The Edmond Sun


May 21, 2009

The 'hidden' addiction

EDMOND — Whether it is betting on horses at a race track, playing slot machines at a casino or playing a hand of Texas Hold ’Em, there is a corresponding element of chance that gives many gamblers a “rush.”

That rush can be as addictive as drugs.

Gamblers have numerous outlets — sports, poker, the Internet, lotteries, bingo, games of skill, games of chance.

State Attorney General Drew Edmondson, a candidate for governor, has said he thinks Internet gambling is illegal in Oklahoma. And Edmondson wants federal legislation clarifying Internet gambling laws.

Yet Oklahoma contains many gambling outlets, including the state-run lottery, more than 80 tribal casinos and two “racinos,” horsetracks with casinos, as of 2007.

Another casino soon could be coming to central Oklahoma.

The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs is considering the Shawnee tribe’s request to put land near Remington Park into trust. If the bureau agrees, the tribe plans to build a Las Vegas-style hotel and casino.

Tribal leaders said economic analyses indicate the project would have a $354 million annual positive impact on Oklahoma City. Opponents say it would be bad news, perhaps fatal, for Remington Park.

It also could create more compulsive gamblers in Edmond. Studies show compulsive gambling doubles in areas within 50 miles of a casino.

Many individuals gamble as a form of entertainment. However, an estimated 75,000 Oklahomans become intoxicated by the win and continue spending to win back their losses, according to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Problem gamblers can lose control, become guilt-ridden and desperate, said Caletta McPherson, deputy commissioner for ODMHSAS’ Substance Abuse Services. Their families suffer too, she said.

Pathological and problem gambling affects financial institutions, the criminal justice system due to more embezzlement, fraud and domestic violence charges, and human service agencies, McPherson said. It also leads to debt, bankruptcy, divorce, illegal activities, child neglect and suicide.

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