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Cincinnati sees increase of gambling addiction
One year later, is gambling addiction on the rise in Ohio?

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It's been a year since Horseshoe Cincinnati opened its doors. For Ohio Public Radio, WVXU’s Tana Weingartner reports on whether concerns about problem gambling are coming true.

Here more on gambling addiction growing in Cincinnati.

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It’s been a year since Horseshoe Cincinnati opened its doors on March 4, 2013. This week, WVXU is revisiting the series we did when it opened to see how things have changed.

Our first question? Are concerns about problem gambling coming true?

The number of people calling Ohio’s Gambling Helpline or adding themselves to the state’s Voluntary Exclusion Program has gone up. In February 2013, the voluntary exclusion list had one person from Hamilton County. By last month it had 46. Statewide the list grew from 252 people to almost 750. (There’s also an Involuntary Exclusion List.)

That seems like a big jump. But is it concerning?

“No, not at this point,” says Stacey Frohnapfel-Hasson with the state’s Bureau of Problem Gambling. “We do see a change starting to occur and we knew that would happen based on the experiences from other states. Once there are increased opportunities for gambling, especially casino and racino venues, then you do start to get an increase but it usually takes three or four years before you really see that impact in problem gambling.”

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OK, but the number of people calling the state’s problem gambling helpline went from 348 in February, 2013 to a high of 1,522 by July, 2013.

That has to be a lot, right?

“We have a large percentage of individuals who call that number for things that aren’t problem gambling issues,” says Frohnapfel-Hasson. For example, ‘What’s on the buffet in Cincinnati?’ ‘Who’s playing in the bar?”

Plus Frohnapfel-Hasson says the phone number is just a lot more visible now. It’s on everything: video lottery terminals, slot machines, billboards.

Outpatient Services Director Bill Epps with the Central Community Health Board in Corryville hasn’t seen the increases he expected.

“People have not been beating down the doors to get into treatment here. That does not mean that people do not have issues with problem gambling or pathological gambling. It more likely means that individuals have not suffered enough adverse consequences yet to seek treatment for their problem,” says Epps.

Epps says pathological gamblers usually need to lose everything and nearly destroy their lives before they’ll seek help.

The Central Community Health Board no longer receives state funding to treat gambling addiction. Those dollars now go to Cincinnati’s Center for Chemical Addictions Treatment (CCAT). Counselors there agree problem gamblers often need to hit rock bottom before seeking help.

From CCAT:

  • 81 people were given problem gambling screenings last year
  • Of those, 16 were identified as problem gamblers
  • Of those, three are receiving counseling/treatment at CCAT
  • The others were referred out and have since left CCAT.
  • Hotline (513) 638-CCAT(2228) has received numerous and steady calls during the past year; however only two people have kept their appointments. Both began treatment in the fourth quarter (2013).

 Counselor Frank Adamore says people he encounters are very reluctant and often just want to be left alone. CCAT has had to rethink the way it delivers services. Their helpline is answered more frequently because they found people wouldn’t leave messages. They meet with clients during less conspicuous hours and use certain meeting rooms at their facility.

Like with the state, Program Manager Mike Rosen says calls to the CCAT helpline have gone up.

“I think it’s encouraging actually,” says Rosen. “I think that the problem has existed long before the casinos got built here. I think that the (state) helpline is bringing awareness to the state now that there is help available and I think more people are taking advantage of the help.”

Horseshoe Cincinnati says nothing has changed in its approach to Responsible Gaming. A spokesperson declined to say how many people the casino has added to its banned list. Ohio took a baseline study before the casinos opened so it will be able to track problem gambling over time. Meanwhile, addiction specialists are meeting this week in Columbus for Ohio’s annual Problem Gambling Conference. This year’s focus is the state’s response to a changing landscape.

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