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The Big Gamble: Fighting Addiction Around Casinos

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — Nothing is more gratifying for a gambler than a successful spin. Some will do just about anything to hear it.

“Proximity is a factor in addiction. There are lots of studies that say the closer you are to a gambling venue, the more likely you are to become addicted,” Mark Fatla, the Executive Director of Pittsburgh North Side Leadership Conference, a community development corporation.

The National Council on Problem Gaming estimates that about 4 to 6 million Americans get sucked into gambling each year. Fatla says his Pittsburgh neighborhood has been preparing for the realities that gaming brings ever since The Rivers casino opened four years ago.

“We know that social ill will come for us. How we prepare for that, how we deal with that is going to be key,” he said.

Cincinnati knows it’s key for them, too. A downtown Horseshoe casino opens this spring.

City leaders say if you’re looking for a quick check cashing location or pawn shops in downtown Cincinnati, near the casino, you won’t find one. That’s all in an effort to curb addictive tendencies.

“We have taken some steps to 1.) undertaken a planning process that will re-zone the entire, at least quarter-mile area around the casino so that one can still find those places but not within easy walking distance,” Vice-Mayor Roxanne Qualls said.

That includes ATMs. Pittsburgh has taken similar actions in their city. Fatla says while zoning changes help, creating vibrant neighborhoods around the casino is just as key so money lenders and less desirable businesses stay away.

“We have a very active neighborhood that wouldn’t be a friendly reception for such businesses,” he said.

Mohegan Sun says they have a number of programs to try to curb gambling addictions. Addiction hotline numbers are taped to each slot machine and gaming table, but the casino also keeps their eye on you.

“People can sign up. It’s a voluntary program,” Mohegan Vice-President of Corporate Development Paul Brody said. “Once they are on that list and we have facial recognition in place, they’re no longer welcome in the casino for any activity. If they visit, they are walked off the property. If they come back a second time, we ask the State Police to arrest them for trespass.”

Experts say almost all casinos do their best to try to prevent addiction, but ultimately it is the responsibility of each individual gambler. Casino organizers also point out that not everyone who gambles will become addicted.

In our continuing investigation into “The Big Gamble,” Wednesday night at 6:00 p.m., we explore whether or not all those businesses near casinos really see any dollars from gamblers passing by.

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