Among those affected by problem gamblers and in a position to offer help and assistance, lottery staff and lottery retailers are often overlooked. However, thanks to new training videos produced jointly by lotteries across North America, more people will be able to help gamblers in need.

Separate videos address the needs of two distinct audiences: lottery staff who answer the phones and those who administer the lottery at retail locations. The goal is to train staff on how to be comfortable taking the first step in getting someone the help they need.

The videos are a joint project of the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries and the National Council on Problem Gambling. The original concept came from the North Carolina Lottery and the videos were produced by the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling with additional input provided by the Minnesota Lottery.

The 20-minute video for lottery staff depicts three different scenarios: 1) responding to a phone call from the spouse of a gambler, 2) a lottery employee discussing a problem gambler with a retailer, and 3) a visitor to the lottery office who becomes abusive and violent.

“Fortunately, these situations are not common,” says Don Feeney, research and planning director at the Minnesota Lottery and Northstar board member, “but when they occur, we want staff to feel comfortable knowing how to handle them and how to get someone appropriate help.” The video was shown to all lottery staff at an August meeting, which included a question and answer period with Northstar Executive Director Cathie Perrault. The video will also be shown to every new lottery employee.

“It’s frightening for people to be on a call with someone who is potentially suicidal and to fear that they’ll say something that would make the situation worse,” says Don. Staff are encouraged to be good listeners and to have resources nearby that can help the caller, such as the state problem gambling helpline number or information from Northstar.

A second, shorter video targets lottery retailers who may be apprehensive about how to handle a customer they feel is gambling excessively. The video displays a scene where a customer walks into a store showing signs of difficulties. Options are presented for how a sales clerk can handle the situation.

The retailer videos are distributed to the retailer via the lottery’s website. Lottery sales reps also take them to stores or encourage staff to look at them. With approximately 3,000 retailers and multiple employees at each retailer, the reach of the videos is significant. The retailer video can be viewed at www.mnlottery.com/retailers (click on “Problem Gambling” link)

“As a group, we want to ensure that the lottery is a fun recreational pursuit,” says Don. “By providing this training, we’ll be better able to identify individuals who are in distress from their gambling and who can benefit from outside assistance.”