For first time in US, casinos join effort to help compulsive gamblers

By , Staff correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

For the first time, a segment of the casino industry in the United States has agreed to help fight the growing problem of compulsive gambling. Representatives of Gamblers Anonymous and the National Council on Compulsive Gambling (NCCG) say this step may ultimately be as important in helping addicted gamblers as the liquor industry's multimillion-dollar annual contribution to research in and treatment of alcoholism.

A nonprofit organization called the National Foundation for Study and Treatment of Pathological Gambling has just been formed to channel contributions from the casinos into one or more treatment centers for compulsive gamblers.

At present there are only two treatment centers for such gamblers in the US, both with limited access, despite a population of compulsive gamblers the NCCG estimates to be in the millions and increasing every year.

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One treatment center is in Brecksville, Ohio, and is run by the Veterans Administration, but only admits veterans and excludes women altogether. Maryland had a state-run facility, but it charges at least $500 a week for treatment.

The board of the New foundation, whose members include casino executives, an NCCG vice-president, and a top Hollywood producer, envisions a treatment center which is free and open to gamblers of both sexes

Golden Nugget Inc., whose board chairman, Steven Wynn, is also a board member of the National Foundation for Study and Treatment of Pathological Gambling, has contributed $10,000 for the treatment center.

The Nevada Resorts Association is strongly backing the foundation, and Fred Lewis, vice-president of the Summa Corporation, is a member of the foundation's board.

Until now, casinos generally were opposed to making such contributions. This new development is largely the result of the NCCG's recent no-holds-barred efforts to enlist support, which in the past year included three trips to Nevada to talk with casino executives.

It also has to do with the casinos' growing recognition that compulsive gamblers are poor credit risks.

"The casino people are telling us that they don't want the compulsive gambler ," says Arnold Wexler, vice-president of the NCCG and board member of the new found ation.

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