A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Annual conference to examine gaming, gambling issues this week at Clarion Hotel in Lexington

Gaming is big business. Millions of people play video games, which can be online or internet-based.

Many participate in tournaments, some of which are staged in arenas before thousands of spectators. A growing body of research suggests the line between gaming entertainment and gambling is increasingly blurred.

Whether gaming is gambling will be explored in depth at the 23rd annual Educational and Awareness Conference presented by the Kentucky Council on Problem Gambling (KYCPG) at the Clarion Hotel in Lexington to be held this Thursday and Friday. The conference is primarily an opportunity for behavioral health professionals and prevention specialists to learn more about problem and addicted gambling behavior, but it is open to anyone who wishes to know more about gaming, gambling and problem gambling.

Registration and further information on the conference may be found on the KYCPG website at www.kycpg.org.

The definition of gambling is placing something of value at risk with the permanent result determined at least in part by chance. Gambling includes games involving skill like poker, horse race wagering, sports betting and gaming, not just activities of blind chance like lotteries, slot machines and bingo.

Gaming, which involves a level of implied risk, can be enjoyed without money involved. However, several games involve a fee to participate, and winners can receive a financial reward. More to the point of gambling, many allow the purchase of enhancements (known as loot boxes) that offer the potential to increase the chance of winning. Whatever the result, there is no do-over.

In particular, the risk of purchasing a loot box elevates gaming to gambling, researchers explain. The purchase of the uncertain contents of the loot box causes excitement and anticipation similar to the experience of a gambler placing a bet.

“Over the course of the past 30 years or so, American society has normalized gambling behavior,” KYCPG Executive Director Michael R. Stone said. “All but two states have some form of legal gambling. Super Bowl Sunday has become synonymous with gambling, as has the annual NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Lotteries have proliferated, and it is difficult to find a school booster club that does not use some form of raffle or bingo for fundraising.

“The latest survey data showed 78 percent of Kentucky adults gambled in the past year. We’ve become accepting of gambling behavior. For most adults, it’s merely another form of entertainment, but the popularity of gaming and the potential for risk-taking, among youth could lead to troubling issues of problem gambling in the future. KYCPG urges that appropriate warnings about the possible addictive nature of gambling be widely provided to the public, both young and old.”

The KYCPG conference will explore these issues at the conference. Keynoting the conference is Jon Grant, M.D., J.D., Professor, University of Chicago, who is a leading researcher on the brain chemistry of gambling. He will examine the links between gaming and gambling. Daniel Trolaro, Deputy Director, Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, will survey current gaming and gambling applications, note similarities, and consider future impacts.

“For those interested in providing a healthy environment for youth and safe participation for adults, the conference is a prime learning opportunity,” Stone said. For more information, he can be reached at kmstone1951@gmail.com or at (502) 223-1823.

If you or someone you know may have a gambling problem, please contact 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-425-2536) by call or text to interact with a trained counselor. Information on problem and addicted gambling and referral to Gamblers Anonymous or a certified gambler counselor is available.

From Kentucky Council on Problem Gambling

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