the respondents said there were participating in gambling activities somewhat more or much more than they did prior to COVID -19.
- 67% of respondents said they spent somewhat more or much more time gambling online than they did prior to COVID -19.
- 57% of respondents created new online betting accounts during COVID -19.
- 24% of respondents were concerned that they were developing a gambling addiction.
- 52% were concerned that they were spending much more money than they could afford gambling online.
Evaluate the relationship between online gambling and developing a gambling addiction and how long before problems develop.
- There was an almost even split among male (48%) and female (47%) and a significant number (28.5%) of young adults aged (18-34). These findings highlight a problematic relationship between online gambling and developing a gambling addiction and going into debt for both male and female and in young adults.
- Of the 5 people who gambled online for the first time, two (2) were concerned that that they were developing a gambling addiction while two (2) were concerned that that they were spending too much money they cannot afford on online betting.
- Assuming these five (5) participants had only ever begun gambling since the start of COVID-19 i.e., March 2020, then it implies that they had developed these problems quickly, within 6 months or less as the survey was conducted from October 1st – October 31st of 2020.
Every study has limitations. What are the limitations in this study?
- This study was conducted using a convenient sample which limits its external validity.
- The sample size is also very limiting and therefore cannot give a full description of the gambling population.
I have often said to myself over the years: “No more Mr. Nice Guy. I’m just going to be myself and let the chips fall where they may”.
Like a lot of New Years’ resolutions and personal affirmations, easier said than done. These natty phrases are rich in intention, poor in completion. But more recently, I have come to know what “be myself” really means. I am realizing that:
- There is no-one out there who knows you better than you. What they think of you, says more about who they are, their background, their temperament, their goals.
- When I am concerned and focused on my workshop evaluations to tell me if I am an effective teacher, I must not be sure about me and my own effectiveness. It’s nice to get complimentary feedback. But ultimately, the positive and negative evaluations say as much about the attendees as anything about me.
- If I am ‘radar-ing’ (is that a word?) all the time – checking out what others are thinking and saying in order to know who I am and my worth – then it’s like the working definition of “co-dependency” = I’ll know how I feel, when I know how you feel.
- All of this focus on the other person, disempowers who I am and places them in control of my life.
Nothing new here. You may have heard these concepts before. You may have declared self ‘pumping-up’ affirmations like this before too. I’m just saying, I am getting richer in the ‘completion’ part of life than the ‘intention’ part.
Another natty phrase I’ve been taught, but am still learning to live is “What you resist, persists”. The more focused I am on what I want to avoid, the more I don’t seem to be able to move past it. I wrote about Law of Attraction in the May 2020 SKILLS section when speaking of COVID-19 anxiety.
Fortunately I’ve also learned “We teach what we have to learn” – there’s no need to be perfect before you have the ‘right’ to teach others. We are all ‘living to learn’ and ‘learning to live’. So if there is something that you find works for you, share it – not in a ‘holier than you’ manner, but just sharing the good news.
Enough of these natty little phrases, so rich in meaning and easy to say but not so easy to do. Just thought I’d share what floats my boat and let the chips fall where they may. (Sorry, did it again.)