As the new Chances gaming centre begins to take shape, local advocates for a gambling counselor returned to city council last week to seek out assistance in providing for a plan to be in place before the centre opens.
Their concerns and requests were explained in detail in Tuesday’s Daily News.
CITY URGED TO HAVE HELP IN PLACE FOR GAMBLERS
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
Some social service workers believe the population in the Northwest has the odds stacked against them when it comes to problem gambling.
So they are concerned no one is leading the charge to educate the public prior to the opening of the new Chances Community Gaming Centre this fall.
Speaking as members of the community, Leigh Murphy and Jermaine Furnes told city council last Monday the city can make a difference in preventing the problem by taking an active role.
“Creating community awareness is one of the first steps in prevention. City council and community service providers can play an integral role in supporting safe gambling practices and initiatives,” said Murphy.
Council approved the construction of the new gaming centre last year, including the introduction of slot machines and other forms of electronic gambling along with the entertainment offerings at the new facility.
At the time, the proponents of the new centre, who operate the Treasure Cove Casino in Prince George, agreed to have a gambling counselor in place in Prince Rupert prior to its opening.
“In B. C., approximately 85 per cent of people gamble, with roughly only 4.6 per cent of people experiencing problems. In the North, however, the percentage is much higher – over 10 per cent of those who gamble have problems,” said Murphy.
Problem gambling is known as the invisible addiction, she said, because it is less visible than drug or alcohol use. Yet it has social costs not just for the gambler but their family and acquaintances and can lead to other addictions and health costs.
”The high associated with gambling creates a reaction in the brain similar to the reaction that happens when people are taking drugs,” said Jermaine Furnes.
However, providing people with information about the signs of problem gambling and strategies to prevent it from becoming an addiction can reduce people’s chances of developing problem gambling habits, she said.
“Proactive community-based awareness decreases the social costs of problem gambling in the long run,” said Murphy.
While there are counselors and services for problem gamblers in Terrace, it is unlikely people will travel down the highway for access, said Coun. Joy Thorkelson.
“I believe we need to have an education plan and it looks like we have some time because it (Chances) won’t be open in June. We want people to be aware of what can happen before it happens and not wait until people have addiction problems and just deal with them after,” she said.
Corporate administrator Doug Jay said the city is in contact with the community of Richmond to learn about the committee and programs it has set up to address the problem there.
Council members also asked staff to contact Chances and find out if any progress has been made in finding a counsellor for the community.
“The commitment the gaming centre gave to us is that we would have a counsellor in our community before the centre opened,” said Coun. Sheila Gordon-Payne.
“I don’t want to go to them once this becomes an issue and that building is going up quickly.”