Problem-betting funding backed

23 April 2007

NEVADA -- Gov. Jim Gibbons pledged his support for continuing state funding for problem gamblers at the inaugural Nevada State Conference on Problem Gambling.

"If I stood here and told you 6 percent of the adult population in the state of Nevada had a problem with gambling, you would expect your leadership ... to take action," Gibbons said Thursday. "We are doing just that."

The current funding package approved by the 2005 Legislature is scheduled to expire June 30. Senate Bill 453 is making its way through Carson City and would extend funding for two more years.

Glenn Christenson, chairman of the Governor's Advisory Committee on Problem Gambling, testified April 13 before the Senate Finance Committee that funding needs to continue.

"If you look at the gaming industry over the years, they looked at it as something that was out there and not something they wanted to recognize," said Christenson, who recently retired as chief financial officer after 17 years at Station Casinos. "The old school way was to ignore it. It was the giant elephant in the room that no one really wanted to recognize."

Former Gov. Kenny Guinn appointed the nine-member Advisory Committee in the summer of 2005 to make recommendations for disbursement of funding provided through slot machine fees.

Christenson said at the conference at The Orleans that although Nevada's citizens owe a lot to the gaming industry because of the job growth and low taxes, it is also the responsibility of gaming companies and state government to help its customers who lose control gambling.

"I truly think the worst disservice we can do for our gamblers in the state of Nevada would not be all those years we did nothing," said Carol O'Hare, the executive director of the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling and an Advisory Committee member." It would be if we did something for two years and then quit."

The programs that were available before state funding in 2005 were either private practice, supported by the gaming industry, or provided through other treatment programs that focused on drug or alcohol abuse treatment methods.

Christenson said he went into the first committee meeting believing 90 percent of the funding should go to treatment. He soon realized that grants supporting research and the training of counselors specializing in problem gambling also needed funding.

Almost $2.5 million in grants have been awarded by the committee with $1.43 million going toward treatment, $384,000 given for education and prevention, $300,000 for research and $233,000 used to develop counselors, during the last 21 months.

State funding provided treatment for 531 clients through December although that number is probably a far below the number of people who need services.

Six percent of Clark County's more than 11,000 homeless listed problem gambling as their primary reason for being on the street, a survey released this week by the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Commission's Committee on Homelessness shows.

"Unfortunately there are some people that aren't able to gamble responsibly," Christenson said. "I believe all of us have a responsibility to assist those who can't."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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