Public Awareness Report 2020

Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling Fact Sheet

The WCPG provides education and awareness on the issues of problem and compulsive gambling while maintaining strict neutrality on legalized gambling. 

Approximately 333,000 Wisconsin residents have a gambling problem. 

Calls to the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling’s 24-hour Helpline have increased 389% since 1996. 

The 24-hour Helpline received 16,779 calls in 2020. 

The average debt of callers contacting the Helpline is $30,377. 

The average age of female gamblers calling the Helpline is 45 years. Male caller’s average age is 38. 

Seniors and adolescents are at high risk to become addicted to gambling. 

Gambling related embezzlements continue to rise in Wisconsin. 

WCPG is one of 34 affiliates of the National Council on Problem Gambling located in Washington, D.C. 

65% of compulsive gamblers commit crimes to finance their gambling. 

Six to twenty percent of adolescents develop gambling problems. 

The WCPG provides a statewide Public Awareness Campaign including billboards, bus ads,  several hundred media contacts each year, annual conference, training programs for treatment providers, resource library, signage in casinos, high school programming, development and distribution of posters, brochures and educational booklets, and Social Media including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Instagram. 

Suicide rates are 20 times higher among pathological gamblers compared to non-gamblers. 

People who have other addictions are at a higher risk of becoming addicted to gambling.  

The Council is the only organization in Wisconsin dedicated to assisting thousands of problem and compulsive gamblers.   

The Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling 2020 Year in Review

The year 2020 was the 22nd year of our Compulsive Gambling Public Awareness Campaign. It was our 26th year in operation and the 24th year of the 24-hour Helpline. The Council continued to see tremendous growth during the past year.

The Public Awareness Campaign contains six different project areas used to enhance the awareness of Problem and Compulsive Gambling.  These areas include the 24-hour Helpline, High School Educational Curriculum, Statewide Compulsive Gambling Awareness Conference, our Public Relations Media Awareness Campaign, and the Training of Human Service Professionals. 

24 Hour Helpline 

The Helpline received 16,779 calls in 2020 with the highest months of calls being November with 1,865 calls. We continue to receive many hits to our website annually. We received 10,258 web hits in 2020.  The highest month was January with 1,602 hits.  The average debt amount of calls to the Helpline was $30,377.  However, many people refuse to divulge this information and are confused about their indebtedness.  Area code 414 received the most calls.  During the year 2020, 391 referrals were made and 14 packets of information were sent. Many people prefer to use the website to obtain their information instead of having a packet sent.  The chat line received 57 chats and the text line received 14 texts.

Outreach Program 

The WCPG provides an Outreach Program. This program provides educational sessions to high school students around the state. The goal of the program is to provide education and awareness on gambling disorders. Students learn the definitions of gambling, the risks associated with gambling, the warning signs and how to get help for themselves or others. Presentations in schools throughout the state continued through March 13, 2020.  The Outreach program reached 602 students and 10 staff through 22 classes in 2020.  All presentations after March 13, 2020 were cancelled due to Covid-19.

State Wide Compulsive Gambling Conference

The WCPG hosted its 21st Annual Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling Statewide Conference on August 13-14, 2020 at the Hyatt in Green Bay, WI.  Fifty-seven people attended the two-day conference. Due to Covid-19, attendance was down. 

Training of Human Service Professionals 

We have been able to provide one Phase 3 and Phase 4 training sessions during 2020. Sixty-five training units were provided through our training sessions.  We offered two webinars during 2020. All other 2020 trainings were post phoned until 2021.

We continue to develop a list of all persons/agencies within the state of Wisconsin qualified to provide training, education, treatment or public information at various levels, for use by such groups as Employee Assistance Programs, human resource personnel, AODA personnel, school counselors, treatment providers and civic and church groups.   

Public Relations/Media Campaign 

As part of the media awareness campaign, the following has been accomplished or continues:

  • Planning, development, and implementation of the public awareness campaign– phase twenty-two.
  • WCPG continues to develop a list within the State of Wisconsin with persons/agencies qualified to provide training, education, treatment or public information at various levels on the issue of compulsive gambling.
  • Continued distribution of twelve different posters.
  • WCPG increased its Social Media presence through Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, You Tube, LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • One-on-one media interviews in the state’s five main media markets.
  • More than 200 media contacts including newspapers, radio, and television.
  • Press releases regarding the WCPG effort were distributed.
  • Continued distribution of “Is Gambling Affecting Your Life?” (Approximately 180,000 have been distributed)
  • Exterior bus signage continues in several cities throughout Wisconsin.
  • Bathroom ads in Wisconsin Casinos.
  • Exhibits at a variety of conferences and programs throughout the state.
  • Tokens, magnets, pens, pencils, note clips, back scratchers, calendars, oven sticks, and computer dusters, etc. are being distributed in a variety of ways throughout Wisconsin. These public awareness “tools” are an excellent opportunity to get the 800-Helpline number out to thousands of people. People will pick up a pen, which has the 800 number on it, more likely than they would pick up a pamphlet.
  • Continued partnership with the Wisconsin Lottery.
  • Increased materials in our resource library.
  • Continues distribution of WCPG brochures including “special population” brochures.
  • Continues distribution of membership brochure.
  • Continues development of a data collection process for a book of experts.
  • Reached an estimated 34,000 people through contacts at exhibits, workshops and conferences (prior to 2020).
  • WCPG continues to speak to a variety of groups—EAP, social service departments, counselors, people working with the elderly, Dept. of Corrections, etc. to provide education and awareness on the compulsive gambling addiction.
  • WCPG continues to distribute our quarterly newsletter to over 5,500 people.
  • A workplace brochure continues to be distributed to generate more awareness in the workplace environment.
  • A legislative newsletter is distributed quarterly to all Legislators in Wisconsin.
  • A brochure geared towards parents continues to be distributed.
  • Planning session with the Board of Directors to assess public awareness program.

Recovery Program  

WCPG has started a Recovery Outreach program. A committee continues to define its goals and begin outreach to recovery programs and other resources. 

Potawatomi Hotel and Casino Sponsorship

Through the Potawatomi Hotel and Casino Sponsorship we were able to provide Phase I through Phase IV in the Milwaukee area. The Potawatomi funding also provides assistance for the operation of the 24-hour Helpline and Conference 2020 sponsorship.

WCPG had a very challenging and productive 2020.  We will continue to move forward in all of our endeavors and we look forward to continuing and expanding our programs in the year 2021.

Highlights of Compulsive Gambling Public Awareness and Education Campaign* September 1, 1998 – December 31, 2020 

Since September 1998 when the Public Awareness Campaign began, the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling has been able to provide the following to Wisconsin residents:

24-hour Helpline: 

  • Answered 252,534 calls from the 24-hour Helpline from September 1, 1998 to December 31, 2020.(1998 Fourth Quarter-1,686 calls; 1999– 4,742 calls; 2000-5,052 calls; 2001-5,195 calls; 2002-7,550 calls; 2003–8,332calls; 2004-9,407 calls; 2005-10,049 calls; 2006-9,206 calls; 2007-9,341 calls; 2008-12,946 calls; 2009-14,604 calls; 2010-14,380 calls; 2011-13,528 calls; 2012-14,464 calls; 2013-13,945 calls; 2014-14,731 calls; 2015-14,690 calls; 2016-13081 calls; 2017-12,674 calls; 2018-13,869 calls; 2019-12,283 calls; 2020-16,779 calls). 
  • Continued to increase Helpline services from initial development provided by funding from the Cornerstone Foundation and the Oneida Tribe.
  • Increased telephone directory listings from 15 to over 125.
  • Developed and implemented WCPG website; received 90,853 hits.
  • Calls to the Helpline have continued to increase each year since the Public Awareness Campaign began.
  • There have been 31,069 referrals since September 1998.
  • As a result of the Public Awareness Campaign, we have been able to send 9,866 packets of information to compulsive gamblers, their families and friends.
  • Answered calls from the chat line through
  • Answered calls on the text line number at 850-888-HOPE.
  • Ads on

Media Awareness Campaign: 

  • Developed fourteen awareness posters and distributed 166,000 of these throughout the state.
  • Provided 4700-4800 newspaper, radio and television interviews throughout the state.
  • Developed, printed, and distributed 186,000 booklets, “Is Gambling Affecting Your Life?”
  • Bus signage was developed for the outside of buses for cities throughout Wisconsin including: Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, Madison, Green Bay, Eau Claire, Superior, Wausau, Appleton, Stevens Point, Janesville, Beloit, La Crosse, Manitowoc and Sheboygan.
  • Pump toppers for “Gas Pump” advertising were developed and implemented.  Pump toppers were placed in locations throughout the state where bus signage was not available.                                                                              
  • Took part in Wisconsin Public Television’s “Teen Connection” program on two different occasions.
  • Three-30 second public service announcements were distributed to television stations throughout the state.
  • Yearly news conferences in the five main media markets in the state.
  • Developed and made accessible a “resource” library.
  • Developed and distributed over 228,000 brochures, “What is Compulsive Gambling?”
  • Initiated billboard signage at several locations throughout the state.
  • Developed and implemented signage in bathroom stalls at eleven casinos and other locations throughout the state.
  • Developed and implemented bus shelter signage in Milwaukee.
  • Developed and implemented signage in bathrooms in Green Bay and Appleton at restaurants and bars.
  • Distributed magnets, tokens, computer dusters, fortune cookies, magnifiers, magnetic picture frames, letter openers, pens/highlighters, oven sticks, mirrors, post-it notes, note clips, whistle key-chains, pencils and sharpeners, piggy banks, backscratchers, calendars, and index cards, etc. as public awareness “tools”.
  • Distributed an informational letter to all the judges and district attorneys throughout the state on Problem Gambling.
  • Developed and maintained relationships throughout the state with various groups including Aging Groups, School Personnel, Corrections Officers, District Attorneys, Public Defenders, Social Workers, Counselors, Hmong Population, Employee Assistance Programs, Tribes and Casinos.
  • Provided two radio spots during Green Bay Packers pre-season games.
  • Formed and continue a partnership with the State Lottery to provide additional access to our 800 number. The lottery provided radio ads and newspaper ads in 2008-2020.
  • Published and distributed annually public awareness informational booklet. 
  • Provided Public Awareness to approximately 195,000 people through speaking engagements and exhibits (2002-2020).
  • Article and ads published in Teaching Today and senior newspapers throughout the state.
  • In-kind ads were placed in Aging and Disability Resource Center’s newsletter, Senior Scene and Rock County Council on Aging, Senior Review.
  • Increased our social media presence through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest You Tube and Snap Chat.

High School Educational Curriculum: 

  • Updated and printed 500 educational curriculums targeted at middle and high school students.
  • Sent 2,000 informational letters to all middle and high school principals and superintendents in the state. 
  • Sent 500+ curriculums to schools throughout the state at their request.
  • Assisted schools with presentations when requested.
  • Developed and sent a follow-up survey to assist in continued distribution of the curriculum.
  • Updating current curriculum to include updated research and trends in 2015.
  • Hired part time Outreach Coordinator to work with schools.
  • Outreach programs reached 602 students during 2020. 

Training of Human Service Professionals: 

  • Developed and implemented a training program for therapists, counseling agencies, and others, including basic, advanced and specialized trainings.
  • Continue to update Phase program as needed in 2020.
  • Developed and printed training manual. Update and revise as required.
  • Developed program to “train the trainers” throughout the state.
  • Developed and maintain a master list of persons/agencies within the state of Wisconsin who are qualified to provide training, education, treatment or public information, at various levels, for use by such groups as EAP programs, human resource personnel, AODA personnel, school counselors, treatment providers and civic and church groups.
  • From September 1, 1998 to December 31, 2020 we provided 3,550 Units of training.
  • Provided trainings to tribal, gaming, Physician’s Assistance conference, EAP, Dept. of Correction employees and others. 

Statewide Conference: 

  • Planned and implemented twenty annual statewide conferences on the issue of compulsive gambling.  Planning continues on the 22nd conference.
  • Increased attendance from 77 at the 1999 conference to 156 in 2009.  Over 2,641 people have attended the Annual Conference from 1999 through 2020.
  • Hosted national experts in the field to provide keynotes and workshops.
  • Hosted the 2012 National Conference on Problem Gambling in Milwaukee. Over 400 people attended.

Mini-Grants for Community Based Activities: 

  • Provided mini-grants that will enable individuals or agencies to provide specific public awareness, educational, informational, and various activities on compulsive gambling at smaller levels within their communities.  This will enhance the Statewide Public Awareness program.
  • Developed the grant process, requirements and application.
  • Awarded twenty-seven mini-grants to enhance the WCPG Public Awareness Program. These grants were used to inform adolescents and their educators on the issue of compulsive gambling. Ads were published in senior citizen newspapers/newsletters and informational place mats were provided to nutrition sites and other events for senior citizens.  Ads and articles ran in the “School News” paper throughout the state. Billboards, radio ads and printed materials were developed through a grant in Northern Wisconsin. Awareness campaign was developed at a local university along with a survey on college age gambling. A mini-grant at a local university allowed students to create awareness videos on problem gambling disorders. 

Needs Assessment Survey: 

  • WCPG conducted a statewide needs assessment on the addiction of compulsive gambling.  The purpose of this survey was to assess what areas of research are most needed in Wisconsin regarding compulsive gambling. 

Strategic Plan: 

  • During the summer of 2018 the WCPG did a one-day strategic planning session to give the Council direction for the next two to three years. 


  • Conducted initial meetings and reviewed information for potential research projects.