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State aid helps bettors

MY VIEW • Free program's success rate makes it a national model
by: JIM CLARK, For Oregonians who have an unhealthy relationship with video poker and other means of gambling, state treatment programs can help them regain control.

The scene: an afternoon public hearing before a committee of the Oregon Legislature this spring. A man in his 50s sat at the witness table and began to tell his story, a story legislative committees don't often hear.

'I wasn't a person who was stealing your car stereos,' he told the committee, 'but that's where I was headed. Through treatment, I got the tools necessary so I could get on my feet.'

Today, he is among the more than 80 percent of Oregon gamblers who sought help and for whom the free, confidential treatment for gambling addiction has been successful - meaning that six months later they are either gambling less or not at all.

An estimated 75,000 of our neighbors are believed to have a current serious problem with gambling. On any given day, approximately 1,300 Oregonians are in treatment for a gambling disorder.

The treatment program is a safety net paid for by the Oregon Lottery, and the sad fact is that most people who would benefit - remember, it's free and it works - don't use it.

Oregon's free treatment for gambling addiction, which typically has a value of approximately $1,200, is recognized nationally as a model for its effectiveness.

Another Oregonian remembered she began watching a friend gamble $40 to $60 on video poker during her lunch hours. A former nongambler and self-described 'conservative,' she also became hooked.

She chose treatment after seeing a commercial about Oregon's treatment program. Because of the counseling, she said, she now channels her interests into other activities. 'Thankfully, I also have a good job and a supportive family,' she said.

But suppose you are married to a problem gambler who refuses to seek treatment? Help is still available. Counseling will help you understand that you are not alone, that you are not to blame and will show the gambler that accepting outside assistance is OK.

Although abstinence is the best answer for many problem gamblers, it isn't a requirement of Oregon's treatment program. For some people, it's enough to convert their gambling from a daily activity to an occasional recreation.

The Oregon Lottery offers a toll-free help line: 1-877-278-6766. In some instances, three-way calling may put a caller into immediate contact with a treatment program.

One woman said she gave her husband an ultimatum to call the help line after he gambled away $50,000. Without treatment, she said, 'we wouldn't be married, there's no doubt in my mind.'

Another woman, whose husband incurred $120,000 in sports gambling debt, said, 'It not only saved our marriage but it also helped me become stronger.'

Treatment really does work. There are many reasons to try it. Perhaps the best was summed up by the former problem gambler who told his story to lawmakers in Salem, 'My life today is wonderful,' he said.

Jeff Marotta is problem-gambling services manager for the Oregon Department of Human Services. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..