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New gambling help a good step

But inpatient treatment will be available to just seven people

The (Coos Bay) World

Gambling is big in Oregon. It's popular. It's part of the culture &

8212; and a big contributor to the state budget.

Oregonians are big gamblers &

8212; almost half of the state's adults play &

8212; and we're also big losers: In 2002, Oregonian adults averaged $447 in gambling losses &

8212; about 25 percent higher than the national average.

Then it should come as no surprise that there also are a hefty number of Oregonians who are problem gamblers; those for whom gambling causes psychological, physical, social or vocational disruptions. An estimated 60,000 of Oregon's residents have problems with gambling. Almost half are women; 6,000 are senior citizens. And more than 10,000 are between the ages of 13 and 17. Indeed, one in every 25 of Oregon's teens is a problem or pathological gambler. Gambling causes human suffering, including child neglect and domestic violence.

Problem gamblers are a sorry lot. In a recent study of more than 1,500 of them, more than one-third had committed crimes to finance their habits; 27 percent of them said gambling had cost them their marriages or significant relationships; and, no surprise, almost one-quarter were having suicidal thoughts.

It would follow that a state with so much gambling and so many gambling-related ills would have treatment available &

8212; and it does. In the past decade, more than 10,000 Oregonians have received help with gambling problems through a state-supported Problem Gambling Help Line (877-2-STOP-NOW), outpatient treatment centers and community gambling prevention and outreach programs. — By law, — percent of the state lottery proceeds must be used to treat problem gamblers, and every year, more Oregonians are seeking help. The state has announced it is increasing the help available by establishing inpatient treatment.

The program, which began last week, will provide pathological gamblers with a place to stay, staffing around-the-clock and several hours of group and individual therapy every day for about a month.

It's a valuable tool but one that, at present, is unlikely to have much of an effect. So far, the state is paying for just seven beds at an inpatient treatment center.

What do you think the odds are almost none of the state's thousands of problem gamblers will get one of them?