by Margot Cahoon, Communications Director, The Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling 

Last week, I had the opportunity to travel to Orlando, Florida to attend the National Council on Problem Gambling’s 28th National Conference on Problem Gambling: Pathways to New Possibilities. The staff and volunteers from both the National Council and the Florida Council were wonderful. They were professional, well-organized and accommodating, all helping to make for a top notch experience.

More than 450 people were present at the event – networking, sharing resources, and learning about the latest advancements in gambling disorder prevention, research, recovery, and treatment. I saw old friends, met new contacts, and learned new strategies and ideas that I hope to implement in Massachusetts.

I felt honored to be among 100 other presenters, all of whom were sharing their experiences, as well as teaching about exciting programs that are being conducted in their states. The keynote addresses were inspiring. We learned more about the changes in the evaluation of the gambling disorder diagnosis in the DSM-5, stigmas surrounding treatment, 25 years of youth gambling research, and from strong individuals who shared their personal stories of recovery.

As a communications professional who is admittedly a bit of a geek when it comes to communications technologies that modernize the way that we share information, I was drawn to the breakout sessions that focused on Internet gambling, video games as they do and do not pertain to gambling, and the use of e-therapy and texting in treatment.

The breakout session that I enjoyed the most was App’rehensive: How Lines Have Blurred Between Games & Gaming, and How to Protect our Most Vulnerable. It was presented by Julie Hynes, MA, CPS, Senior Community Health Analyst at Lane County Public Health in Oregon.  She questioned whether our definition of gambling was “blurring.” She asked and answered, “Are youth at-risk for disordered gambling by merely playing a free poker app?” “Is a person in recovery at-risk by playing online social media games?” These thought provoking questions included examining parallels between the activities and gambling, identifying at-risk populations, and sharing tools to reduce risk. You can download Julie’s presentation here.

All in all, I feel grateful that I had the opportunity to attend this great annual conference, and energized by the information I learned and the contacts I made. Special thanks to the National Council and Florida Council staff members and volunteers.

Next year’s conference will be July 10-11 in beautiful Baltimore. I look forward to seeing you all there!