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Gamblers are more likely now to be spotted and given help

A Corydon man admitted that if he had money in his pocket and time to spare, he would go to a riverboat casino to gamble.
Randy Fessel isn’t alone.
Jackie McComb, regional coordinating consultant for the Governor’s Commission for a Drug Free Indiana, said the vast majority of adult Hoosiers gamble.
A high percentage? Not really, McComb said, not when you consider the number of people who take a chance on such things as raffles and charitable gaming.
Fessel, McComb, Elaine Robinson of LifeSpring and Joe Feldman, vice president of casino operations at Caesars Indiana, were part of a gambling forum last Wednesday evening at the Gerdon Youth Center in Corydon. It was sponsored by the Harrison County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition (also known as the Local Coordinating Council for the Governor’s Commission for a Drug Free Indiana). Rachel Turk heads the LCC for Harrison County.
McComb said each of Indiana’s 92 counties has a Local Coordinating Council to assist residents with issues such as gambling.
Indiana legalized gambling in 1989, starting with the lottery. Casinos were approved in 1994.
There are three levels of gambling, McComb said.
* Social gambling, which involves no negative consequences;
* Compulsive gambling, that carries moderate consequences, and
* Pathological gambling, whose repercussions disrupt the gambler’s life.
‘Up to five percent of gamblers have moderate to severe issues,’ McComb said.
LifeSpring, which has an office in Corydon, sees very few gambling addicts, Robinson said.
That could be a good thing because she knows of only two local counselors who are certified to treat gamblers. The counselors must be certified in order for LifeSpring to receive financial assistance from the state.
Pathological gamblers are also at risk of committing suicide ‘ 20 percent attempt to take their own life.
‘They’re pretty successful,’ she added.
Robinson said she has seen just four pathological gamblers in the past two years.
‘They’re just not coming in,’ she said.
Because there are so few trained counselors available to gamblers at LifeSpring, Robinson said they recommend Gamblers Anonymous (G.A.).
Fessel knows all about G.A.; he’s been attending weekly meetings for a year now and he recently started a chapter in Corydon.
Organizing a G.A. meeting place here was part of his plea agreement after he was charged in 2001 with fraud on a financial institution.
Fessel holds G.A. meetings each Tuesday evening at 7 at The Next Step in northeast Corydon. So far, no one has come to any of his meetings. The first one was held April 22.
Most people who attend Gamblers Anonymous are ‘referred by force, such as the court or their family,’ Fessel said.
One of the ways G.A. tries to help gamblers is by putting them on a budget, a ‘strict’ one, Fessel said.
‘Finances are the easiest thing to repair,’ he said.
Shirley Hawkins, executive director of Harrison County Community Services, attended the forum. She said about one of every 10 clients in her office is a gambling addict.
She does not believe there are more people with a gambling problem since Caesars Indiana opened in November 1998.
Feldman said at Caesars each employee completes training that should help them be aware of the addiction to gambling.
‘Sometimes they will make a manager or someone aware of a person’ who might be a problem gambler, he said.
Caesars refers that person to G.A. or another treatment option. ‘They often refuse it,’ he said.
If a person admits they have a problem with gambling, they can ask to have themselves ‘excluded’ from being admitted to a riverboat casino. Currently, they would have to make that request to each of the state’s nine gaming boats.
A new regulation that should be in place in a couple of months would allow a riverboat company to contact the Indiana Gaming Commission of an exclusion; that information would then be shared with the other facilities throughout the state.
Gambling is a ‘very specific activity that rings (gamblers’) bell,’ Robinson said.
Feldman said addicted gamblers can be identified by several warning signs, including a change in demeanor, they stay in one spot while gambling for long periods of time, they make frequent visits to gambling places, and they have financial problems.
Internet gambling, which isn’t legal in the United States, is increasing.
McComb said there are 1,800 known gambling sites located outside of the United States, which makes it difficult to regulate.
‘It took in $6 billion in revenue this year (to date) with 60 percent of that coming from U.S. people,’ she said.
Panel members are making themselves available to speak to different agencies and groups about gambling addiction. For more information about contacting them, call Turk at 738-1696.