Gambling Addiction Prevention, Treatment Funds Increase As Problem Grows

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UPDATED: Friday September 20, 2013 6:06 PM

A quarter of a million Ohioans are believed to be gambling addicts or at risk.  

Casino operators say they're doing their part providing millions in tax revenue for prevention and treatment.

Ohio's four casinos are required to set aside 2 percent of their revenue for gambling addiction.

"Addictive illness, whether it involves alcohol or gambling, is a disease of the brain with behavioral implications," said Paul
Coleman the CEO of Maryhaven.  

He says gambling addiction can be as damaging to an individual as alcohol and drug abuse.

"The earlier you can intervene, the greater the chances for your recovery are," said Coleman.  "Prevention is so important, and early intervention is so important."

State officials estimate that 250,000 Ohioans are addicted to gambling or at risk.

The 2 percent casino tax generates $4.9 million dollars.

Next year, counties will receive $3.8 million to help gambling addiction.

The state plans to use $335,000 for ads and promotional campaigns next year.

"When you place a bet and you win, there's the thrill," said Justin Gale, a recovering compulsive gambler.  "Then I'd want to bet again.  And if I'd lose, I'd want to bet again right away to win back what I just lost."

Gale says he fought the addiction for 35 years.

"Any money a compulsive gambler can get their hands, on they're betting," said Gale.

Casinos don't deny that gambling addiction exists.

"The gaming industry nationwide recognizes that, although problem gaming afflicts a very small percentage of our customers, it needs to be addressed by the industry,” said Bob Tenenbaum a spokesman for Penn National Gaming. “That's why we work every day to educate our employees and customers on the signs of problem gaming.”

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