Pa. Targets Senior, Student Problem Gamblers

Tuesday, 06 Mar 2012 03:56 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The warning signs of problem gambling are making their way into Pennsylvania schools and senior centers, leading counties to spend some of the revenue they receive from the state’s casinos on educational programs. The effort began after many counties admitted their agencies didn’t know much about compulsive gambling, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
 
When slots parlors started operating just more than four years ago, the Pennsylvania Department of Health began receiving $1.5 million to address compulsive gambling, and spent several years building a system of private addiction treatment providers.
 
Then, in 2010, when table games were legalized, the Legislature doubled the amount of funds for problem gambling, and required the health department deliver at least half the funds to county drug and alcohol units and encourage them to start gaming treatment programs of their own.
 
About $6.4 million is allocated this year to 37 county agencies, including 15 in Western Pennsylvania alone. Much of that money is going to schools, including in Erie County, where workers are teaching students in grades 3 through 12 about the potential pitfalls of gambling.
 
Other counselors are hitting the state’s colleges and senior centers to help people get their gambling problems under control.
 
Robin Rothermel, director of state drug and alcohol programs, said the counties are reporting gambling problems that are “all over the board. Some folks see it as a huge problem, some not so much.”

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