A New Escape

By: Bruce Jones

Over the years we’ve seen (and written about) many people who took on gambling to distract themselves, or escape, from their lives.

Often, this happens without the gambler even fully realizing it… They’ve lost family members or a spouse, are going through a divorce or difficulties at work, or are struggling with other addictions.

For most clients I see that fit one of these descriptions, they previously gambled without problems, but now can’t escape what was meant to just be a momentary distraction.

Recently, we’ve noticed an uptick in a new type of escape gambler: Non-native English speakers.

Central Ohio, of course, has a long history of being a destination for those arriving in the United States. Think of Columbus’ many neighborhoods, like German Village & Italian Village for example. More recently, according to the 2019 Global Report from the Columbus Council on World Affairs, about 8% of the City’s total population is foreign born.

And, when learning a new language or a new city, it’s common to find an escape in something more familiar. The language of things like dice, playing cards, roulette wheels and slot machines is universal.

The thing I hear most often from clients in these circumstances is that they initially felt alienated in their new environment. They hadn’t yet established a circle of friends and turned to places like the casino for comfort.

The casinos, for their part, are very much tailored to different cultures. They offer the same games that someone may have learned back home, not to mention the dining options are worldwide, too.

What’s common from that point is for the previously alienated individual to find friend groups within the casino and, thus, not in a potentially healthier environment. The New York Times profiled one such instance of this last year.

For some, it can simply spiral from there. I’ve seen several folks get into legal trouble, one even signing-up for voluntary exclusion while not understanding what it meant (then getting a trespass charge).

Ideally, our team at Maryhaven can be involved before it comes to police and court involvement. But in any circumstance, our focus is on helping the individual understand the impact of gambling on their life and identify steps to make needed change.

One of the things I like most about my work is making an actual connection with someone at a time when they need it the most—and then giving them the tools they need to make connections with family and friends that will lead to a more balanced life.

Have questions yourself? Start by using this simple 5-question survey. If you answered ‘yes’ to any of those questions, please know that our experts are here to talk. We specialize in helping both the gambler and those who love someone who may gamble too much. Call 614-324-5425 or message us on our Contact page for more information.

About the Author

Bruce Jones

Administrative Coordinator LSW, LCDC III, NCGC II

Bruce is a Licensed Social Worker (LSW) and a Nationally-Certified Gambling Counselor Level II who has worked for Maryhaven since 2000. He saw the need for gambling services in Central Ohio in 2009 and asked Maryhaven to apply for a private grant from the Columbus Foundation to target help to those struggling with gambling addiction. The state then supplied funding after his vision was verified with the amount of clients seeking services that first year and Bruce has been working with individuals, family members, and communities ever since.


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