Help line available to those who need it

This is in regard to the Aug. 28 Herald article, “Controlling the Gambling Urge.” The Washington State Council on Problem Gambling (WSCPG) operates a helpline – 1-800-547-6133 – for problem gamblers and their families, works to increase the availability of treatment for problem gamblers, and works to have voluntary policies addressing problem gambling implemented at gambling establishments.

The WSCPG is neither for nor against gambling. This position enables us to work with all sectors involved with problem gambling – treatment professionals, recovering individuals and the gambling industry. Scientific surveys indicate that this approach has been a key factor at keeping the rate of problem gambling in Washington stable between the years 1993 and 1999, a period of expanding legal gambling.

One of the policies we have encouraged the gambling industry to implement is self-banning. Several of the statements attributed to me in the article were taken out of context. The statements were part of a more lengthy description of the difficulties, both financial and legal, faced by the gambling industry in implementing the self-banning policy. In spite of these difficulties, much of the industry in Washington has embraced this voluntary policy. This compliance is demonstrated by the experience of the problem gambler described in the article. Of the many casinos asked for a self-ban, only one refused. I commend the casinos that complied with the request for a self-ban, and encourage the one casino without such a policy to implement one – in spite of the difficulties such a policy entails.

However, I must emphasize that a self-ban is only one small step toward recovery for a problem gambler. A problem gambler will not truly begin recovery until he or she gets help, whether that help comes from Gamblers’ Anonymous, professional treatment or both. The problem gambler highlighted in the article says she cannot get help because she has “…been working so much,” and does not “…have a problem right now.” Yet, she is able to find the time to gamble. She has taken a first step by asking for self-bans. I encourage her to take the second step and call the helpline.

Executive Director

Washington State Council on Problem Gambling

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