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Chris Sieroty

Money shrinks for problem gamblers

13 April 2012

LAS VEGAS -- Treatment programs for gambling addicts in the nation's casino capital were dramatically reduced last year as Nevada lawmakers looked for ways to cut funds and close a historic budget deficit.

As a result, Nevada in 2012 will spend about 25 cents per capita to treat problem gambling, a byproduct of the state's largest industry. That's down from about 50 cents per capita spent in 2010 and well below the U.S. average of 34 cents.

"I would have thought it would have been greater," Jeff Marotta, owner of Problem Gambling Solutions in Portland, Ore., said Thursday at the 6th annual Nevada State Conference on Problem Gambling. The two-day conference at the Gold Coast concludes today.

Marotta and Bo Bernhard, executive director of the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, hosted a seminar on treating problem gambling in Nevada.

Marotta said at one point last year there was a threat that all state funds spent on problem gambling would go away. Instead, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval and lawmakers agreed to divert half of a $2 fee applied quarterly to slot machines from problem gambling programs to the state general fund.

Under the Sandoval 2011-2013 budget, problem gambling funding would be about $738,000 next year. Most of the cuts were to research, data collection and work force development. But money for treatment also drops in 2013 to $663,000.

Marotta said even with the drastic reductions to the system, the priority should be on treatment.

Almost 6 percent of Nevada adults are considered problem or pathological gamblers, according to figures provided by the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling.

"We are seeing an uptick in the need for services, despite budget cuts," said Bernhard, who completed a research project March 19 on the accessibility of gambling treatment programs.

In the research project, 107 patients who were treated praised treatment services, treatment quality and overall treatment impact on a problem-gambler's lifestyle.

"Access to medical care in parts of the state -- rural Nevada -- is still difficult," Bernhard said.
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