More Problem Gamblers Seeking Help in Nevada - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -

More Problem Gamblers Seeking Help in Nevada

It’s been a longtime problem that goes with the territory. It’s estimated that thousands of Nevadans show signs of problem gambling…25,000 in Washoe County alone. And the addiction seems to be on the increase as experts fear more addiction problems from new gaming opportunities.

Gambling was no game for Brenda Joy R. As she told us, it meant “Losing everything, losing my marriage of 23 years, the self-respect of my daughters..." She found herself powerless against Nevada's biggest draw, even when it left her suicidal and homeless, “living on Lake Mead in Boxcar Cave, in a tent for 6 months."

Mark J. has a similar story. As he told me, “After I hit the first big win, I was off and running." His first big win was in 1988. 18 years later, “I had $100,000 owed on those credit cards and no way to pay them." He had a plan...a desperate one: "End my life. That was the only way. I had no hope." Mark's story is of course not that unusual here in Nevada. The most recent study says 6% of Nevadans are problem gamblers. But that study was done 14 years ago, and things have changed since then…mainly for the worse.

One important treatment center has been fighting the good fight in Reno. In its 8 years of existence, the Reno Problem Gambling Center has treated hundreds of patients, and it’s been a true benefit to the community. Problem gamblers who don’t get help too often pass their problem off to the rest of us…they don't have the money for treatment, and often turn to crime to feed their habit. Studies also show the homeless are 10 times more likely to be problem gamblers.

The center’s CEO Denise Quirk estimates the true figure of problem gamblers in Nevada is now at 10%. Besides the booming popularity of lottery super jackpots, Denise points to online gaming, a powerful way new gamblers get hooked. She has seen a few new people needing help, “from UNR. Students who come here for treatment are telling me they've been playing underage, and now they can play legal."

She expects a bigger crowd to show up later. Online gaming is new, and it takes a few years for people to get desperate enough to seek help. As she said, "I think it’s going to take a while for people to show up, unless they're warned and taught and given prevention information where they can recognize before they hit bottom."

In the meantime, the center’s little house on Humboldt Street does what it can, holding no-cost group therapy sessions and one-on-ones with those who’ve lost everything. Funding comes from a $2 annual fee on state slot machines. But the shoestring it runs on is a lifeline to locals like Mark J., who made his last bet in 2006. He told me, "I owe that to the Reno Problem Gambling Center because this program saved my life."

And yes it saved Brenda's too. As she told us, "How do I feel now? My life is…ecstatic."

The Reno Problem Gambling Center is a non-profit that's funded by a $2 annual fee on state slot machines. They offer no-cost counseling and therapy sessions with those who've lost everything. If you or someone you know could use their help, their website is a great place to get started. They could also use some volunteer help. Click the link below for more:

www.renopgc.org

-written by John Potter

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