Gambling addiction: Calls per week have decreased since Horseshoe Casino Cleveland opened

Online gambling accessibility gaining ground

CLEVELAND - Michael Cawley and his friend Jessica Hodges walked out of the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland with smiles Tuesday morning. They hadn't won any money while gambling, but it was a destination for summer fun, and that's just what they got.

When asked if either knew of anyone with a gambling problem, Hodges said she didn't know of anyone.

"I don't know anyone who is addicted to gambling. I think it's just for entertainment. That's all I do it for," Hodges said. "I think if you have an addictive personality you might, but not if you do it for entertainment."

"A lot of it, I think, is self-control, like with anything. You know, you can go out there and eat 50 sandwiches a day, some people may be addicted to that, but I think as long as you have self-control, go out there to have a good time with friends, or family, over all I think it's just self-control," Cawley said.

Johni Fiber with Recovery Resources, at 3950 Chester Ave. in Cleveland, said for some, self-control is something with which they struggle every day, much like substance abuse.

"They are people who can go out and have a drink with friends and that doesn't cause them many problems, they don't have any consequences associated with that in their lives. And there are folks who can go out and go on a trip and do some gambling with some friends and have a good time, set a limit and stick to that limit and are perfectly fine and don't suffer any negative consequences. And then there are folks who just can't do that," Fiber said.

Fiber said the signs that someone may have a gambling problem are easy to spot if someone close to them are watching, and listening closely.

"If people are hiding and lying about where they are at, and what they are doing, then that is kind of a tale-tell sign," Fiber said.

"'I'm going to go to this poker game and I'm only going to spend $200' and before they know it, they've taken out two additional ATM withdraws to fund the rest of their time gambling that day. So, it's a problem when people aren't able to stick to limits that they set for themselves and thinking about it all the time, and preoccupied planning their next time to gamble, and thinking about it while they are at work, and feeling restless and irritable when they try to cut down on gambling, yet it's always on their mind."

Fiber stressed that nationwide 1 percent of the population are pathological gamblers, those with a serious problem, the most severe that have left them with dire consequences in their lives that have cost them almost everything. Four percent of the population are problem gamblers, those with consequences to their actions that are starting to show up on a less serious level than pathological gamblers.

Calls for help to Recovery Resources Gambling Services were coming in as often as five times a week last year after the Horseshoe Casino opened, but have decreased to three times-a-week in 2013, said Fiber. But Internet cafes and online gambling have led to many gamblers who have problems, but are ashamed to come forward to discuss it.

"If they want to get help, they want to cut down, or they want to stop altogether we work from a harm-reduction model when it comes to gambling. We meet people where they are at. We don't put pressure on people to change every single behavior right away. We work with people where they're at and help them set a goal and help them meet that goal," Fiber said.

For information on gambling addiction call 216-431-4140, or 1-800-840-4654, or go to: www.assistnow.org

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