Texas Responsible Gambling

There are relatively few legal gambling options in Texas when compared to many other states. However, the need for responsible gambling and to help prevent and treat problem gambling is just as important in Texas as it is in places with more developed gambling industries.

There are gambling options in the Lone Star State. Texans can play the Texas Lottery, they can bet on horse races at multiple racetracks, and they can also gamble at a couple of tribal facilities. There are ongoing discussions as well about potentially expanding legal gambling in the state to include sports betting and even possibly commercial casinos. Additionally, Texans can travel to Louisiana, New Mexico, and Oklahoma to sample a wider range of legal gambling.

It’s vitally important, then, for those in Texas to know what it means to gamble responsibly and how to get help when gambling becomes problematic and destructive rather than fun and entertaining. Here is a rundown of some resources currently available in Texas for those seeking information about responsible gambling and help with problem gambling.

Texas resources for responsible and problem gambling

Texas is one of a handful of states that does not dedicate resources or funds to responsible gambling at this time. There are a few state-specific resources, but for the most part national organizations provide the bulk of the gambling-related information and support available to people in the state.

Texas Lottery Commission Play Responsibly program

The Texas Lottery Commission maintains its own program to promote responsible gambling, called Play Responsibly. Among its stated goals, the TLC’s program seeks to “provide educational opportunities and materials supporting the awareness of problem gambling and resources for assistance.”

Some of these materials are available via the lottery’s website. These include downloadable flyers and brochures on responsible gambling and problem gambling, responsible gambling training videos for counselors and links to national resources.

The Texas Lottery also abides by the restrictions on advertising in the State Lottery Act Sec. 466.110:

The legislature intends that advertisements or promotions sponsored by the commission or the division for the lottery not be of a nature that unduly influences any person to purchase a lottery ticket or number.”

That restriction includes a number of additional restrictions that aim to ensure advertising of the Texas Lottery conforms with the goal of promoting responsible gambling.

It’s worth noting that the Texas Lottery has no voluntary self-exclusion program by which problem gamblers can exclude themselves from playing the lottery.

University of Texas Counseling and Mental Health Center

The University of Texas offers counseling and other help to those suffering from or affected by problem and compulsive gambling at its Counseling and Mental Health Center on the Austin campus.

The center is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The CMHC also maintains a crisis line via which those seeking help can speak to a telephone counselor. The crisis line number is 512-471-2255.

The CMHC website additionally has an informative page outlining signs of problem gambling as well as guidance on how to diagnose it. There is also information about what to do if you believe a friend or family member has a gambling problem.

Sterling Center for Problem Gambling

The Sterling Center for Problem Gambling is a Houston-based treatment center affiliated with other state-run treatment programs that deal with many forms of self-abuse and addiction. The center provides behavioral therapy and counseling from licensed addiction therapists who have experience helping problem gamblers.

You can make appointments by visiting the center or by calling 281-907-9551.

Texas Gamblers Anonymous

Texans have another resource in Texas Gamblers Anonymous. Like the national organization with which it is affiliated (see below), TGA seeks to help Texans recover from problem gambling and/or help those who wish to stop gambling find a way to do so. TGA helps organize and run meetings in Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas/Fort Worth, and other locations in the state.

National resources for responsible and problem gambling

A number of national organizations offer responsible gambling assistance, as well:

  • Gamblers Anonymous: A virtual and in-person support group for people with compulsive gambling issues. As noted above, the Texas chapter has its own website, and you can also visit the national site to find meetings outside of the biggest metro areas in the state.
  • Gam-Anon: Same as above, but for the loved ones of people with compulsive gambling issues. Family members and friends often have to bear the social and financial costs of having an addict in their circles, and Gam-Anon enables people in situations like that to connect and support one another.
  • Gamtalk: An internet forum through which people with compulsive gambling issues can support one another. Gamtalk has the advantage of being available around the clock and seven days a week, which means you don’t have to wait for a meeting time to get help.
  • National Council on Problem Gambling Helpline: Via chat, text or phone at 800-522-4700, people with compulsive gambling issues can get information about counseling and other forms of treatment available in their areas. The NCPG has trained counselors available 24/7 to help put you in touch with the resources you need.

What is responsible gambling?

Responsible gambling can have different meanings depending on whether you are the one who is gambling or the one who is providing gambling to others.

When it comes to gambling providers, responsible gambling means offering fair and safe games to customers in a way that does not take advantage of those who are problem gamblers or who exhibit signs of becoming problem gamblers. Regulations require providers to follow many guidelines to promote responsible gambling in order to retain their gambling licenses, though responsible providers should go beyond just the minimum requirements.

Here are some of the measures providers can take to ensure they are promoting responsible gambling:

  • Making it possible (and easy) for gamblers to set personal betting limits and to self-exclude from gambling.
  • Making odds available and easy to understand.
  • Not extending credit to customers.
  • Opting not to advertise in ways that suggest gamblers are likely to make money off their play or ways that target at-risk gamblers.
  • Training staff to recognize signs of problem gambling and to prevent those who are visibly impaired by alcohol or drugs from gambling (as well as to prevent those who are underage from gambling).
  • Providing resources to gamblers where they can learn more about responsible gambling and find help with problem gambling.

For players, meanwhile, “responsible gambling” refers to a series of behaviors aimed at keeping gambling a fun activity and not a destructive force:

  • Making sure you understand the rules of the game and your odds prior to putting down your wager.
  • Always gambling with a clear head and avoiding gambling when angry, sad, depressed, emotional or even just a little out of sorts.
  • Setting limits both on the amount of money you gamble and the amount of time you spend doing so.
  • Not gambling after drinking alcohol or taking certain prescription medications if they can alter your judgment.
  • Gambling only with discretionary funds and not with money you need for other essential expenses.
  • Understanding that it is fine to seek help if you feel as though gambling might be becoming a problem for you.

What is problem gambling?

Much like responsible gambling, the term “problem gambling” has specific connotations both within the gambling industry and among health care providers and counselors trained to treat those who suffer from problem gambling.

Problem gambling can take many forms and doesn’t always manifest itself as obviously self-destructive addictive behavior. It’s true that sometimes problem gambling can introduce easy-to-spot dangers that threaten a person’s health and well-being. When a person’s gambling starts to impact his or her relationships or employment in conspicuous ways, it’s clear that person is suffering from problem gambling and is in need of help.

That said, sometimes problem gambling is more difficult to identify. Much as those who suffer from drug or alcohol misuse sometimes find ways to keep their addictions secret, so, too, can problem gamblers hide from others that gambling is having a negative impact on their lives. It is important to be aware of the signs of problem gambling so as to prevent even small issues from developing into bigger, more serious problems.

Knowing the signs of problem gambling can help friends and family recognize them in their loved ones. Having such awareness can also help individuals be aware of such issues arising in themselves. Here’s a list of some common symptoms of problem gambling ranging from the most conspicuous to the very subtle:

  • Becoming defensive about one’s gambling
  • Arguing with others about one’s gambling
  • Lying about one’s gambling or otherwise keeping others from knowing about it
  • Growing irritable or appearing unstable when not gambling
  • Letting gambling distract from other activities
  • Experiencing severe emotional swings such as euphoria or depression as a result of gambling
  • Failing to pay bills
  • Missing work or class frequently
  • Asking to borrow money from friends or family
  • Selling one’s possessions unexpectedly or engaging in other activities to raise money
  • Neglecting one’s diet, personal hygiene or health

Importance of responsible gambling in Texas

Even if there aren’t many legal gambling options in Texas, that doesn’t make it any less urgent for the state to provide resources to people whom gambling negatively affects.

If Texas were to expand legal gambling by authorizing sports betting or another form of gambling, chances are good the state would also expand services to help promote responsible gambling and prevent and treat problem gambling. That could include introducing voluntary self-exclusion and self-restriction programs like you might find in other states where more forms of gambling are legal.

Regardless, keep this page bookmarked, and if you or someone close to you is suffering due to gambling, don’t wait to get help. Reach out to one of the resources above, and start your journey back to a healthier lifestyle.