That last word is not usually mentioned in gambling circles, to be honest. It is one of those tags that society in general uses to label some people and to be frank, sometimes it is overused, giving card games such as poker a bad name. Yet the reality remains. There are people who get hooked too much and cannot control themselves, leading to the erosion of his relationships and life in general.
Not all is lost, though. In fact, at the Viejas Indian Reservation, there is good news for all involved. A group of addiction counselors were trained on the dangers of compulsive gambling. This was part of a movement that casino operators are starting – to help those who are addicted to gambling. Interesting, no?
According to Mark Sauer of SignonSanDiego:
“We don’t deny there is a problem,” said Bobby Barrett, incoming tribal chairman of Viejas, chairman of the California Tribal Business Alliance and a certified gambling counselor.
“We are concerned with the health and safety of the people in our casinos, and with the risk to people within our own tribal communities.”
Self-help, 12-step programs have mushroomed. There were 10 Gamblers Anonymous meetings a week in San Diego County five years ago; today there are 35.
The number of certified counselors who offer the therapy they say is needed to straighten out a pathological gambler is shockingly low.
“I’m the only one I know of actually doing treatment in the county,” said therapist Suzanne Graupner Pike, who has treated troubled gamblers in Vista since 2003. “There’s no money in it.”
The reason for that, Pike said, is the “impulse-control disorder associated with problem gambling is not considered a disease, like alcohol or drug abuse, and hardly any insurance companies cover it.”
And the patients, Pike added wryly, have no money left.
Most gamblers with serious or severe problems, who make up about 4 percent of California adults, according to the state study, have related psychological problems, such as depression, which are covered by insurance, Pike said.
“Society needs to realize we have a medical crisis (with problem gambling), and there should be federal, state and local funds available for education and treatment, just as with other addictions,” she said.
Barrett said the state’s fledgling Office of Problem and Pathological Gambling has a $3 million annual budget. He said that is not nearly enough, noting, “All of that funding comes from California gaming tribes.”
Lefkowitz said there are two basic types of problem gamblers: those who thrive on action, who tend to be men; and those who gamble to escape, generally women.
Now I am not saying I am biased, but it never occurred to me that women would be a great part of this gambling addiction problem! I guess it is a good thing, what they are doing in California. It is just wishful thinking on my part, I guess, that this sort of thing should never have happened in the beginning. Of course, there are some things we cannot control. Still, activities like this one brings hope to those who need it.