Gambling addictions, suicides come with opening of casinos

CLEVELAND - No doubt plenty of business has been generated by the recent opening of Horseshoe Casino Cleveland. But it does come with a price for those who have a gambling addiction.

Inside the halls of Recovery Resources is where you'll find Jen Clegg. She's on the front lines of gambling addiction in northeast Ohio.

"By the time the person comes into treatment here, they are kind of recognizing that they have a problem with gambling. They may not identify it with an addiction, but they definitely recognize that there's a problem."

NewsChannel5 tried to talk with a gambling addict, but they all declined an interview.

Clegg said the addicts all come there for hope, something they see as a luxury. Gambling addicts stare their addiction in the face every time they walk into a grocery store, convenient store or gas station.

"There's no cut off to gambling like alcohol and drugs. Alcohol and drugs you kind of naturally stop because your body shuts down," explained Dr. Heather Chapman, who works at the VA Medical Center.

She recently spoke at a seminar in Cleveland designed to help social workers mentor those who have dealt with other addictions like substance abuse, only to be welcomed into the world of gambling addiction.

"We can see, we can smell alcohol on a person's breathe. We do drug screens and tell that somebody is using substances. But there aren't screening tools for gamblers. I can give somebody a urine test and spades and diamonds and clubs aren't going to come out," said Clegg.

Even worse, gambling addictions can even lead to suicides.

In Gulfport, Mississippi, suicides skyrocketed 213 percent in the first two years the casino there opened. In Biloxi, they jumped a staggering 1,000 percent in the first four years.

"We are assessing if there is an issue with suicides and if there are underlying issues, such as depression or anxiety," explained Clegg. "And then determining how to help link the people with the services that they need."

Often times, people who have other substance abuse problems will transfer their addiction to things like gambling, Clegg said.

While Clegg doesn't expect the phone to ring off the hook right away, she does think in time the average number of six calls daily will go "way up."

On the Web: Recovery Resources

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