The odds on funding of problem gambling |

The odds on funding of problem gambling

Twice in the last two years we’ve seen otherwise successful Northern Nevada businessmen fall prey to their gambling addictions.

Finally, on Monday, for the first time since gambling was legalized in 1931, the state will begin to help those addicted to gambling. It’s a start, but is it enough?

The doors open Monday in Reno at the Problem Gambling Center. The center run by Denise Quirk, a certified gambling counselor, is funded in part by state slot licensing fees and is modeled after a nonprofit center run by psychologist Robert Hunter in Las Vegas, funded for the past decade by donations given by casinos.

The funds to help run the center were appropriated by the 2005 Nevada Legislature, which created the Revolving Account for Prevention and Treatment of Problem Gambling. For 2006, an estimated $822,000 will be collected followed by $1.6 million in 2007. The Reno center will receive $65,000 in state funding for the rest of this fiscal year and $137,000 in 2007.

Researchers at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas estimate gambling addiction affects 150,000 Nevadans, or 6 percent of the state’s population. That number is equal to nearly all of the residents in Douglas and Lyon counties and Carson City. Nationwide, the number of problem gamblers is estimated at 2 percent of the U.S. population.

Yet the amount of money allocated is a pittance, less than .01 percent of what Nevada casinos will expect to win during that time. But most ominously, the tax sunsets on June 30, 2007. Then what? Will the gambling problem have gone away by then?

One of the businessmen to testify before the legislative committee last session said the most common reaction from friends and family was “Why didn’t you just stop?”

“The No. 1 problem facing the addicted gambler is denial,” he testified.

He said he is now recovering.

Maybe by taking these first steps toward recognition of the scope of the problem, Nevada too will recover. We’ll be watching next session to see who and how the program helped and to see if the Legislature retains its appetite to fund the grants. The bet’s still on the table.