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Addiction Counselor: Gambling Addiction Has Little to do With Money

12 March 2002

MONTANA – As reported by the (Montana) Billings-Gazette: "The hardest thing for non-gamblers to understand about people with gambling problems is that the addiction has very little to do with money, Charles Whisenhunt said.

"`With real gamblers, winning is not the issue,' he said. `It's the sitting in front of the machine. Winning just lets them stay there longer.'

"Whisenhunt is a licensed counselor in Missoula who tries to help problem gamblers kick their addiction.

"…`Can the majority of individuals gamble without any problem?' he asked. `Absolutely. Just like the majority of individuals can drink without any problem. But for 2 to 3 percent, it's like playing Russian roulette with an automatic. You can't win, and it takes everything.'

"…Gambling, like other addictions, is usually a symptom of deeper problems people are having, `the unfulfilled needs in people's lives.' Sitting in front of a poker machine allows them to forget those problems for a while.

"…What matters is not the money but the machine, he said, the machine that blinks and beeps and emits mechanical melodies.

"`People with arthritis play machines for hours and hours,' he said. `It makes the pain go away. It stimulates the same part of the brain as cocaine.'…"

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