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DHS news release

March 7, 2005


Contact: Jim Sellers (503) 945-5738
Program contact: Jeff Marotta (503) 945-9709


New efforts underway to help women get into gambling treatment

A new 30-second ad designed to persuade women with gambling problems to seek free treatment will begin airing this week on television stations across the state.


The ad, paid for by the Oregon Lottery, was prompted by new data showing that although the percentage of women entering gambling treatment rose from 37 percent to 48 percent over the past eight years, fewer women are seeking help than expected.


Oregon's numbers differ from national estimates that men make up about two-thirds of problem gamblers.


"Things are different here in Oregon," said Jeffrey Marotta, Ph.D., problem gambling services manager in the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS). "Women with gambling problems outnumber men."


He said of an estimated 2.3 percent of Oregon adults who are problem gamblers, about 32,000 are women and 29,000 are men.


The ad features a series of women's voices talking about their gambling-related guilt followed by five women speaking about their return to normal activities after receiving help through treatment.


"Problem gambling has traditionally been associated with men and so have our ad campaigns," Marotta said. "This new ad confronts the reality that more women are gambling, developing gambling problems, and need to seek help for such problems."


Marotta said a key to understanding the greater share of female problem gamblers is ready access to video poker and slots. "Eighty-nine percent of women in treatment reported being hooked to electronic machine games," Marotta said, "and women were significantly more likely than men to report slot machines as their game of choice."


There are also environmental factors. "Many women are attracted to Oregon's gambling venues because they are clean, attractively located, offer a feeling of physical safety and they treat people with respect," Marotta said. "And besides that, most people don't imagine harm can come from a game that only costs a quarter to play."


But of the 662 women enrolled in Lottery-financed gambling treatment last year, Marotta said, 56 percent reported having lost a marriage or other significant relationship, 39 percent had committed illegal acts, 25 percent had job problems, and 12 percent had experienced suicidal thoughts. With 37 percent of these gamblers having a child at home, he said, many children must also have been affected.


Marotta said the average gambling-related debt of women, most of whom reported that gambling was a way to escape, was equal to a year's household income.


The advertising is being paid for by the Oregon Lottery, which worked with a Portland agency to produce the ad. DHS provided content consultation.


Free and confidential treatment is paid for by the Oregon Lottery. A study investigating the effectiveness of Oregon's gambling treatment found that 79 percent of clients were successful in eliminating or significantly reducing their gambling.


Marotta said about 4,000 people a year call the toll-free problem gambling helpline (1 877 2-STOP-NOW), where certified gambling counselors provide information and assist callers with choosing a resource to help them quit or reduce their gambling.