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Arnold M. Knightly

Funding added for problem gambling program

14 September 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The National Center For Responsible Gaming Monday announced $7.6 million in additional funding to continue research into problem gambling over the next five years.

In addition to announcing the new research funds, which come mostly from the gaming industry, the Washington, D.C.-based center also demonstrated one of its first academic research-based programs to help combat problem gaming during a conference at The Mirage.

EMERGE, which stands for Executive, Management and Employee Responsible Gaming Education, was developed in partnership with the Harvard Medical School and is a worker education program designed to train employees to recognize the signs of problem gambling in customers so they can receive responsible gaming certification in gambling jurisdictions that require them.

Nevada doesn't require casino employees to be certified.

"We know enough about the disorder to start making some practical applications," said Christine Reilly, executive director of the Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related Disorders at Harvard University.

The National Center for Responsible Gaming established the pathological gambling institute at Harvard Medical School in 2000 through a multimillion-dollar grant.

Many gaming companies have some kind of problem gaming awareness program as part of their worker training, said Phil Satre, chairman of the National Center For Responsible Gaming and former chairman and chief executive officer for Harrah's Entertainment. But the Web-based EMERGE program will be available 24-hours a day and can be easily customized for any gaming company.

Research continues to show nearly 1 percent of the public suffers from pathological gambling addiction, Reilly said.

The national center was established in 1996 to support peer-reviewed, scientific research into different areas of problem gambling.

Satre said the organization's founding came about when Boyd Gaming Corp. was trying to get licensed in Missouri for riverboat gambling.

State regulators wanted independent research, which didn't exist then, on the prevalence of problem gambling in other jurisdictions.

The organization has received $15 million in private funding from gaming company operators, suppliers and financial foundations to fund research.

"It has been supporting peer-review, scientific research that can withstand the kind of scrutiny that you would expect from other scientific disciplines," Satre said.

Research grants are overseen by Harvard to provide a firewall between the researchers and the gaming industry.

Neither the national center nor the gaming industry know the results of a study until the results are published.

Satre said the organization has transformed the field from general and junk science to university-based research looking exclusively at gambling. He said research before the center's foundation treated problem gambling as an extension of other addictions including alcoholism and drug abuse.