Meetings & Information


Monday, September 30, 2013

OLG began review of racetracks’ spending of slot revenues in 2010

Scenes from the morning workout at Woodbine Racetrack on June 27, 2013. The Globe found that Woodbine Entertainment paid $51-million in bonuses to employees over a 12-year period. (Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail)
Scenes from the morning workout at Woodbine Racetrack on June 27, 2013. The Globe found that Woodbine Entertainment paid $51-million in bonuses to employees over a 12-year period. (Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail)

OLG began review of racetracks’ spending of slot revenues in 2010

Md. Casinos Impose Fines for Underage Gambling

Md. Casinos Impose Fines for Underage Gambling

HANOVER, Md. — More than two dozen instances of underage gambling at Maryland casinos will cost casino operators tens of thousands of dollars in fines.

A consent agreement signed last week by gambling regulators and earlier by Maryland Live casino marks the state’s first penalty for underage violations. Under the agreement, Maryland Live agreed to pay $20,000 for four incidents of underage gambling. Soon Hollywood Casino in Perryville will pay $10,000 for two similar incidents.

There have been 30 known violations of underage gambling this year. The state can impose a maximum fine of $5,000 per incident.

Joe Weinberg, managing partner for Maryland Live casino, says casino operators will work toward zero tolerance at the 21-and-older establishment.

There is no state penalty for the young people who violate the policy.

The least we can do: Monthly statements for gamblers

Massachusetts ‘Gaming’ Future

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - Sept. 27, 2013 - Monthly statements for gamblers

Sitting in the state House of Representatives' Gaming Oversight Committee is a bill titled “Casino Monthly Statements.” This is the only legislation since our gaming law passed in 2004 addressing compulsive casino gambling before someone has the problem. ...

The bill, proposed by Rep. Paul Clymer, R-Bucks County, would require casinos to mail to gamblers a monthly statement detailing how much they won and lost. Gamblers should know how much they win or lose so they can better control their spending.

This bill has died four times. Powerful senators whose districts get a $10 million annual “hosting fee” do everything in their power to stop it from becoming the law.

The main argument against the bill is the mailing cost of monthly statements. So Clymer amended the bill to limit the mailing to only those patrons whose winnings and losses are $500 or more. I can't imagine anyone not wanting a loved one who is losing $500 or more a month to not receive a statement. Who knows how many Pennsylvanians' lives would be better if they knew this information?

We need to stop our casinos from breeding compulsive gambling degenerates. We need to call our legislators and tell them to support HB-1335, the casino monthly statements bill.

Bill Kearney


The writer is a former gambling addict who is seeking reforms in Pennsylvania casino system.

See More

Mass. casino foes continue to fight

Mass. casino foes continue to fight
Group starts trying to overturn law
Posted: Monday, September 30, 2013

They have almost no money, scant political support and no legal way, at the moment, to do the very thing their group exists to accomplish.

But casino opponents trying to overturn the law that legalized three casinos and a slot parlor in Massachusetts fight on, convinced victory is still possible.

"We look to stories of our faith and remember battles when David can beat Goliath," said the Rev. Laura Everett, executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches.

Casino opposition is organized into a group called Repeal the Casino Deal. Last weekend, it started gathering the roughly 69,000 signatures needed to put a question overturning the law on the November 2014 ballot. Even if the group gets the needed signatures within the two-month deadline, the efforts could die in court.

That's because Attorney General Martha Coakley ruled their ballot question unconstitutional. Casino opponents have appealed, but if they lose, it won't matter if they've gathered a million signatures, the fight is over.

Brian Ashmankas, a Millbury selectman who's organizing the signature drive, said the long odds aren't relevant to him.

"We're on the right side of this," he said.

The state's 2011 casino law created up to three casino licenses and a slots parlor license. Proponents promise a host of benefits, including thousands of jobs and new economic activity in places that badly need it.

But opponents say casinos siphon money by the millions from local businesses to support an industry that harms families and increases crime.

Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone believes his fellow Democrats, including Gov. Deval Patrick, made an "historic mistake" passing the casino bill, and voters deserve a chance to undo it.

"You do not build communities with casinos," Curtatone said. "Casinos polarize consumers and take money off Main Street with the lure that you'll win big on Easy Street."

The opposition melds diverse ideologies, from liberals such as Curtatone to conservative groups like the Massachusetts Family Institute.

"We've agreed to disagree on the other issues," said Kris Mineau of the institute. "We're Christians, and Jesus said if you can agree with your adversary, do so quickly."

Among the hurdles for casino opponents, Coakley's ruling is the biggest.

In her Sept. 4 decision, Coakley said applicants for a casino license - who pay an initial $400,000 fee - have "implied contracts" with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and those contracts are considered property. So a ban on casinos or a slots parlor would be an unconstitutional taking of property.

Casino opponents say Coakley's opinion defies legal precedent. But their appeal to the Supreme Judicial Court won't be heard until after the Nov. 20 deadline for collecting signatures, so they have to collect them and hope for a favorable ruling.

State Rep. Robert Koczera, a New Bedford Democrat and casino proponent, said casinos are simply capturing business that's leaving the state. He believes that even if the question reaches the ballot, casino opponents are "fighting a lost cause."

Opponents dismiss the substantial economic benefits of casinos only because they're wearing ideological blinders, and most voters don't share their views, he said.

"You're talking about thousands of [LOW WAGE] jobs, so I fail to see where it's not a win-win," Koczera said.

Tim Vercellotti of the Western New England University Polling Institute said it's unlikely public sentiment has changed much since statewide polls taken before the law's passage, which showed about half of respondents favoring casinos and a third opposed.

Those opinions were formed in a debate that preceded the law by years, and nothing dramatic has happened since to change people's minds, Vercellotti said.

In the Attleboro area, opponents are more focused on plans by Plainridge Racecourse in Plainville to obtain the slot machine license than doing away with the state law.

Many Plainville residents see a racino as an opportunity to revitalize the town. They voted Sept. 10 by a 3 to 1 margin to approve slots for the track.

However, there is a local group of opponents of the plans who call themselves No Plainville Racino.

Mary-Ann Greanier, head of that group, has cited concerns with the impact of a slot machine parlor such as problem gambling and other social ills as well as traffic. Greanier also has questioned the validity of the referendum results, questioning the process used for the election.

In neighboring Foxboro, a racino committee is working to address the impact Plainridge would have on that town. Committee members and residents, as the Plainville opposition group has, cite social ills and traffic.

Sun Chronicle reporter Stephen Peterson contributed to this report.

No. 2 US nuke commander suspended amid criminal probe

No. 2 US nuke commander suspended amid criminal probe

Chips ahoy!

The Naval admiral who was the No. 2 officer in charge of all US nuclear weapons is under a criminal probe for allegedly trying to pass a pile of counterfeit chips at an Iowa casino, officials said Saturday.
Navy Vice Adm. Tim Giardina may have had his finger on the button, but his other hand was on a “a significant monetary amount” in bad chips, said special agent David Dales of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

He has been suspended for the past three weeks from his duties as second-in-command at US Strategic Command, officials said in announcing the startling suspension Saturday.

Omaha-based “STRATCOM” oversees the country’s nuclear-armed bombers, intercontinental missiles and submarines.

Giardina has been under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigation Service since July, a STRATCOM spokeswoman said.

The career submarine officer is now barred from any duties requiring a security clearance or relating to nuclear weapons, the spokeswoman said.

Iowa investigators stationed at the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs discovered the allegedly chintzy chips.

The matter was serious enough that STRATCOM’s top commander, Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, reached out to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to recommend that Giardina be reassigned pending the investigation, officials said.

White-collar crimes such as embezzlement and fraud are the most common associated with gambling, experts said.

“Gambling, especially Internet gambling, is a huge issue in the military,” said Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling. Military personnel are twice as likely as civilians to have a gambling pathology, he said.

Candidates too timid to speak out against gambling? You bet

Candidates too timid to speak out against gambling? You bet
Monday, September 30, 2013
By: Joe Fitzgerald

Sometimes it’s not what people say that reveals who and what they are; sometimes it’s what they don’t say.

And the candidates now prowling this city in search of support have been unconscionably mum on a bread-and-butter issue that strikes at the heart of the quality of life they claim to care so much about.

Gambling is every bit as addictive, destructive and ruinous to families as any lethal drug on the streets, yet where’s the candidate willing to invite wrath and ridicule by declaring the government not only has no business getting into bed with high-rolling hustlers, but also has a moral mandate to discourage the miseries they peddle?

It’s supposed to care about us, remember?

Isn’t that why smokers are taxed ruthlessly, and fines are imposed on those who fail to buckle up, and sugary drinks are banned from vending machines?

Yet gambling gets a pass from candidates who have opinions on everything else, but not a peep to say about wagering despite empirical evidence of its corrosive effect on the population.

Years ago, long before Massachusetts was seduced by the menacing lure of casinos, a downtown lawyer called to share some painful memories.

“Four of us were raised by my mother in the Mission Hill projects,” she recalled.

“She had such an addiction to gambling that most nights our supper consisted of one can of tomato soup mixed with three cans of water. To have a piece of bread was like having dessert. Breakfast was a rarity, and shoes and sneakers were replaced only when the nuns complained.

“We had a bad enough time with her betting on the Spanish and Irish street numbers, so you can imagine the impact on us when the Lottery was born. She could waste more of what little we had with the greatest of ease, thanks to the state.

“Today her addiction is scratch tickets. Where will it end? I hear politicians addressing drug addicts and drunk driving, but how about gamblers with hungry kids? Will they address that, too?”

Those now running certainly have the opportunity, but they’re letting their silence do their talking for them.

It really isn’t complicated. Gambling can wreck homes, marriages, careers and reputations. The money it generates is blood money, plain and simple. The only way casinos turn a profit is by encouraging desperate losers to sink even deeper into pits of despair.

This is how the commonwealth presumes to increase its revenue?

Please. Is there no one in the field with the fiber to suggest we ought to be traveling a higher road?

- See more at:

Sunday, September 29, 2013

"I think it's that important....."

Nothing smells more like the 1% sucking discretionary income from the local economy more that Predatory Gambling.

The Predatory Gambling Industry offers LOW WAGE JOBS, overstated projections and false promises. How can any community trust them?

Mass. anti-casino group fights on amid long odds

Lots of People Already Quitting Their Jobs at Cleveland Casino

Could it be the LOW WAGES?

Lots of People Already Quitting Their Jobs at Cleveland Casino

Posted by                                      


The Horseshoe Casino’s first days in business were bound to include a few kinks here and there.

Would Mike Trivisonno’s poker table require delivery of fried chicken? Would he fetch his own?

But word inside Dan Gilbert’s palace is that the house is dealing with more than a few hiccups in its opening weeks — most notably that a ton of employees have already quit.

“People can’t handle it,” says one Horseshoe employee who asked not to be ratted out for talking to people of our dubious stock. “It’s the stress. It’s a lot of culture shock. A lot of people from all departments have already quit. It’s visibly noticeable and something we talk about.”

Many of the problems stem from the casino’s hiring philosophy, says the staffer. “The process was kind of like American Idol, which was cool. But even if you were experienced, you might have been turned down because they wanted to hire based on having an upbeat and positive attitude. There are people working here who had never even frequented a casino as a guest before.”

A second casino employee who also declined to be named confirms that workers are fleeing like Browns fans at halftime. Consensus is it’s the relatively inexperienced older folks who are cashing out early, and that plenty of workers are thoroughly enjoying themselves. But management isn’t exactly giving them reason to stay.

“Cage cashiers have had a serious problem with quitting because they’re keeping them way too long — 11-hour days,” says the employee. Even worse: Slot attendants work for $6 an hour plus tips, which have been all but nonexistent.

“I saw four people crying after they looked at their paychecks. Some people are really flipping their shit.
“A lot of people quit when they didn’t get the shifts they wanted, acting like it’s the first day of sixth grade and you’re picking your homeroom. It’s every department: dealers, cashiers, attendants, security.”

Dealers, in particular, have been flagged for not being polite enough, fast enough — even correct enough. “They just brought in 14 experienced dealers to deal with that.”


Rock Gaming says it’s casino business as usual.

“We intentionally staffed up,” says spokeswoman Jennifer Kulczycki. “Caesar’s has opened casinos before, and they know when you bring a new industry to a new market and people aren’t familiar with a 24/7 operation, you anticipate some attrition. Sixteen hundred is normal operating conditions, and we hired over 1,600.”

But even more troubling are emerging rumors that Horseshoe guests can’t get a timely beverage.
“The waitresses have been awful,” one worker says. “It takes over 20 minutes to get a drink. I’ve got customers asking me about their drink nonstop.”

So the place sucks?

“I love it. I’d be bored if I wasn’t doing this.”


No. 2 nuke commander suspended amid casino probe

Massachusetts ‘Gaming’ Future

I can tell you from my personal experience, you wouldn't want to know what goes through the mind of a casino gambling degenerate. I'd hate to think that someone in charge of nuclear weapons has those thoughts.

Philadelphia Inquirer - September 28, 2013 - No. 2 nuke commander suspended amid casino probe...

The No. 2 officer at the military command in charge of all U.S. nuclear war-fighting forces is suspected in a case involving counterfeit gambling chips at a western Iowa casino and has been suspended from his duties, officials said.

No. 2 nuke commander suspended amid casino probe

This image provided by the U.S. Navy shows Navy Vice Adm. Tim Giardina in a Nov. 11, 2011, photo. The U.S. strategic Command, the military command in charge of all U.S. nuclear warfighting forces says it has suspended its No. 2 commander, Giardina, for unspecific reasons, and he is under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy)
This image provided by the U.S. Navy shows Navy Vice Adm. Tim Giardina in a Nov. 11, 2011, photo. The U.S. strategic Command, the military command in charge of all U.S. nuclear warfighting forces says it has suspended its No. 2 commander, Giardina, for unspecific reasons, and he is under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy)

WASHINGTON (AP) - The No. 2 officer at the military command in charge of all U.S. nuclear war-fighting forces is suspected in a case involving counterfeit gambling chips at a western Iowa casino and has been suspended from his duties, officials said.

Navy Vice Adm. Tim Giardina has not been arrested or charged, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation special agent David Dales said Saturday. The state investigation is ongoing.

Giardina, deputy commander at U.S. Strategic Command, was suspended on Sept. 3 and is under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, a Strategic Command spokeswoman said.

The highly unusual action against a high-ranking officer at Strategic Command was made more than three weeks ago but not publicly announced at that time. The command is located at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Neb.

Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, who heads Strategic Command, suspended Giardina, according to the command's top spokeswoman, Navy Capt. Pamela Kunze. Giardina is still assigned to the command but is prohibited from performing duties related to nuclear weapons and other issues requiring a security clearance, she said.

Kehler has recommended to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that Giardina be reassigned, Kunze said. Giardina has been the deputy commander of Strategic Command since December 2011. He is a career submarine officer and prior to starting his assignment there was the deputy commander and chief of staff at U.S. Pacific Fleet.

DCI agents stationed at the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa, discovered the counterfeit chips, Dales said. He would not say when the discovery was made or how much in counterfeit chips was found, only that "it was a significant monetary amount."

Council Bluffs is located across the Missouri River from Omaha.

"We were able to detect this one pretty quickly and jump on it," Dales said. He declined to give specifics on how authorities determined that casino chips had been counterfeited or how Giardina might have been involved.

Strategic Command oversees the military's nuclear fighter units, including the Navy's nuclear-armed submarines and the Air Force's nuclear bombers and nuclear land-based missiles.

Kunze said Strategic Command did not announce the suspension because Giardina remains under investigation and action on Kehler's recommendation that Giardina be reassigned is pending. The suspension was first reported by the Omaha World-Herald.

Kunze said a law enforcement investigation of Giardina began June 16. Kehler became aware of this on July 16, and the following day he asked the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to begin a probe.

The suspension is yet another blow to the military's nuclear establishment. Last spring the nuclear missile unit at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., pulled 17 launch control officers off duty after a problematic inspection and later relieved of duty the officer in charge of training and proficiency.

In August a nuclear missile unit at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., failed a nuclear safety and security inspection; nine days later an officer in charge of the unit's security forces was relieved of duty.


Development firm KG Urban submits casino papers, $400K

It remains unclear how a Host Community Agreement will be negotiated and whether this will become another 'Bait 'n Switch' like Plainridge.

Development firm KG Urban submits casino papers, $400K
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is about to face competition for a casino in Southeastern Massachusetts.
On Friday, ahead of Monday's deadline for applications, KG Urban Enterprises filed its application and a nonrefundable check for $400,000 to bid on a commercial casino in the region, spokesman Andy Paven said. KG Urban, which hopes to build a casino on the New Bedford waterfront, filed without a casino operator as a partner, he said.
Last Monday, KG Urban filed court documents in its federal lawsuit against the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, saying that the tribe being part of the process is making it difficult for casino operators to commit to the region and continues to cause "irreparable harm."
Despite those concerns and the fact that its lawsuit will not be settled before the end of the year at the earliest, KG Urban decided to write the check.
"We're fully committed to the project," Paven said Saturday.
The Gaming Commission has said that a company with land under agreement can add a casino operator after Monday's deadline.
There is a possibility that companies like Hard Rock, which failed to win approval in other regions of the state, could partner with KG or another landowner who applies in Southeastern Massachusetts by the deadline.
Elaine Driscoll, a spokesman for the commission, was not immediately able to confirm KG Urban's application.
It remains unclear just how much interest there is in the region from commercial developers.
The tribe has a proposal to build a $500 million casino in Taunton, which faces federal hurdles.
A compact reached between tribe leaders and Gov. Deval Patrick has been acted on favorably by a legislative committee, but has not yet been scheduled for a vote by either the House or Senate.
The deal also needs approval of the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs — the same agency that is currently reviewing the tribe's application to have the Taunton land taken into trust for a casino.
On Tuesday, Clyde Barrow, a casino expert at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth's Center for Policy Analysis, said there is no question that the tribe's presence in the region has kept some casino companies out the game.
"I guess the explanation is people are still skeptical that the rug could get pulled out from under them at any time by the Indian tribe," Barrow said.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Lady Luck calls on Suffolk Downs

Lady Luck calls on Suffolk Downs

Friday, September 27, 2013

Desperate & Amoral CEO of Caesars Rips Opposition

Loveman? The Amoral CEO who dismisses GAMBLING ADDICTION, ignored that 90% of Harrah's [now Caesar's] profits came from 10% of their patrons, and has mired Caesars so deeply in debt, their stocks have tanked and they're a hair's breadth from bankruptcy [according to some].......

Gary Loveman is DESPERATE! And the great community activists and organizers have spread the FACTS about Predatory Gambling and made this arrogant clod realize he may LOSE!

Suffolk Downs partner rips anti-casino 'hysteria'

September 27, 2013,

(NECN: Peter Howe, Boston) - If Suffolks Downs winds up winning the eastern Massachusetts casino license, the billion-dollar "destination resort" casino with a horse track will have a Caesars Entertainment name on the outside.

Caesars CEO Gary Loveman, participating in a National Association for Business Economics forum Friday at the Boston Public Library with problem-gambling expert Rachel Volberg of the University of Massachusetts School of Public Health and Health Sciences, lamented what he called anti-casino "hysteria" and predicted a Boston casino could be wildly popular with international visitors.

Loveman argued that compared to other kinds of legalized vices, gambling gets way more social-impact scrutiny, unfairly so, complaining about "the tremendous level of concern, I guess I would say in some cases hysteria that surrounds the notion that there might be three or four casinos built in Massachusetts."

While a proposed new restaurant serving alcohol would get little or no scrutiny and win a liquor license, casinos get, Loveman argued, a disproportionate level of "social cost accounting" scrutiny over their link to personal bankruptcies, crime, addiction, prostitution and more.

"Clinicians, economists and sociologists would agree that the cost of addiction to alcohol is substantially higher" than gambling addiction. Over and over, Loveman said, he’s seen states that legalized gambling come to realize their concerns were exaggerated. "You're struck by just how completely normal and rather pedestrian these businesses can be once it settles in and people come to terms with it," Loveman said.

Volberg is working on extensive studies for the state aimed at quantifying the current level of problem gambling in Massachusetts, including Lottery ticket purchases and trips to out-of-state casinos, to try to track just how much having up to three casinos and a slots parlor affects the issue here. “We're looking at not just problem gambling, not just bankruptcies, not just divorces” but a wide range of social impacts, Volberg said.

Loveman said gambling addiction "is a real big issue" that the industry is committed to keeping under control and treating and eliminating. "I have 80,000 people who work with me, and I guarantee you, not one of them wants to go home at night thinking they served an addicted gambler. I don't, they don't, we don't want to market to an addicted gambler … The 2 percent of our customers in the casino industry broadly who suffer from addiction are a tragedy. Every single person who suffers this has grievous personal harm and harm for their families."  

But, Loveman argued, the overall economic upside to gambling is huge for Boston and, he said, could bring thousands of international high-rollers into Boston every year. Caesars’ New Orleans casino gets about one third of its business from local residents, one third from the broader Gulf region, and one third from people visiting New Orleans for business or conventions, and Loveman said he sees the mix of business for a Boston casino being the same.

"The only city in North America that receives significant high-end international play is Las Vegas," Loveman said. "I believe Boston will become the second such city. I think we will have a very high-caliber international gaming enthusiasts, many of whom are coming from China and are ethnic Chinese, who will come to Boston … I’m quite confident I can generate a tremendous volume of domestic and international visitation to a Caesars casino in Boston."

But, Volberg warned: "Some people are going to think a casino at Suffolk Downs is like the best thing possible. And some other people are going to think it's like the world's worst nightmare."

With videographer Dan Smith      

Gambling Addict Embezzles

How come the casinos get to keep the stolen funds?

Charges: State Dem. leader used campaign funds for gambling, booze

Penn National walked away from contract....

We want Penn National in Massachusetts?

How can they be trusted?

Now that we've had some time to research Penn National, we've come across quite a list of issues and incidents that We have been doing research about Penn National Gaming and have discovered information about issues and incidents that the voters of Plainville should have been allowed to consider BEFORE being frogmarched to the polls to vote, only six days after Penn National "took over" the HCA.

We have already posted links to the two days of revelations at the MA Gaming Commission's suitability hearing. Over the next few days, we'll be posting much of the additional research we've unearthed:

Does Plainville have a casino partner who's prepared to follow through on the casino development plans — especially because the plans are ones they inherited in their entirety from Plainridge? (They're already planning to add a hotel.)...

In 2008, Penn National walked away from its promise to build a casino in Cherokee County, Kansas. In response, the county sued Penn National for breach-of-contract and won. After more than three years of litigation, a Shawnee County judge ruled in Cherokee County's favor in September 2012. The county was seeking $52 million in damages, but eventually agreed to a settlement of $4.75 million in January 2013.

"After receiving nearly all of the approvals necessary to open its doors in Cherokee County, KPG [Penn National] withdrew its application to be a lottery gaming facility (casino) manager in the Sountheast Zone," stated the county's memorandum in support of summary judgment. "Because executives at PGN believed there was more money to be made elsewhere in Kansas, PNG made the calculated decision to abandon the Cherokee County project."

Check back here to see what else we've dug up.
See More

On second thought, repeal casinos

On second thought, repeal casinos

Massachusetts: '...problem gamblers have a high suicide rate...'

Now that the state of MA has entered the gaming arena in an effort to pull in revenue, mental health workers are getting ready for an onslaught of problem gamblers. They understand that convenience impacts frequency.

To offset this known "side effect," the MA Gaming Law requires licensed casinos to pay, in aggregate at least $5 million to the state for programs that address problem gambling. Additionally, they also require self-exclusion lists and "complimentary" on-site casino space for independent substance abuse and mental health counseling.

Mental heath professionals are warning us. Our state legislators are even warning us in the very law they crafted. Milford, we CANNOT afford to gamble on a casino!...

Like if you agree!
Thursday, September 26, 2013

Mental health workers brace for wave of problem gamblers

By Susan Spencer, TELEGRAM & GAZETTE

In just a few short months, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission will award its first casino license, for a slots parlor in Leominster, Plainville or Raynham. A few months later, two resort casino licenses will follow, with a third in Southeastern Massachusetts after that.

Many area residents eagerly anticipate the promised construction and permanent jobs, the added revenue to state and municipal coffers and the specter of economic development.

But others, particularly those in the mental health and addiction fields, are gravely concerned that nearby casinos will spur more problem gambling. And they say there aren't sufficient treatment resources available.

"There are very few programs in the Commonwealth that are specifically focused on gambling," said Deborah J. Ekstrom, chief executive officer of Community Healthlink, a nonprofit behavioral health center based in Worcester.

Community Healthlink serves more than 17,000 adults and children, who receive treatment, housing and support services through outpatient clinics and homelessness prevention programs in Worcester, Leominster, Clinton, Fitchburg and Gardner.

"We definitely need to get more people in the field," said Margot Cahoon, communications director for the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling. "When someone calls our help line, it's hard to find services for them. We definitely need to build capacity."

The council's treatment referral list doesn't include any private practitioners in Central Massachusetts. The closest are in Amherst, Northampton or Belmont.

LUK, Inc. in Fitchburg is the only Central Massachusetts outpatient counseling center on the referral list.

Ms. Cahoon said that Worcester was one of the areas the council was focusing on to prepare clinicians for an expected surge in demand.

The council and the state Department of Public Health are working to get more clinicians — particularly certified drug and alcohol counselors and those who deal with personality disorders — certified as problem gambling specialists.

"We've been offering more training to understand the differences between problem gambling and other substance abuse and mental health disorders," she said.

The 2011 Expanded Gaming Act requires licensed casinos to pay, in aggregate, at least $5 million to the state for programs addressing problem gambling. Other resources, including self-exclusion lists and complimentary on-site space for independent substance abuse and mental health counseling services, must also be provided by casinos.

But Ms. Cahoon said that those resources won't be received until the casinos are up and running, at least a year or two from now.

Pathological, or addicted gambling, is said to occur in 1 to 2 percent of the U.S. population, according to researchers. Including problem gambling that doesn't quite meet the level of addiction, the prevalence of what the council refers to as "disordered gambling" rises to 2 to 3 percent.

Ms. Cahoon said that the University of Massachusetts at Amherst is studying the current statewide prevalence, but the council estimates between 85,000 and 185,000 Massachusetts residents have experienced disordered gambling.

"Gambling addiction is probably harder for people to spot than addiction to drugs or alcohol because it doesn't cause any of the physiological changes in people," Ms. Ekstrom said, "But it does cause depression, you'll see higher rates of alcoholism among problem gamblers, there's a higher rate of family violence, domestic violence, and then a whole host of financial problems."

Electronic gaming machines like slots and video poker, which make up about 85 percent of casinos' revenue, are particularly dangerous to compulsive gamblers, referred to by some researchers as "the crack-cocaine of gambling." The rapid play, lights, sounds and multiple-play manipulation are designed to keep the gambler playing — and losing — as long as possible.

"The neurological research shows that people actually get more of a rush from losing when they're almost winning, than they do from actually winning. We're wired to lose," Ms. Ekstrom said.

"It is a public health menace. It has these terrible social consequences and the health research about it is shocking."

A research summary prepared in March by the Worcester Regional Research Bureau, "Should Worcester Welcome a Slot-Machine Casino?" reported that those who play the new slot machines regularly become addicted three to four times more rapidly than other gamblers, who play at table games like craps, blackjack and roulette.

Bay Staters aren't exactly strangers to casinos already. Casinos in Rhode Island and Connecticut are just an hour or so, or even less, away.

So will it make much difference if there's a casino in Leominster, Milford or Palmer?

"The cost to get to Foxwoods is a barrier for some people, and we're glad about that," Ms. Ekstrom said. "The convenience factor impacts the frequency.

"One of the things I worry about is whether people will run shuttle buses from Worcester to Leominster."

The Research Bureau's report cited a 2004 study, which found that living within 10 miles of a large-scale gaming operation put individuals at a 90 percent increased risk for problems.

Noting that Rhode Island and New York had similar experience, Ms. Cahoon said, "We want to be prepared for the onslaught of people needing services."

Ms. Ekstrom said that treatment for problem or addicted gambling runs from 12-step programs like Gamblers Anonymous, which holds meetings in Worcester, Millbury, Westboro, Leominster and Gardner, according to its website, to cognitive-behavioral therapy, to other types of counseling and medication.

She said that the philosophy at Community Healthlink regarding any addiction is that people are generally using a substance or activity to deal with emotional problems they may have, such as trauma or depression. Once those underlying issues are dealt with, it's easier to address the addiction.

Deborah L. Greenslit, of Rutland, has seen problem gambling from both sides. The 57-year-old licensed mental health counselor and wellness specialist found herself drawn into high-rolling gambling after she hit the jackpot on a penny slot machine at Mohegan Sun, in Uncasville, Conn., in 2010.

Ms. Greenslit said she used the several hundred thousand dollars she won that day — it was far less than the reported $752,000 after taxes and payout options — to pay off debt, help friends and family and give some to charity.

But the winnings soon evaporated, after leading her into a downward spiral of more gambling to distract her from emotional losses and health problems she was facing.

"It sort of sucked me into that lure of escaping that pain," she said.

Ms. Greenslit is writing a book, "Living with a Loving Heart... Lessons Learned on Suffering and Pain," and is turning her counseling practice into a healing center for all forms of addiction. She said she prefers to focus on self-empowerment and helping people redirect their pain in positive ways.

"There's a lot of clinicians out there who don't know how to deal with gamblers," Ms. Greenslit said. "People kind of bunch up gambling with other addictions. There's a spectrum."

Ms. Greenslit also sees an urgent need for more and better gambling addiction resources as casinos crop up in nearby communities. She noted that problem gamblers have a high suicide rate. "People's lives are in our hand," she said. "I think it's very, very important that people are properly trained."




Palmer Against Casinos

PALMER - Quaboag Valley Against Casinos has opened an office at 1009 Central St. in Palmer and will hold its open house Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m.

The public is invited; refreshments will be served. Volunteers will be available to talk with visitors about casinos and about the host community agreement that Mohegan Sun recently signed with the town of Palmer.

The headquarters will be open on a regular schedule, Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m., and Tuesday through Friday, 4 to 6 p.m....

Iris L. Cardin, co-chairwoman of Quaboag Valley Against Casinos, said she also will be at the headquarters with her husband Daniel starting next week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

On Friday, starting at 3:45 p.m., the group will meet at the headquarters, then proceed to locations in town where members plan to hold anti-casino signs.

The group is ramping up its anti-casino message as the Nov. 5 vote on Mohegan Sun nears. Mohegan Sun wants to build a resort casino across from the Massachusetts Turnpike exit on Thorndike Street (Route 32).
Iris Cardin Actually, we`ll be there from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Milford: Quality of Life

In a WMRC radio segment earlier this summer, Rep Fernandes commented on our quality of life in Milford should a casino be built here. He understands that the resulting traffic will have a real impact on that quality....after all...495 is a local road for us!