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Gamblers enjoy the machines at the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City.

Temptations lurking for problem gamblers

This week has been designated National Problem Gambling Awareness Week.

The Indiana Council on Problem Gambling works to ensure that resources and efforts to help those affected by the negative consequences of gambling are available to the 3 percent of gamblers who will develop a gambling addiction.

The ICPG maintains a neutral position on legalized gambling; we neither oppose nor support it. We work with the problem gamblers and their families, Gamblers Anonymous, Gam-Anon, treatment providers, state government, the Hoosier Lottery, casino properties and all others who seek to help those who have a gambling addiction.

We live in a time of easily accessible gambling opportunities – both legal and illegal. Indiana is like 47 other states in that some form of gambling is legal. Sports betting is illegal in Indiana but readily available. People “play” the stock market; they just don’t think of it as gambling.

The Hoosier Lottery started operating in 1989, and the first of our 13 casinos – two of which are also horse racing tracks – opened in 1995. Indiana also offers off-track betting parlors, about 3,000 charitable gaming entities (bingo/pull tabs/raffles) and many bars with raffles/punch boards.

Illinois is in the process of adding casinos. Michigan has a casino near our border. Ohio will soon have four casinos. Kentucky has been exploring the approval of casinos and electronic gaming at its horse racing tracks.

All of these states have lotteries.

In Indiana, the gaming industry has historically provided billions of dollars in revenue to the state and local governments for the benefit of Hoosier citizens. Recently, the Hoosier Lottery entered into a contract with an integrated services provider.

The agreement will not only see the state’s general fund realize an additional $500 million of revenue over the next five years, but it will also deepen the Hoosier Lottery’s commitment to and implementation of programs focused on social responsibility.

Similarly, the casinos continue to help revitalize the communities in which they are based – and all of this at a time when competition for these dollars is increasing.

Now, the Indiana General Assembly is considering legislation that adds table games at our two horse racing tracks. However, also being considered is a $1 million cut in funding for the Indiana Problem Gamblers’ Fund.

This fund currently receives slightly more than $5 million each year, but only $2 million is being spent on problem gambling initiatives. The other $3 million is diverted to much-needed alcohol/drug treatment efforts.

The Problem Gamblers’ Fund dollars currently underwrite treatment for problem gamblers and their families, funds the Voluntary Casino Exclusion Program, trains those providing counseling to problem gamblers and supports afterschool addiction prevention efforts in some schools. The Indiana Council on Problem Gambling received $36,000 this year from these dollars for specific problem gambling activities.

Decreasing dollars spent to help repair the damage that problem gamblers do to themselves and their families at a time when we are expanding our efforts to increase gaming revenues makes no sense.

The ICPG can be reached at 1-866-699-4274 and can be found at www.indianaproblemgambling.org. The Indiana Problem Gambling Help line is available 24/7/365 at 1-800-994-8448. For more information about problem gambling, visit www.npgaw.org.

Jerry L. Long is executive director of the Indiana Council on Problem Gambling. He wrote this for Indiana newspapers.

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