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Howard Stutz

Las Vegas Sands Launches Problem-Gambling Program

13 September 2005

The Venetian's parent company is working with the Harvard University Medical School Division on Addictions to start a program that trains all employees, from senior management on down, to recognize customers and co-workers who show signs of problem gambling.

The program's goal is to enable all Las Vegas Sands Corp. employees to identify the symptoms of problem gambling and understand there may be an association with other disorders and addictions.

"From our point of view, it's not just recognizing customers that might have a problem with gambling, it's also understanding ways to solve the problem as well," said Andy Abboud, vice president of government and community development for Las Vegas Sands.

The program, dubbed Project Emerge (executive, management and employees responsible gaming program) began this month; 2,000 Venetian gaming and hospitality employees underwent a one-hour training program.

Company executives and other managers had spent 2 1/2 days at Harvard in a training course so they could train the casino and hotel staff. Both the course for the executives and the course for the workers follow standards set by the American Academy of Health Care Providers in the Addictive Disorders.

By October, all 5,500 Venetian employees, including housekeeper and back-of-the-house workers, will have participated in the program.

Project Emerge not only helps employees understand people with gambling problems, they also gain insight into other forms of compulsive behavior, Abboud said.

"It's a lot of information to go through, but what the employees understand is that someone with one type of compulsive behavior may be predisposed to other addictive problems," Abboud said. "Over time, in working with Harvard, we hope to understand what sort of programs and treatments work."

Abboud said the Sands program stems from the efforts company Chairman Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Dr. Miriam Adelson, have made in treating substance abuse.

The Adelsons operate drug abuse clinics in Tel Aviv, Israel, and the Adelson Clinic for Drug Abuse Treatment & Research in Las Vegas, where people suffering with serious drug dependency problems can seek care and treatment.

Dr. Adelson specializes in internal and emergency medicine.

The Sands program will be updated regularly with new research from Harvard.

"The launch of Project Emerge represents the most innovative and comprehensive responsible-gaming program for the industry," said Dr. Howard Shaffer, associate professor at Harvard Medical School and director of the division on addictions and at Cambridge Health Alliance. "The entire company, from middle management to the most senior executives, has shown a tremendous commitment in not only tackling the issue of responsible gaming, but dealing with other addictive disorders such as drugs and alcohol."

The Sands program was launched about a month after the gaming industry, through the American Gaming Association, recognized problem gaming week with a public awareness campaign. More than 110 casino operators, equipment manufacturers and other gaming companies in 18 states and the Bahamas participated.

Earlier this year, Nevada legislators established a $2.5 million fund through a slot-machine tax to help problem gamblers. An advisory committee on problem gambling in the Department of Human Resources was also created.

Las Vegas Sands employees at the company's casino in Macau will also receive a version of the training program that reflects the Asian culture.

While the program will help Sands employees better understand addictions, there won't be a voluntary exclusion program for customers.

"All team members know we have a responsibility to get help for guests who ask," Abboud said.