Along with the opportunity for residents to talk about issues in their community, a special presentation and discussion about problem gambling took place at the Marine Park Community Association’s monthly meeting held on Tuesday, January 17th at the Carmine Carro Community Center.
Sheena Smith, a licensed professional therapist and team leader for the NYC Problem Gambling Resource Center, raised awareness about the increasing proliferation of gambling opportunities and problems that can be associated with it.
In addition to traditional forms of gambling at a casino or having a poker game with friends, playing the horses at a racetrack, placing a bet at the Super Bowl, or buying a scratch-off or lottery ticket in the hopes of becoming the next billionaire, it is hard for some not to be lured into joining online casinos with the promise of a large amount of money for free play with a small bet, as well as taking advantage of the ease of online sports betting. Gambling and advertising for it is everywhere – at delis, on public transportation, TV/Radio and personal mobile devices.
For many people, it is a form of entertainment and they are able to handle it without a problem, but when gambling becomes an addiction, it can lead to all kinds of problems that not only affect the individual, but also the people around them if money used for gambling is not being used to buy necessities such as food or to pay rent and bills.
“My reason for coming here today is to let you know that there is help for those who may need our assistance,” Smith said, stating it could be a family member, friend or neighbor, even someone that they just met who tells them they have a problem.
Some people with an addiction may have other related issues or disorders such as depression, anxiety, trouble with personal relationships, employment and a whole host of problems. In such cases, licensed clinicians and therapists are trained to help through professional services provided confidentially and free of charge if there is no insurance.
A counselor or therapist helps people with gambling disorders by giving them coping skills, group therapy or by helping them connect with a peer, licensed clinical social or mental health worker or an organization like Gamblers Anonymous.
Bill Russo, who has lived with his family in the area since 1961, said that there is a lot of money that is made through sponsoring gambling, whether it’s through elected officials, developers, construction, unions, or owners of casinos, and there’s a proposal to bring a gambling casino to Coney Island.
He said that he remembered when the proposal to bring gambling to Atlantic City was supposed to solve all the problems of the residents of that city and beyond, but the casinos do attract gamblers.
“I’m not saying that all gamblers are undesirable; some people can know their limits, but it really doesn’t add any character to the neighborhood, so it’s important to find out early where your elected officials stand in terms of introducing gambling to Coney Island because it has to go through the Council, the State – it has to be approved, but there are forces behind the scenes who can’t wait for casinos in Coney Island,” he said.
Smith agreed with him and said she had the same concerns. She added that they’re not worrying about how many families it’s going to hurt for those who come into addiction, nor about the related problems of high rates of suicide, drugs and crime.
“That’s the talk that these casinos are coming to these vulnerable populations and communities such as Brooklyn’s Coney Island, Manhattan, even in the Bronx they want to open up a casino,” Smith said. “So with all the lights, camera, action, that’s going to attract people and there are more people that are going to get addicted and this is why we have to be out here to let people know that we have help.”
For more information, visit the NYC Problem Gambling Resource Center website at NYProblemGamblingHELP.org or call the Brooklyn telephone number at (917) 994-8377.