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Phoenix symposium addresses problem gambling in military

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX – It’s just about time for college basketball’s March Madness. Millions of Americans get caught up in that madness and not everyone can gamble without running into issues.

Elise Mikkelsen is the head of the Arizona Department of Gaming Division of Problem Gambling and believes about 4 percent of Arizona adults have a problem with gambling.

“Gambling ranges from casino gambling, to playing the lottery to sports betting. There are people who will place bets on anything,” Mikkelsen said.

And it’s not only adults who can fall into problems with gambling. The national average age for children to start gambling is 10.

“Kids are betting personal items like toys and other things they hold dear. This is a very different environment from past generations,” Mikkelsen said.

A symposium Monday in Phoenix focused on how problem gambling affects our military personnel and their families.

“Veterans for example are 2-3 times more likely to be susceptible to problem gambling,” Mikkselsen said.

“That could be related to being under a lot of pressure and stress. Active military personnel are on bases overseas where they have access to slot machines as an avenue for entertainment.”

Mikkelsen said you see people with drug and alcohol issues and you can often detect there’s something going on.

With problem gambling, it’s usually not uncovered until people have lost it all.

“Until the spouse realizes they no longer have the savings that they did or that their 401(K) has been eliminated by their partners gambling,” Mikkelsen said.

“Not only do they have to deal with addiction issues, but in many cases it’s the home they’re going to lose and the money being gone. Problem gambling has the highest rate of suicide among all addictions.”

Arizona Department of Gaming provides and supports education, prevention and treatment programs for people and families affected by problem gambling.

There’s a 24-hour confidential helpline, 1-800-NEXT-STEP or they can text NEXTSTEP to 53342.

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