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Welcome to the the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling
We understand the problem. We can help.

We are a private, non-profit health agency
dedicated to reducing the social, financial, and emotional costs of problem gambling.


Help for a gambling disorder


Do you feel that gambling may be a problem for you?

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Help for Professionals


Do you feel that gambling could be a problem for someone you’re helping?

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Help for Families


Do you feel someone you love might be gambling too much?

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Quick Gambling Facts

Gambling: 1a) to play a game for money or property, 1b) to bet on an uncertain outcome 2) to stake something on a contingency: take a chance
Gambling Disorder: or gambling addiction (formerly known as pathological gambling), is a persistent and recurrent problematic gambling behavior that causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning
Recent research has estimated the number of U.S. citizens who gamble, the number who met the criteria for having a clinical gambling disorder and also for those who have a gambling disorder but have not met the diagnostic criteria that would be considered "sub-clinical" or "problem gamblers."
  • Gambling rate: research has estimated that nearly 80% of the U.S. population has gambled during their lifetime.
  • Disordered Gambler rate: research has estimated that approximately 1% of the U.S. population have met the disordered gambler clinical criteria in their lifetime.
  • Problem gambler rate: research has estimated that approximately 2% have experienced sub-clinical problem gambling in their lifetimes. The Mass. Council recognizes that approximately 2-3% of the population has experienced disordered gambling in their lifetimes.
  • Disordered gambling in Massachusetts: based on national estimates, between 150,000 and 200,000 Massachusetts residents likely have experienced disordered gambling during their lifetimes.
Anyone can develop a problem with gambling, regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status. Though disordered gambling does not discriminate, research has shown that the following groups are more susceptible to the addiction of the disorder.
Higher Frequency of Gambling Disorder
  • Males
  • Single adults
  • Those exposed to gambling environments (friends and family who gamble)
  • Those who started to gamble at a younger age
  • Excitement-seeking personality traits
  • Childhood maltreatment
  • Parental gambling involvement
  • Gamblers who smoke cigarettes
  • Gamblers with alcohol or drug dependence
  • Gamblers with obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Gamblers with higher anxiety or depression
  • Gamblers with higher impulsivity and antisocial personality traits
  • Gamblers who report gambling on electronic gambling machines (e.g. slot machines)
  • College Students
  • In adults, frequency of online gambling has been associated with gambling problems
  • Internet gambling has also been associated with heavy alcohol consumption in adults.
  • Data suggest that internet gambling may be strongly associated with disordered gambling and other adverse measures in adults.
  • Adolescent Internet gamblers are more likely to exhibit at-risk disordered gambling behavior than non-Internet adolescent gamblers
Help for people experiencing problems with gambling, their family members, and the greater community is available:
  • The Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling operates a free, confidential Helpline (800-426-1234), and online chat.
  • The Mass. Council also provides a website geared towards teenagers: teensknowyourlimits.org
  • The Mass. Council trains clinicians and maintains a list of professionals who have earned their Massachusetts Problem Gambling Specialist Certificate (MA PGS).
  • The Massachusetts Department of Public Health funds treatment centers throughout the state.
  • Many people experiencing problems with gambling join Gamblers Anonymous (GA) or Bettors Anonymous (BA).
  • Spouses, significant others, and family members of people experiencing problems with gambling can attend Gam-Anon, a fellowship that meets to share experiences about living with a disordered gambler.
  • For more information or to have a packet of materials sent to you, please call the Mass. Council Helpline (800-426-1234), the business line (617-426-4554), e-mail the Council at info@masscompulsivegambling.org, or visit 190 High Street, Suite 5, Boston, MA 02110-3031

Latest News and Blog Posts


By Sasha C. Russell, Communications Specialist, Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling

Recently several Council staff members got together to view The Anonymous People. While the documentary did not discuss gambling disorder, the message is still relevant to the field of problem gambling and to people in recovery for gambling disorder.

As summarized on the website Many Faces 1 Voice (MF1V), “The Anonymous People is a feature documentary film about the 23.5 million Americans living in long-term recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. Deeply entrenched social stigma and discrimination have kept recovery voices silent and faces hidden for decades. The vacuum created by this silence has been filled by sensational mass media depictions of people in active addiction that continue to perpetuate a lurid public fascination with the dysfunctional side of what is a preventable and treatable health condition. Just like women with breast cancer, or people with HIV/AIDS, courageous addiction recovery advocates are starting to come out of the shadows to tell their true stories. The moving story of The Anonymous People is told through the faces and voices of the leaders, volunteers, corporate executives, and celebrities who are laying it all on the line to save the lives of others just like them. This passionate new public recovery movement is fueling a changing conversation that aims to transform public opinion, and finally shift problematic policy toward lasting recovery solutions.”

Though the film discussed the importance of sharing one’s recovery story to help break down societal stigmas about addiction, filmmaker, Greg Williams, was careful to not identify any individual as being part of a 12-step group, nor did he film inside any 12-step meetings. MF1V notes that, “The project team has deep respect and admiration for the long-standing, beautiful tradition of anonymity at the level of film. The project uses the lessons learned from The New Recovery Advocacy Movement to uphold this sacred trust, while presenting various perspectives of what this tradition means for people in recovery. It is an undeniable fact that recovery is bigger than any one particular pathway, and the issues we must overcome together are bigger than any single component of recovery.”

Communications Director, Margot Cahoon, connected the themes of the film to her own work at the Council. She explained, “As Communications Director, it is my job to make people understand what gambling disorder is, and to care about the cause. The best way to do this is by asking those in recovery to share personal experiences about how the disorder impacted them or their family members. Reporters from print, radio, and TV are always willing to tell these stories, but getting people to participate is a huge challenge.”

On a personal level, this film caused me to sit back and think about the people in my life that are struggling with various addictions. Unfortunately, the majority of people I know, even those in my own family, feel ashamed to discuss their problems and even their recoveries. They feel the brunt of the stigma and pressures that society places on people and families that are dealing with addiction. For example, in 2013 my uncle passed away as a result of a drug overdose. I suggested that everyone wear a purple ribbon, the symbol of overdose awareness, and that we pass them out to people who came to show their respect. My suggestion was denied because, “Then people will know.” The curious thing about that response was that the majority of people there, if not everyone, did know the truth. The truth remained as an unspoken elephant in the room, for fear that it would cause disgrace to a good man’s reputation. What people and society forgets, is that having an addiction, substance or non-substance, does not make someone a bad person.

The Mass. Council has a program called Wisdom Exchange. It is a collection of stories about problem gambling—stories of strength and triumph, stories that share experience, stories that remind us of what’s important and encourage us to persevere. We encourage people in recovery for gambling disorder, their loved ones, and professionals to share their stories so that we can all work together to break down the stigmas surrounding gambling addiction. However, it is very hard to get people to tell their stories, mostly due to fear, shame, or, in some cases, they’re worried about breaking the tradition of anonymity. As Margot puts it, “Addiction in general is stigmatized… gambling addiction maybe even more stigmatized. I understand how hard it is and how brave someone has to be to talk publicly about addiction.”

It takes a great deal of courage to begin the road to recovery no matter what pathway one takes or what beliefs one has about recovery. The film touched upon the tradition of anonymity. Margot continues, “The people interviewed in the movie seemed to feel that the tradition was misinterpreted over the years. In turn, they feel that anonymity has done a disservice to those struggling with addiction, and those working to build understanding and de-stigmatize the issue.”

The film provided a lot of insight into recovery. Program Specialist, Amanda Poggenburg, stated, “Anonymous People was a thought provoking movie. I particularly enjoyed the history behind the recovery movement. Learning about where it came from and the people behind it give hope to others in moving forward.”

Being in recovery herself, Intervention and Recovery Support Coordinator, Jodie Nealley, said, “This was a wonderful documentary! I found the parts about how being in recovery has been viewed and how those views have changed, thanks to the work of so many dedicated individuals, interesting and inspiring. I, personally, am proud of being in recovery and always have been. This film can now help others feel the same way.”

Should you have the chance to watch The Anonymous People, it is highly encouraged. If you are in recovery from gambling, or are a loved one or professional impacted by gambling disorder, and want to share your story, please contact Communications Specialist, Sasha C. Russell, at 857.383.3563. In the meantime, please check out past stories that have been shared through Wisdom Exchange.


Upcoming Events

  • Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling Training Institute

    The Mass. Council on Compulsive Gambling Training Institute’s goals are to increase the number of service providers in the treatment and service of gambling disorders; increase the community’s access to comprehensive and competent care; increase service and treatment delivery; to improve treatment outcomes.  The Mass. Council on Compulsive Gambling Training Institute provides a comprehensive delivery of gambling-specific trainings for social services providers in order to build the capacity of knowledge in the area of gambling disorders. The Training Institute meets from 3pm-7pm, once per week, for the following right Thursdays: Thursday, September 11, 2014, 3pm-7pm Thursday, September 18, 2014, 3pm-7pm Thursday, September 25, 2014, 3pm-7pm Thursday, October 2, 2014, 3pm-7pm Thursday, October 9, 2014, 3pm-7pm Thursday, October 16, 2014, 3pm-7pm Thursday, October 23, 2014, 3pm-7pm Thursday, October 30, 2014, 3pm-7pm At the conclusion of the eight-week training process, individuals will meet the MA PGS training standards and earn the certificate training requirements. The cost of the Training Institute covers the cost of CEUs and the MA PGS Application. CEUs - 32
  • Treating the Problem Gambler: Learning Interview Techniques and How to Assess Risks (Part 1)

    This training will explore effective engagement strategies in the clinical practice of gambling disorders. It will review interview techniques that allow for the establishment of a therapeutic alliance. This training will explore suicidal ideation and its relationship to gambling disorders as well as review treatment models. A case review and discussion will provide practical clinical insight into treating individuals experiencing gambling disorder.
  • Research Luncheon: Using Advances in Addiction Science to Understand, Assess, and Treat Gambling Problems

    Presenter: Sarah Nelson, Ph D, Associate Director of Research, Division on Addiction, Cambridge Health Alliance, Harvard Medical School In this training, Dr. Nelson will challenge the conventional wisdoms about addiction, gambling and gambling problems which will help participants to gain an understanding of how disordered gambling relates to other commonly used expressions of addiction.  Participants will learn about the strengths and weaknesses of different tools to screen and assess gambling problems and will be able to apply this knowledge to the treatment of gambling disorders. CEUs: 2