Official: Science Should Guide Problem Gambling Help - Monday 6th of February 2006

LAS VEGAS -- Science should guide future research in problem gambling, said an official for a national problem-gambling group that begins meeting today at Mandalay Bay.

Christine Reilly, executive director for the National Center for Responsible Gaming conference, said as research into problem gambling increases, more scientific data is becoming readily available to health professionals, offering a better understanding of what drives a person to wager beyond their means and how best to treat the addiction.

"In the past, we haven't had good research, but that has changed," Reilly said. "We hope this idea shapes the whole conference going forward and that what we find from our research become practices guided in science."

The two-day program, the sixth conference for the center, will feature discussions on the role of personal choice in addiction, advancements in drug treatments for pathological gambling, the challenges of executing self-exclusion programs and the concept of creating "safe" gambling machines.

"We don't know if self-exclusion programs really work," Reilly said. "The research is becoming available to help us understand this topic."

The National Center for Responsible Gaming was established in 1996 and is funded primarily by the gaming industry and related businesses, which have contributed more than $15 million. The center has funded more than $12 million in support of research on gambling disorders.

The conference will address the "Reno Model," a position paper authored by three researchers that describes public health issues associated with problem gambling. The authors believe responsible gaming initiatives must reduce or eliminate the potential harms associated with gambling while also maximizing the activity's potential benefits.

"We believe all parties, even the anti-gambling organizations must participate in the discussion," Reilly said.

On Thursday, former U.S. Sen. George McGovern will offer a keynote address that explores a balance between the rights of individuals and the responsibilities of government in a free society.

McGovern, a South Dakota Democrat who lost the 1972 presidential campaign to Richard Nixon, authored a personal account on the loss of a daughter to alcoholism. He has since become involved in activities aimed at helping people understand and overcome alcoholism.

"The ongoing challenge of promoting responsible gaming is developing a strategy that prevents and reduces gambling-related harm while respecting the rights of individuals who safely engage in recreational gambling," said Dennis Eckart, chairman of the National Center for Responsible Gaming. "Senator McGovern's unique perspective and considerable knowledge of the public health system will provide a thought-provoking look at this dichotomy."

This year, Nevada established an advisory committee on problem gambling that will decide how to distribute $2.5 million raised through a special slot-machine tax. The money will go to organizations specializing in compulsive gaming treatment, education, prevention or research.

The nine-member committee, appointed by the governor, has been accepting Nevada groups' applications for fund distributions.

Station Casinos Chief Financial Officer Glenn Christenson, the committee's chairman, said he expects the group to begin evaluating the applications late next month.

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