Dear Community Partners and Friends,
Happy New Year!
I’ve just completed my first three months as Executive Director of the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling, and I wanted to reach out to introduce myself and thank each and every one of you for your past and continuing support of our critical mission of generating awareness, promoting education, and advocating for quality treatment of problem gambling in the State of Nevada. As a person in long-term recovery from a gambling disorder, and as someone who has been involved in significant community advocacy on this issue for more than a decade, I am humbled and honored to have received the support of the Board of Directors in assuming this leadership role moving forward. Our recently elected Board of Directors and appointed Advisory Board members bring a wealth of knowledge from industry, treatment, research, government, education, and the recovery community to help guide me and the Council into the future. Please join me in welcoming them!
As an affiliate of the National Council on Problem Gambling, the Nevada Council is completely neutral on legalized gambling. However, there are many new challenges emerging across the regulated gambling landscape that require the Council’s attention and involvement. The increasing “gamblification” of video games brings with it the concern that more and more children and adolescents are being exposed to pathways that make it more likely they will migrate from video games to gambling activities, with a corresponding heightened risk of developing gaming and/or gambling problems. Increased education and awareness for both students and parents is key to helping reduce these risks, and the Council has developed a program to help build awareness in this arena within schools and other community organizations.
Similarly, sports betting is experiencing increased involvement not only amongst adults, but also amongst adolescents and emerging adults who are not yet of legal age to gamble. While sports wagering has been legal in Nevada for over 75 years, the Supreme Court decision in 2018 that has led to the legalization of sports wagering in 38 states plus Washington, DC in just the past 5 and a half years has had significant impacts (both positive and negative) not only in those jurisdictions but also here in Nevada. Where once one had to be on casino property to engage in sports betting, anyone of age can now engage in legal sports betting activities on their phone from any location in the state of Nevada. This increased accessibility, coupled with a huge increase in national advertising for sportsbooks and daily fantasy sports (currently regulated as gambling in Nevada but without any current licensees in the state) has exposed more young people than ever before to opportunities that exist to gamble on sports, even though they themselves are often not yet of legal age to gamble. Viewing of these sporting events, whether in person, on TV, or video-stream are often family events. However, parents are generally ill-equipped to have conversations with their kids about why these activities should be confined to adults of legal age. Combine all these factors with the advent of many new and coming top-level professional sports franchises in Las Vegas and the resulting fan passion and excitement of supporting a home-town team, and you have a number of areas where education and awareness activities from the Council are needed.
I’m excited to announce that we will be rolling out a Student-Athlete Gambling Awareness (SAGA)TM program funded by a grant from the National Council on Problem Gambling to students in several southern Nevada High Schools this semester to begin to address some of the gaps in awareness mentioned above. It is my hope that the Council will also ultimately develop relationships with each of the local professional sports franchises either individually or collectively to enhance our outreach to teams, their players and staff, and their fan bases about safer gambling and problem gambling.
Finally, while Nevada can be proud that it was the first state in the country to develop regulations related to problem gambling and responsible gambling programs, those regulations have remained stagnant since their inception over 25 years ago, and have been surpassed by the great majority of US states with regulated gambling. The Council will continue to advocate to the Nevada Legislature and Gaming Control Board for an enhanced regulatory framework that provides not only sufficient funding for education and prevention programs for Nevadans to reduce potential gambling-related harms, but also for treatment for those who are experiencing gambling harms they are unable to resolve on their own, as well as requirements for industry to engage in best practices to reduce gambling-related harms and promote sustainable play for the benefit of both patrons and industry.
I’m excited to begin this new chapter of my career guiding the Nevada Council into the future, and I’m looking forward to working with each of you. I would be remiss not to acknowledge that my journey to this point has only been possible because of lots of hand-holding, encouragement, and mentorship I’ve received from so many others over the past 16+ years. They include Dr. Robert Hunter, who founded the International Problem Gambling Center in Las Vegas that now bears his name, and who was first my therapist, then a colleague, and finally a friend before his untimely passing several years ago. He and his staff provided me with the tools I and so many others have needed to save our lives from this illness. Dr. Bo Bernhard, then Executive Director of UNLV’s International Gaming Institute and now UNLV’s VP of Economic Development and An-Pyng Sun of UNLV’s Department of Social Work were incredibly helpful through their academic support of my foray into research on the impact of gambling in Nevada tribal communities, as was Richard Arnold of the Pahrump Paiute tribe in his encouragement of that endeavor.
I’d like to thank Keith White, Executive Director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, who has always provided quick and substantive replies to questions I’ve had about this field, even when I was simply a person newly in recovery reaching out, curious to learn more. Alan Feldman, first of MGM Resorts International and now Distinguished Fellow at UNLV’s International Gaming Institute, along with many others in industry who understand the importance of corporate social responsibility in this area, have supported my personal development and experience that helped make the journey to my current position possible. I’d also like to thank numerous members of the recovery community collectively and also my family for their incredible support and understanding through the years, as well as the amazing staff at Nevada Council that I have the privilege to work with day in and day out at this fantastic organization.
Most especially, I want to thank Carol O’Hare, my predecessor in this role for the previous 27 years. It is her vision that grew the Nevada Council from its origins as a desk with a phone and answering machine into the vibrant statewide nonprofit organization that exists today. The advocacy opportunities that she provided for me early in my own recovery from a gambling problem were invaluable to me, and her mentorship over the years provided the strong foundation on which I hope to build the Council’s future endeavors. She should have the last word today, and she has asked that I share the following heartfelt message with all of you.
Ted Hartwell, Executive Director, Nevada Council on Problem Gambling
A Heartfelt Thank You…and Fond Farewell
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
In 1996 I was humbly honored to be selected by the Board of Directors to serve as the first full-time Executive Director of the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling. Since that time I’ve been blessed to work with all of you to advance the Council’s mission to generate awareness, promote education and advocate for treatment and support services for problem gamblers and their families.
After 27 years on this amazing journey, I decided it was time to step aside and make room for new leadership who could appreciate and honor all that we’ve done while bringing new energy, vision and experience to carry the Council’s mission forward in 2024 and beyond. I am pleased with the Council’s selection of Ted Hartwell to be the new Executive Director and encourage everyone to welcome and support him as you have done for me.
As the song says “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven”. My season as Executive Director has come to an end and I thank all of you for sharing the journey with me. My purpose to be of help to others will not go away but as I enter this new season of my life I am going to focus on my personal priorities of continued recovery, spending quality time with family and friends, and living in the best health that I can, with God’s grace.
With sincere gratitude and affection,
Nevada Council on Problem Gambling is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization and an affiliate of the National Council on Problem Gambling. The Council does not take a position for or against legal gambling.