Kenyans seems to be quickly waking up to the reality of how serious pathological gambling has become in our society. In the recent past, we have seen a rise in reporting on suicides and domestic violence emanating from gambling addiction.

Some betting companies’ revenues are said to have overtaken banks and telecommunication companies in just a few years of operation. This abnormal growth curve should worry well-meaning Kenyans.

Therefore, the committee formed by Parliament to investigate the gambling industry for the sake of regulation is a welcome move that should not be given blanket criticism. The problem is what happens once some of our MPs use these committees for personal gratification.

When a committee to regulate tobacco industry was formed some years back, we know what happened. However, the will of Kenyans still prevailed and tobacco sale and advertising was regulated.

The industry needs a code for socially responsible advertising outside watershed hours. Stringent enforcement of legal age is needed particularly for gaming machines, such as coin pushers at family entertainment centers.

Kenya also need to develop uniform and strict regulatory controls on online gambling with a particular focus on consumer protection following the dramatic growth of online gaming the last few years.

Given that gambling addiction result in a mental disorder and has serious negative socio-economic impacts to the society, a fixed percentage of their gambling revenue should go to a national education campaign on gambling and to agencies that assist and rehabilitate problem gamblers.

It is important to note that not all gamblers get addicted and that gambling is legal in most countries.  But just like alcohol, moderation is vital. The problem is when one gets addicted and loses his control over the impulse to gamble leading to an illness called gambling disorder.

That is why we need regulation in the sector to minimize its negative impacts, as we did with alcohol and tobacco. Both cause a similar mental disorder and have similar negative impacts in the society.

What Kenyans have not fully appreciated is that the problem with gambling is not just about losing money. Pathological gambling can affect a person’s whole life – family, education, career and social relationship.

Your gambling is a problem when it gets in the way of work, school or other activities, harms your mental or physical health, hurts you financially, damages your reputation, causes problems with your family or friends.

Most people with gambling problems say they have lost control over how much time and money they spend gambling. Meanwhile, they ignore other important responsibilities. They know they have problems, but only gambling seem important.

The latest version of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) of the American Psychiatric Association's now recognizes pathological gambling as an addictive type of mental disorder. It falls in the same diagnostic criteria with substance use disorders.

Most treatment recommended for problem gambling involves counseling, step-based programs, self-help, peer-support, medication, or a combination of these. 

There are many online tools that you can use to test whether you have a gambling addiction or not. Search for a few and test yourself, or go directly to a doctor if you feel gambling is affecting you negatively.

Counselling can also help you to gain control over your gambling, put your finances in order, heal family relationships, deal with your urge to gamble, get your life back in balance and avoid slipping back.

However, like most people with addiction problems, you are most likely in denial that you have a problem and fear being stigmatized if people know that you are already addicted.

But there is some good news. PDO has launched a free mobile App called Trustcircle to help people who want to get help with addictions, anonymously. Try it as well.

 

 

The Author is the Founder/CEO of Psychiatric Disability Organization, which campaigns for compassion and support to people suffering from mental illnesses including addictions. He can be reached on:  [email protected] Website: http://www.pdokenya.org/ Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/Psychiatricdisability/