What Are the Odds That Casinos Will Ruin Some Lives?

Clinicians in Pennsylvania are getting training in a new field: gambling addiction. Casinos began opening in the state two years ago. Compulsive gamblers surely are ...
by | October 15, 2008

Clinicians in Pennsylvania are getting training in a new field: gambling addiction.

Casinos began opening in the state two years ago. Compulsive gamblers surely are in those windowless establishments as we speak, losing good chunks of their salaries and/or savings.

They haven't been showing up in therapists offices in droves. But it's possible they haven't found out yet that the state will pay $65 per session for pathological gamblers who have lost everything. "I predict it will grow by leaps and bounds once they see there's funding," says Brent Olean, a licensed social worker, in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has approved 13 providers, who are authorized to get reimbursement for treating gamblers. Or members of their families. The department is expected to approve another two dozen soon.

It's the seamy side of gambling (or should we say seamier?), this business of states abetting compulsive gamblers by allowing in casinos. It comes up in legislative debates that focus on the revenues gambling can bring a state. And then gets accepted as the cost of doing business. And boosting budgets.

Pennsylvania is not unusual. It's typical for states to pencil in fund for gambling addiction services, knowing full well they will be needed. It's just that sometimes it's hard to watch this all unfold.

Ellen Perlman
Ellen Perlman  |  Former columnist
mailbox@governing.com  | 

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