Nevada’s casino industry addresses problem gambling

LAS VEGAS (AP) – The casino industry is partnering with other large employers for the first time to help compulsive gamblers in a state that is home to the highest percentage of residents with gambling problems in the nation.


“It’s not about gambling, it’s about people,” said Carol O’Hare, executive director of the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling, in announcing the program during the fifth annual Responsible Gaming Education Week. “We have seen tangible results (from education).”


Seven of southern Nevada’s largest employers, including the city of Las Vegas, Clark County and the Clark County School District, were recruited to initiate problem gambling awareness programs that include informational posters, letters and e-mails sent to employees.


“It’s imperative for us to be responsible and make sure that they have the information that they need to help,” said Augie Orci, school district deputy superintendent.


Sponsored by the Nevada Resort Association, the American Gaming Association and the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling, the weeklong campaign that runs through Aug. 9 promotes public awareness and resources available for problem gamblers.


Among the campaign’s activities are running UFABet advertisements in major publications, installing signs and banners and publishing articles in company newsletters.


Park Place Entertainment Corp., which operates Caesars Palace, Bally’s and Paris Las Vegas among its 19 domestic resorts, is holding workshops for its employees on how to spot problem gambling and is hosting recovering problem gambler Arnie Wexler.


“Gambling is a form of entertainment that millions of Americans enjoy on modest budgets without adverse consequences,” said Tom Gallagher, Park Place chief executive and chairman of the Nevada Resort Association. “But for some people, gambling is a problem.”


A first-ever study of Nevada residents with gambling problems released in March found 40,100 to 63,900 “probable pathological gamblers” live in Nevada. Based on 2000 data, the Gemini Research Inc. of Northampton, Mass., defined pathological gamblers as those who lose control over gambling, progressively wager more money, more often and become preoccupied with it despite the consequences, the study said.


Problem gamblers have less serious difficulties but are at risk of developing into pathological gamblers. The state’s percentage of problem gamblers – 6.4 – is higher than every other place where similar surveys have been done, the study found.


There are as many as 20 million compulsive gamblers in the United States, including about 1.5 million teenagers, according to Gambler’s Anonymous. And their contribution to casinos isn’t slight – an estimated $100 million was spent by compulsive gamblers in 2000.


Nevada is one of the few states with legalized gambling that provides no public dollars for problem gambling treatment and research. To date, the casino industry has provided most of the money for problem gambling services in Nevada.


A bill in the 2001 Nevada Legislature that would have given problem gamblers the same legal standing that alcoholics or drug addicts have in seeking access to sentencing alternatives died in committee.


Bill Bible, resort association president, said the group plans to back similar legislation in the upcoming 2003 Legislature.


Comparatively, gambling addicts in Illinois can sign up on a ‘blacklist’ to ban themselves from the state’s nine casinos and last October the state began a $2 million public awareness campaign to get help for problem gamblers and their families.


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