Bahamian Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands says many Bahamian families are being impacted by the effects of problem gambling which has become a significant public health issue in the country.
“For these persons, gaming or gambling has moved from an entertainment pastime to a full-fledged compulsive obsession,” Sands told a Problem Gambling and Addiction Awareness Month Seminar hosted by the Public Hospitals Authority and Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre (SRC), in conjunction with the Bahamas Gaming Operators Association on Monday.
Official health disorder
Sands said the American Psychiatric Association has classified problem gambling as an official disorder and this psychiatric/medical designation might suggest that problem gambling shares similar hallucinogenic characteristics with substance abuse disorders such as cocaine and heroin abuse.
He said recognizing the significance of the problem, the government here has committed to ensuring that individuals impacted by problem gambling, get the necessary help and assistance in order to make wise and responsible choices, while also receiving the assistance needed to overcome their gambling addiction.
Additionally, healthcare officials are working to integrate gambling addiction services into the existing SRC substance abuse program and other healthcare services programs in public and private institutions throughout the country.
“We are working to integrate gambling addiction services into the present, existing substance abuse program at Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre and other healthcare services programs in public and private institutions throughout the country.
“And so while I applaud responsible gaming partners such as The Bahamas Gaming Board and The Bahamas Gaming Operators Association for their efforts in educating the public on gaming or gambling responsibly, it is critical; it is essential that the public and private healthcare systems as well as other stakeholders do more to come to the aid of those suffering from this affliction.”
He said there is also a belief that there should be training programs for various stakeholders including counsellors, educators, allied health professionals and human resource professionals.
Sands said officials at the Ministry of Health are “keenly interested” in evidence-based best practices, gleaned from other jurisdictions worldwide, to create a model of care that works in the local context.