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Ohio Colleges Asked to Help Curb Gambling Problems Among Young Adults

CLEVELAND, OH—Ohio’s college and university counselors are being asked to help keep compulsive gambling from becoming a problem among young people in the state as gambling venues multiply.

The state Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services hopes prevention and treatment of gambling addiction can be improved at universities and colleges, The Plain Dealer in Cleveland reported. A conference at Ohio State University conference last month alerted counselors, although some said they hadn’t detected widespread addiction at their schools.

But the Ohio Casino Control Commission says the number of players under 30 voluntarily banning themselves from Ohio’s s new casinos is growing. It says younger players represent a fourth of the 365 names on a voluntary exclusion list.

“We don’t want that to become a blatant problem in Ohio,” said Marcie Seidel, executive director of the Drug-Free Action Alliance, a nonprofit group that co-sponsored the conference with Ohio State. “We want to get out in front of that.”

When the American Gaming Association lobbying group released an annual report on the health of the casino industry this month, outgoing President and Chief Executive Officer Frank Fahrenkopf Jr. noted that players 21 to 35 years old accounted for 40 percent of casino traffic.

Fahrenkopf also noted that the new types of casinos in urban settings often appeal to younger players, the newspaper reported.

Casinos are often now surrounded by bars, entertainment, upscale restaurants and other venues that the association’s research indicates younger customers like to combine with casinos visits.

College-age people’s risks related to gambling haven’t been studied as much as those involving drinking and drug use, but research shows they are two or three times more likely than other adults to develop severe problems, said Matthew Martens, an associate professor in the Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology at the University of Missouri.

But experts say the overall rate of pathological gambling is small.

Cleveland State and Case Western Reserve universities in northeast Ohio say they have not adopted any special programs for fighting gambling problems, but Ohio State has started watching for gambling addiction at its Student Wellness Center, the newspaper reported. The university also is developing a gambling-addiction message and will begin including information on the subject as part of orientation for first-year students.

The university hasn’t noticed a surge in gambling problems, said Bryan Ashton, a “financial wellness” coordinator with the center.

But he also said that compulsive gambling is not as easy to recognize as problems such as alcoholism that have more “outward signs.”

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