Missouri may alter self-exclusion program for problem gamblers

During the Midwest Conference on Problem Gambling and Substance Abuse this week, Melissa Stephens, the Missouri Gaming Commission's problem gambling program administrator, disclosed that the state may change its self-exclusion program that allows gamblers to ban themselves from casinos for life.

Details of the change aren't public yet, but it's possible the commission will add a short-term banning option to the program. More than 10,000 Missouri residents have banned themselves for life from the state's 11 riverboat casinos since the program was started a decade ago.

The short-term ban option is being looked into because recent research suggests that rather than being a lifetime affliction like alcoholism, recovery is possible for gambling addicts, with one in three problem gamblers experiencing either natural or counseling-assisted recovery, and half are reporting being problem free for as long as five years.

Problem gamblers may soon find it even easier to get help for their addiction also. Attendees of the conference talked about the recent legislation introduced in Congress that would require states to set aside at least 1% of their gambling revenue for prevention and treatment programs.

A keynote speaker at the conference, H. Westley Clark, a top director in the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, pointed out that 48 states have legalized various forms of gambling, but only 22 states provide funding for treatment programs.

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