Ovidiu Iosif, Executive Director of the Responsible Gambling Association shared with the readers of Casino Inside magazine the plans and activities that the organization he leads has for the last part of this year. We also discussed the new direction in which the Association is heading: several prevention and education projects and the transformation of AJR into a centre of excellence, repository of know-how in the treatment of gambling addiction.
Mr Iosif, what news does the Responsible Gambling Association have?
First of all, a paradigm shift. We are putting more and more emphasis on prevention and education and we are proving it through new programmes and projects that we have designed and – some of them – already started. I am referring here, first and foremost, to the training programme for industry employees on managing problem gamblers and preventing gambling addiction, which has passed the pilot phase and is now being implemented. The feedback we received from employees who participated in these training courses is relevant to us. For example: “The training module is very interesting and practical for general problems. The trainers make the course seem very easy to understand and memorize”, “The information is interesting and interactive”, “A very enjoyable experience, very good and valuable information was presented”. This autumn we are starting another series of sessions dedicated to employees, series 3 and 4, from 28 September to 31 October, and our intention is that these courses will soon be available online to employees all over the country.
In addition to the Trained when Coming of Age programme – now in its sixth year – we have developed, and has already been accepted for funding, the project “Browsing Safely: Preventing gambling addiction, technology and combating bullying among young people”. It is a project funded by the City Hall of Sector 2 Bucharest, which will have a major contribution in the area of education of students, adolescents, parents and teachers in Sector 2 on all three levels mentioned: gambling addiction, technology and bullying. And since I brought up Sector 2, I would also like to underline the very good collaboration we have with the School Inspectorate of Sector 2 Bucharest. Last autumn we approached this institution – as we have done in other sectors of the capital and in other counties – with a request to facilitate access to the educational programme “Trained when Coming of Age” in high schools in the sector. They accepted and opened the doors of the high schools in Sector 2 and this year we have reached the limit of more than 3200 students that Dr Cristian Andrei has been talking to in order to educate and prevent possible gambling problems. They take a keen interest in all education and prevention projects.
What happens to the classic programs, especially those dedicated to psychological counseling and combating gambling addiction?
The programmes dedicated to this level, Responsible Gambling, 24/7 Counselling and the Trained when Coming of Age education programme will continue their journey. We have observed for this first half of the year slightly increased volumes compared to previous years: As I said before, in the school year 2022-2023, we reached about 3200 students from 26 high schools (Bucharest, Valcea and Vrancea). At the Responsible Gambling Call Center, the call number 3000 was recently registered (I should mention that out of the 3000 calls, only a little over 800 were applications for the program), and in the 24/7 Counseling program, also recently, we passed the threshold of 16,000 chat interventions since the beginning of 2019.
The Support Group program has also come of age and we are happy to see that our work in solving gambling problems is paying off. Here are some of the messages we receive from beneficiaries, whether they are players or tutors, relatives, friends: “One year after joining the support group I feel amazing and see what major progress I have made. My self-esteem and confidence are back and I can do things that seemed impossible before. The group and the whole process were decisive factors in my rehabilitation” or “In September 2021 I turned to the Responsible Gambling Association and since then, with the guidance of psychologists and my 100% involvement I managed to get rid of my gambling addiction”.
Only one goal remains unfulfilled: the materialization of financial support from the ONJN, in terms of dedicated support for players who have exceeded their limits, but we remain optimistic in this regard as well.
As you can see, we have modified our strategy a bit, we have set out to become a centre of excellence, a repository of know-how in all treatment methods, but what is certain is that scaling up at national level cannot be done without support from state institutions.
Please tell us more about the project funded by the City Hall of Sector 2? I think we’re talking about an industry first.
That’s right. This is a novelty for us too. In May, the City Hall of Sector 2 opened a call for projects to NGOs and others, with a total budget of 3,000,000 lei, divided into four dimensions: sport, education, environment and social. They set budgets of 750,000 lei for each area, maximum 150,000 lei per project. Having more and more requests from the high schools we have reached in the last year to come up with discussions similar to the ones we had during the Majority Coaching sessions, but also on technology addiction and bullying, we convened our whole team of specialists and proposed a social project with these three themes. “Browsing safely: prevention of addiction to gambling, technology and combating bullying among young people”, with a total value of 125,000 lei of which the City Hall will support 112,500 lei, i.e. 90% of the project budget.
Within the project we will develop three modules on preventing bullying, technology addiction and gambling addiction and a fourth one regarding how can we build a healthy society. Together with a team of 14 psychologists and specialists, we will reach parents and students in Sector 2 with this concept, on two levels, simultaneously: 10 conferences and 100 sessions for students, at class level, in the supervision class. The project must be completed by the end of October in order for the grant to be budgeted in 2023. In August we prepared the curricula, a website dedicated to the project and an informative brochure, and in September and October we will be reaching out intensively to more than 1000 adults and more than 2500 pupils from grades 7, 8, 9 and 10. This ability of the Responsible Gambling Association to make a proposal with both valences (qualitative – through the content of the curriculum and quantitative – through the training of a significant number of professionals) was the decisive factor in our proposal being accepted for funding.