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Gambling addiction: How to get some aid

June 11, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

Even as the president of the Mountaineer Racetrack pushes for the addition of "table games" to his facility's stable of gambling devices, a growing number of people in the state are struggling with a gambling addiction.

The problem was explored last week in an Associated Press series called "Vegas in the Hills." The series notes that while the state of West Virginia has never studied how many gambling addicts the state has, more than 650 people have called for help since the state launched a 24-hour hotline back in August of 2000.

Of those who called, 535 identified their addiction as slot machines or video poker. Half of those who called had annual earnings of $30,000 or less, while 84 had salaries of more than $50,000. Obviously the problem isn't confined to citizens near the poverty line.

There are two basic kinds or problem gamblers. The first type is the "action" gambler, who prefers games like poker, horse racing or sports betting, which require strategy or paying attention to statistics.

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The second type is the "escape" gambler, who plays games like slot machines, bingo or roulette, where winning is purely a matter of chance.

The latter type has more opportunity to get hooked in West Virginia, where slots and video-poker machines predominate. Mia Moran-Cooper, director of the Problem Gambler Help Network told The Associated Press that many who call described themselves as being "hypnotized" by the machines.

Moran-Cooper said the answering "yes" to either of these two questions indicates a gambling problem: Have you ever lied about your gambling to anyone who is important to you? Do you feel the need to bet more and more each time you gamble?

Network officials say the problem is complicated and that a family history of addiction or a stressful event like a divorce may trigger it. If you believe you are addicted to gambling, the toll-free number is 1-800-GAMBLER, or visit the Problem Gamblers Help Network Web site at www.problemgamblers. net.

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