Friday, November 03, 2000


   The October move of the National Center for Responsible Gaming's 
from Kansas City, Mo., to Harvard University strengthens scientific 
efforts to understand gambling disorders, according to its executive 
   "There's not a high awareness of pathological gambling as a 
disorder, much like there is for drug abuse or alcoholism," Christine 
Reilly said. "Having one of the most respected research institutions 
in the world study the problem moves it to the next level."
   The center's parent group, the Gaming Entertainment Research and 
Education Foundation, awarded Harvard a two-year contract to create 
the Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related 
   The institute, housed in the medical school's Division on 
Addiction, will evaluate research proposals and seek funding for 
research projects.
   Reilly said the institute will produce research that provides 
clarity on the various types of gambling-related disorders.
   "Right now, we don't have a sense of the natural history of these 
disorders," she said.
   MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman said pathological gambling was 
largely ignored until 1980, when it was listed in the Diagnostic and 
Statistical Manual, a medical reference book published by the 
American Psychiatric Association.
   Feldman said scientific efforts to create awareness of the issue 
have been hurt by a disjointed approach to research and treatment.
   The emergence of different types of terminology for gambling 
disorders - problem gambling, pathological gambling, disordered 
gambling - further stunted awareness efforts, Feldman said.
   "You could have talented treatment professionals using different 
language to describe pathological gambling's characteristics, but 
they couldn't communicate with each other about the problem, much 
less with the outside world," he said.
   Feldman credits Harvard Medical School psychology professor Howard 
Shaffer, who studies gambling addiction, with initiating the process 
to standardize terminology for gambling disorders.
   Shaffer, who directs the Division on Addiction, said Harvard has 
studied gambling disorders since 1983.
   "By establishing the institute, we're saying to the world that this 
is a very important scientific phenomenon that demands attention," 
Shaffer said.
   The National Council on Problem Gambling defines pathological 
gambling as a progressive addiction characterized by a preoccupation 
with gambling. It defines problem gambling as behavior that disrupts 
any major area of a person's life.
   Keith Whyte, executive director of the national Council on Problem 
Gambling, estimated that last year 1 percent of U.S. adults would 
have met the criteria for being pathological gamblers and another 2 
percent to 3 percent of adults would have been classified with the 
less-severe label of problem gambler.
   Carol O'Hare, executive director of the Nevada Council on Problem 
Gambling, said the institute could produce the type of peer-reviewed 
research needed to access funding for research and treatment programs.
   She also expects researchers to probe the relationship between 
pathological gambling and other addictive disorders, examine what 
populations are most susceptible to pathological gambling and 
determine which treatments work and the best way to deliver those 
    "The people who suffer from these disorders benefit most from the 
research," said O'Hare, whose council runs a 24-hour help line that 
fielded 1,800 calls last year.

Dave Berns
Editor/Writer Gaming Wire
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