Casino Chiefs and Critics Meet
By Earl
The Associated Press reports that a three-day conference between experts on problem gambling and those who offer gambling to the masses has resulted in an accord of sorts. Sponsored by the Harvard Medical School's Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related Disorders, the National Center for Responsible Gaming, and by the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling, industry executives heard from more than 300 “of the most respected academics, researchers, public health gurus” about their questions and concerns about addiction and treatment, at The Mirage Hotel-Casino. Industry executives concurred that gambling addiction was a problem for some people and that, according to Alan Feldman, an MGM Mirage spokesman and a Director of the National Center for Responsible Gaming Board, the gambling industry itself is “committed to funding future research…”

There are various ways in which funding by the industry can help, those at the conference agreed. There is further research into problem gambling to be paid for, as well as “effective treatment and preventive programs” which need to be developed to counter what public health experts said was “the growing problem of gambling addiction.” Researchers feel that people may be genetically disposed to problem gambling, for example. Research should prove or disprove that, and treatment hopefully follow.

“I'm concerned about gambling as a potential public health hazard,” said Howard J. Shaffer, Director of Harvard Medical School's Division on Addictions. Shaffer and other experts told the forum that scientific scrutiny should be placed on all addictions, including addiction to gambling, in order to find their root causes, in the hope that successful means of prevention of, and treatment for, addiction would follow. The experts said it was time to eliminate the “junk science,” or ineffective methods, that so far have had too much influence on the thinking on gambling-related health issues.

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