NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Opening Plenary: Welcome and Town Hall

Opening the first session of the 2007 NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction, NCRG Chairman Phil Satre welcomed nearly 400 attendees from 14 countries around the world and introduced attendees to this year’s conference theme, Responsible Gaming, Regulation and Recovery: Testing Conventional Wisdom. Satre also emphasized that today’s opening session was about hearing attendees voices and opinions.

Dr. Howard Shaffer, director of the Division on Addictions, echoed that message as he told the crowd that today’s opening session would be the first instant response session the NCRG Conference has ever featured. “This is a risky session,” said Shaffer, “It’s unscripted, which means it will require your participation. We are interested in your ideas.”

Before beginning the instant response portion of the session, Shaffer first spoke about the definition of conventional wisdom. Broadly, conventional wisdom in any belief that is widely held and considered unchallengeable, he said. Conventional wisdom has at times kept people from thinking of or considering new and alternative views.

Shaffer pointed out that in youthful fields such as the addictions, “we have to make time to identify our underlying assumptions and test them.” He likened this process to a cold shower – “it can be uncomfortable, but it’s necessary.” According to Shaffer, this conference is organized to provide attendees with a “cold shower” by challenging their own beliefs, beginning with their participation in this town hall session.

Armed with individual keypads, session attendees first answered questions about their occupations and home countries. Based on the responses, 24 percent are in the health care industry, 24 percent are in academic research, 27 percent are in the gaming industry, 14 percent are in government and 12 percent are in other fields. Shaffer called this an interesting and important distribution of participants because it is essential for all stakeholder parties to come to the table to reduce gambling-related harms, and the responses show this conference is providing a forum for these parties to meet. Attendees hailed from the United States (69 percent), Canada (15 percent), Europe (7 percent), Asia (2 percent), Australia (2 percent) and other countries (5 percent).

Shaffer then proceeded with asking attendees to answer several questions about addiction and gambling disorders, emphasizing that these questions, and the conventional truths surrounding them, will be examined in several of the conference sessions occurring over the next few days. These questions – and the attendees’ responses (shown as percentages at the left of the answer selection)– are detailed below:

1. Between 50 and 85 percent of people with an addictive disorder eventually seek formal treatment. What is the main reason that people avoid seeking addiction treatment?
- 5% - Stigma
- 3% - Lack of medical insurance, money
- 6% - Perception of addictive treatment as ineffective
- 26% - Denial
- 58% - All of the above
- 2% - Other

2. About 80 to 90 percent of individuals entering recovery from addiction will relapse during the first year after treatment. What does the high rate of relapse among disordered gamblers tell us about the disorder?
- 5% - It shows that once an addict, always and addict
- 47% - It shows how difficult it is to recover
- 9% - It shows that people with a gambling problem need to be in treatment
- 33% - It shows that addiction runs a chronic course
- 6% - Other

3. Does the introduction of new gambling opportunities lead to more gambling problems in a community?
- 42% - Yes
- 8% - No
- 14% - Yes, but only at first
- 13% - Yes, but only gradually
- 23% - Sometimes
***Shaffer pointed out that the idea that new gambling opportunities lead to more gambling problems is considered conventional wisdom, but that there isn’t always science to back up this belief. This question will be examined more closely in the session following the opening plenary, titled Does Exposure to New Gambling Lead to Gambling Problems: A Case Study from Canada.

4. Does your state/provincial or regional government have an initiative to reduce gambling-related harms
- 78% - Yes
- 22% - No
***Shaffer noted that 10 years ago, never would have seen a response like this one, and said he would argue that it has to do with the science that has been published in this time.

5. For those who said yes, how would you rate those efforts?
- 5% - Excellent
- 37% - Good
- 35% - Fair
- 23% - Poor

6. Are older adults who gamble more vulnerable to developing a gambling problem than the general adult population?
- 29% - Yes
- 32% - No
- 40% - Sometimes

7. How many people in the U.S adult population had a severe past-year gambling problem in 1977?
- 27% - Zero to one percent
- 42% - One to two percent
- 20% - Three to five percent
- 4% - Six to eight percent
- 6% - Much higher
***Shaffer pointed out that research on the prevalence of a severe past-year gambling problem in 1977, before gaming proliferated into several new jurisdictions – shows the prevalence was 0.77 percent.

8. How many people in the U.S adult population had a severe past-year gambling problem between 2001 and 2003?
- 11% - Zero to one percent
- 35% - One to two percent
- 33% - Three to five percent
- 14% - Six to eight percent
- 7% - Much higher
***According to Shaffer, research shows that the prevalence rate for a severe past-year gambling problem during this time was actually 0.6 percent.

9. The rate of pathological gambling in the United States is closest to the rate of the following disorder?
- 25% - Schizophrenia (Prevalence rate: 1.1 percent)
- 26% - Excessive shopping (Prevalence rate: 1.0 percent)
- 17% - Kleptomania (Prevalence rate: 1.1 percent)
- 24% - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (Prevalence rate: 1.0 percent)
- 7% - Marijuana use disorder (Prevalence rate: 1.45 percent)
***The prevalence rates to the right of the disorders were revealed to the participants after their answers were recorded. Shaffer pointed out that the prevalence rates for all of these disorders are all close to 1 percent, but that while the U.S. government provides significant funding and resources in all these areas (except for, perhaps, excessive shopping), the same resources are not afforded pathological gambling research and treatment.

Several of these questions will be examined throughout the conference. Be sure to check out our ongoing conference blog coverage to see how conventional wisdom is tested and what the latest research reveals.


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