From church bingo to illegal dogfighting, researchers want to hear from gamblers to study addiction …

Addiction treatment specialists are asking for gamblers’ two cents as they try to get a handle on how big an issue problem gambling is across Illinois.

State-contracted researchers on Wednesday pushed an online survey targeting residents who regularly lay wagers on anything from bingo and lottery games to slot machines and sports betting apps — legally or otherwise, including underground dogfighting and cockfighting.

The anonymous survey is part of a statewide assessment of gambling addiction being conducted through the Illinois Department of Human Services, which aims to connect problem gamblers with counselors.

Nationally, an estimated 3% of the population deal with gambling problems, but it’s hard to say if that applies in Illinois because the issue hasn’t been studied at the state level in more than 20 years.

A recovering sports gambling addict reads his favorite passages from ‘A Day at a Time’ a book by Gamblers Anonymous last month.

A recovering sports gambling addict reads his favorite passages from ‘A Day at a Time’ a book by Gamblers Anonymous last month.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Illinois gambling has changed a lot over that period, especially with a 2019 gambling expansion law that promises to add thousands of slot machines and a handful of new casinos to a state that already offers more places to bet than Las Vegas.

There’s now action to be had anywhere a cellphone signal can reach, thanks to the advent of online sports betting, while calls to the state’s gambling disorder hotline have more than doubled over the past two years.

That’s a concern for experts who agree addiction follows opportunity, but “data about the impact of at-risk and problem gambling in the state of Illinois are very limited,” according to Hannah Carliner of Health Resources in Action. The Boston-based public health research firm is spearheading the $500,000 study that was mandated with Illinois’ latest gaming expansion.

“We are particularly interested in including the voices of vulnerable populations or those marginalized due to race, culture or socio-economic disparities,” Carliner said during the Illinois Gaming Board’s meeting for March, which is designated as Problem Gambling Awareness Month.

Gamblers play poker in the casino at the WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Oklahoma, in 2019.

Gamblers play poker in the casino at the WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Oklahoma, in 2019.
Sue Ogrocki/AP file

Researchers want to hear from people who consider themselves “frequent” gamblers, even if they don’t consider it a problem.

The survey takes about 10-15 minutes to complete. Participants who choose to provide an email address can receive a $30 e-gift card. Responses are confidential.

To take part, visit bit.ly/ILGamblingSurvey, which is a case-sensitive address.

Officials say they’ll release a report on the study this summer.

For more information on problem gambling support, call 1-800-GAMBLER or text “ILGAMB” to 53342.

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