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DHS news release

August 31, 2004

Contact: Nadine Jelsing, (503) 945-5950

Program contact: Jeffrey J. Marotta, Ph.D. (503) 945-9709; jeffrey.j.marotta@state.or.us

New report says Oregonians seeking treatment for problem gambling in record numbers

Oregonians entering treatment for problem gambling during the 2001-2003 biennium increased 44 percent from the previous biennium, according to an annual Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) update on problem gambling services.

The report also cited a "phenomenal increase in gambling treatment services over the past eight years." During that time, the share of people entering treatment who were women increased from 37 percent to 46 percent while those who said they gambled in casinos increased from 10 percent to nearly 18 percent. Seventy percent of gamblers entering treatment reported playing video poker at bars and taverns.

"While gambling’s popularity and availability are growing, so are direct costs to individuals, families and communities," said DHS Problem Gambling Services Manager Jeffrey J. Marotta, Ph.D. "The people we see in our treatment programs look like ordinary, hard working people. Most worked full-time, had families and good paying jobs and many owned their own home. They started out gambling for fun but when the fun ran out the gambling continued."

According to the report, 27 percent of the 1,504 gamblers who received treatment in 2003 said that gambling cost them a marriage or other significant relationship. Twenty-four percent said they committed illegal acts in order to gamble or pay back gambling losses, 15 percent reported problems on the job and 23 percent were having suicidal thoughts in the months prior to entering treatment. Their total gambling-related debt exceeded $29.5 million – or an average of more than $19,000 per person.

"Fortunately for Oregonians, we have a very effective and well-developed gambling treatment system," said Marotta. "Our treatment programs are helping hundreds of people get their lives back and in the process is saving families and strengthening communities. Six months after gamblers left treatment, 80 percent reported that they either no longer gambled or were gambling much less than before treatment."

In 2003, the Oregon Lottery spent $600,000 in promoting responsible gambling and effectively advertising the Oregon Problem Gambling Helpline (877-2-STOP-NOW). Additionally, $3.2 million of Oregon Lottery’s net proceeds were transferred to DHS to support 16 regional problem gambling prevention programs, 25 outpatient programs, two short-term residential programs, one telephone counseling program, and the helpline that received more than 4,400 calls in 2003.

According to the report, legislation passed last session will permit a 20 percent increase in the number of Lottery-operated video poker machines and a new Native American casino has been approved in Florence.

The report also said actions to expand gambling are expected to increase the incidence of problem and pathological gambling and that a consistent, uninterrupted and effective statewide treatment and prevention system will be of paramount importance.

In Oregon, treatment is free, confidential and widely available to both gamblers and family members. For more information call the Oregon Problem Gambling Helpline 1-877-2-STOP NOW (877 278-6766).

An executive summary of the Gambling Treatment Programs Evaluation Update – 2003, is available at the Oregon Gambling Addiction Treatment Foundation's Web site.