Gambling treatment courts the next step

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

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Dear Editor,

With recent talks about casino gambling, and as Jamaica continues to expand its opportunities for gaming, I would like to seize the moment to encourage us to also invest in the most dynamic and innovative treatment approaches for the few who already have and those who will develop gambling-related problems as a result of exposure and involvement.

A gambling disorder falls under the category of an addiction and has been clearly established as a disease, with specific criteria for diagnosis as well as course of treatment. Let me make it clear, however, that worldwide the data reveals that gambling disorders within populations range from one per cent to five per cent depending on the continent, culture and gambling opportunities. These rates, though apparently low, still have far-reaching effects, as for every person with a gambling-related issue there are at least eight to 10 family members affected, including children.

As a team member of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission-sponsored RISE Responsible Gaming Programme, the only gambling prevention and treatment programme in the English-speaking Caribbean, I am encouraging the powers that be to begin to explore the possibilities of a gambling treatment court system.

Just as we have Drug Treatment Courts in Jamaica that provide unique and critical services to individuals who are addicted to drugs and find themselves in problems with the law as a result. The action, if the cycle is to stop, must be rehabilitative and not punitive.

Gambling treatment courts have been established as far back as 2001 in the United States and serve as an effective tool for promoting the notion of therapeutic jurisprudence. These courts were established out of the increase in the number of gambling opportunities combined with an increase in the number of persons with gambling-related issues.

Clearly, the data shows that most people who gamble do not have a problem; however, for those who do, we must provide the cutting edge treatment processes that will yield the most positive outcomes.

We at RISE have begun to engage in treatment with individuals who have matters before the court that have come about as a result of their addiction to gambling. Unless the gambling addiction is arrested, the cycle of problems with the law will continue.

As Jamaica moves forward with the expansion of the gaming industry, we must continue to ensure that we create a safe and responsible environment for gaming to exist.

Richard Henry

RISE Life Management Services


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