Increase in gambling addiction expected with slots - Tuesday 12th of July 2005

With Maines first slot machines slated to go into operation in November, the state is getting ready to respond to the prospect of an increase in the problem of gambling addiction. Maine now has no state programs for compulsive gamblers, but that will change after Penn National Gaming opens its temporary facility at Hollywood Slots in Bangor and sets aside part of the proceeds to deal with the problem.

The state Office of Substance Abuse, which has experience treating alcohol and drug addictions, briefed the Maine Gambling Control Board on Thursday on what it might expect with the expansion of gambling in Maine.

Although the state lacks hard data, director Kim Johnson said a 1998 survey on the prevalence of substance abuse found that about 2,000 Mainers considered themselves problem gamblers.

"Currently, the rate is very low, at less than 1 percent (of Maines population)," Johnson said.

"Thats partly because there wasnt a lot of access (to gambling)," she said, adding that the number of compulsive gamblers is higher in states with a longer track record of casino gambling.

In theory, 10 percent of those afflicted with a gambling addiction will seek help, she said, but the state has little to offer in the way of treatment. Two chapters of Gamblers Anonymous, both in Portland, are the only available resources, she said.

Johnson proposed that the state provide a training program to develop a network of qualified professionals to deal with problem gambling.

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