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An Interview With Cause Marketing Expert On Gambling Addiction: Part III

We’re thrilled you made it to part III of our conversation with Alessandro Ciaffoncini, President of Origo Branding and subject matter expert on gambling prevention. He discusses the development, success, and longevity of two key campaigns in Ohio: Change the Game Ohio and Get Set Before You Bet.

MCADAMHS: It seems like just seeing content and resources on social media surrounding gambling addiction shows people that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It shows them that there are different paths they can take to improve.

Alessandro: Exactly. A lot of people who hear about recovery resources available reach out. And a good part of the professional treatment and recovery community is that it is not uncommon to find professionals who are in recovery themselves and can relate. They understand the motivations, understand the mindset, and know that these people are all in different stages of their journey. They do an incredible job getting them the help they need once they identify a red flag. 

One small red flag is all it takes. Once our recovery professionals see that red flag, they jump at the opportunity to start a conversation with that individual. Only skilled professionals know how to make a positive change. The [Change The Game Ohio] and [Before You Bet] campaigns help to provide the channels that individuals need to get answers on how to address problem gambling for themselves or someone they love.

The Main Takeaway of Change The Game Ohio

The most important takeaway of [Change The Game Ohio] is the idea that gambling is happening all around kids and teens these days, and it is in forms we never expected. More importantly, youth and their parents may not have any idea that they are engaging in gambling activities. The first component of the campaign is the awareness that it exists. And it’s not that there’s problem gambling; it’s that gambling is happening, and there are risks involved. Awareness will help adults know how to make a difference and become positive role models in the lives of youth, helping them stay on the right path.

To help make a difference in the lives of youth is to understand that gambling activities are happening now at home, at school, on their devices, and pretty much anywhere kids or teens are experiencing life. It’s important to know the different forms of gambling that youth are experiencing and what the long-term consequences can be. It’s important that parents recognize the signs. Here’s a poignant statistic: 

Children introduced to gambling before the age of 12 are four times more likely to develop problems in the future. 

Many gaming apps are marketed to young adults because they know that are a very susceptible, vulnerable audience. Companies also know that their parent’s credit cards are stored in the phone that they’re letting them borrow and parents don’t always check those $5 charges – so it often goes unnoticed.

The Tone of Change The Game Ohio

MCADAMHS: Education for parents is obviously very important. Can you talk a little bit about the messaging you used in this campaign to alert the audience of the dangers of gambling?

Alessandro: After speaking with many teens and their parents through focus groups, we’ve recognized that with this campaign, you must be straightforward. [Teens] are very aware of their surroundings, and they’re very intelligent. Don’t try trickery. Don’t try speaking down to them because they will appreciate the direct information. Teens appreciate being informed.

Parents also want more facts and knowledge; there always must be a sense of urgency to an issue. You’ll see [urgency] in any of our campaigns. Because this campaign is focused on children, it’s about focusing on the positive outcome we want to produce. This includes advocating for education and responsible behaviors, rather than shaming bad behaviors, as that is a way to turn away youth. 

I would imagine that every parent’s goal is to have their kids feel like they’re able to talk to them about anything; to always be honest; to never feel like they’re going to be judged about bringing those items up. Having a negative tone builds a barrier and breaks that trust. 

Through Change The Game Ohio, we offer a lot of messaging and conversation tools to teach parents how to talk about these topics. These resources provide methods to educate the youth in their lives, helping adults teach them about some of the things they don’t know about, including how to make responsible decisions when it comes to their online gaming and other activities. By speaking at their level, rather than speaking down to them, the messaging can be more impactful when connecting with youth. And that goes with any kind of behavior change and marketing initiative. 

Breaking The Stigma

We need to break the stigma that addiction is a choice. Rather it’s a real health issue. It’s a disease. It happens in the brain. And it should be treated as a health illness.

We want people to know that these are issues that should be treated as any other illness. If someone does have a gambling problem, others should have empathy that comes with any other illness. Our campaigns are meant to break the stigma that it’s a choice. Addiction is a hard life. No one chooses to be tired and exhausted all the time, or stressed, anxious, and depressed. It’s a disease and should be treated with empathy and clinical care. 

When it comes to Before You Bet, we want people who have a problem with gambling not to feel shame but feel that it’s okay and that they’re not alone.  Negative messaging and lecturing are not the tone that we ever want to take in our campaigns. We want individuals to know that there are resources to help, and there’s always time to recover.

And what do I wish people knew about gambling? I think it’s that many people can fall victim to problem gambling. The same type of seriousness should be applied as though it were a drug or alcohol addiction. Maybe because gambling is legalized, or it’s glorified in movies, like James Bond at the poker table, it’s not taken as seriously. They have the little gambling games at church festivals and high school dances, and it’s considered fun, right? These may be some of the factors that lead people to not look at problem gambling as a serious disease.

There’s often mental illness involved with gambling addiction. Stats show that:

  • 24% of individuals with gambling disorders had a lifetime prevalence of bipolar disorder. 
  • 38% have contemplated suicide. 
  • 76% suffer from depression.
  • 34% struggle with anxiety. 

It’s a serious issue. A large majority of the population can gamble without experiencing negative consequences. Well, that doesn’t mean you should forget about the other part of the population that does suffer from very serious consequences and outcomes from those types of addictions. So, what do I wish more people knew about? It’s mostly about breaking that stigma that problem gambling is not a choice, but a health issue that is to be taken seriously and with empathy, and that there are resources for individuals to get the help and treatment they need.

View Parts I and II of this series!