State-funded center to help gambling addicts |

State-funded center to help gambling addicts

LAS VEGAS (AP) – A new center at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, funded with the state’s first earmarked dollars for gambling addiction, opened this summer to treat addicts of all ages and income levels and spread the word among Nevada’s youths that gambling addictions can start early.

The UNLV Problem Gambling Treatment Program received $150,000 out of the $2.5 million the state allocated this year for gambling treatment. The money comes from a tax on slot machines.

Larry Ashley, the program director, said he plans on supervising four graduate students within the department of counselor education at UNLV, who will help clients with their gambling addictions.

The cost will be based on a sliding scale, but he said he won’t turn any clients away.

“Money is not an issue as far as getting treatment,” he said.

In giving graduate students clinical experience, he said, he also is helping to alleviate a state shortage of certified gambling counselors.

There are 11 such counselors in the state, according to the Nevada Board of Examiners for Alcohol, Drug and Gambling Counselors. The certification requires a bachelor’s degree in counseling or a related field, supervised clinical experience and passage of an exam specific to problem gambling counseling.

The state allocated an additional $37,000 to Ashley for prevention work this fall, including speeches at local high schools and UNLV about gambling addiction. He also received funds to write a doctoral course specific to gambling addiction treatment.

Nevada has done the least of any state that has legalized gambling to help those who suffer from gambling addiction, he said. “So this was groundbreaking,” he said.

State Sen. Dennis Nolan, R-Las Vegas, authored the legislation authorizing the funding in the 2005 session. The casino industry supported it because lawmakers framed the issue differently from in the past when it had been viewed as a problem the casinos created, he said.

“But it’s an expression of people with addictive behavior, and that is what gaming has said all along: ‘Look, this isn’t our problem; this is an individual problem.”‘

Local businessman Ken Templeton also helped get the legislation passed. About five years ago, he learned from Robert Hunter, clinical director of the nonprofit Problem Gambling Center in Las Vegas, that the state didn’t fund any treatment programs. Other states created treatment programs as they legalized gambling.

Templeton, now the chairman of the center, said he tried to get the Legislature to allocate funding in 2003, but major casino operators would not sign on. In 2005, he got the chief operating officer of Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. on board, and others followed.

It helped, he said, that the 2005 legislation also did not require additional funds from the industry.

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