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Those who treat individuals with addictive disorders could now view compulsive gambling in the same manner as alcoholism and drug abuse, according to a study this month in a Harvard University publication and to be unveiled at a three-day conference on gambling and addiction in Las Vegas.
The National Center for Responsible Gaming, an organization funded by the gaming industry that educates the public on research into gambling disorders, expects more than 400 attendees at its meeting, which begins Sunday at the MGM Grand Conference Center.
The conference is expected to include representatives from science, research, public health and public policy, as well as the gaming industry, to digest new findings in identifying, treating and preventing compulsive gambling. The program will also look at international problem gambling issues from several perspectives.
"I think we've done a lot over the years in identifying the signs of problem gambling and we've also examined different avenues of treatment," said Dennis Eckart, chairman of the center. "What I believe our next role should be is taking what we know and finding ways of preventing problem gambling from occurring, whether it's through better employee training programs or other means."
One of the conference highlights will be the unveiling of a study published this month in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry that links compulsive gaming with other similar disorders. Howard Shaffer, director of the Harvard Medical School Division on Addictions, will present the findings suggesting the behavioral treatment for problem gaming may be comparable to how clinicians treat similar diseases.
"This is the first time we're looking at compulsive gambling as part of a syndrome, where if a person is being treated for alcoholism or another compulsive disorder, we need to look for signs that the individual might have a problem with gambling." said Christine Reilly, executive director for the Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related Disorders, which is also affiliated with the Harvard Medical School Division on Addictions. "By looking for like behavior in treating a patient, we're able to discover a whole range of reasons on why a person is a compulsive gambler. This is a whole new way of looking at this problem."
The Harvard program was established by the national center in 2000 as an independent research vehicle. Companies within the gaming industry and related businesses have committed more than $13 million to the center, which, in turn, has granted more than $8 million to support research on gaming disorders.
Other topics expected to be explored at the conference include health risks for casino employees, problem gambling issues among American Indian communities, addiction in the age of terrorism and social stress, and the effectiveness of public awareness campaigns on responsible gaming.
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