Have A Gambling Problem? Don't Come To Texas. - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

3/13/08-East Texas

Have A Gambling Problem? Don't Come To Texas.

East Texas--we're just an hour car-drive away from those big casinos in Shreveport and Bossier City and some people may just be one slot machine away from what experts call "problem gambling." In New Jersey, a woman is suing six casinos after she gambled away one million dollars of her life savings, saying the casinos are at fault for not recognizing her compulsive gambling. KLTV 7's Tracy Watler takes a closer look at "problem gambling" and the lack of resources available here in the lone star state.

Cheery music, flashy lights, and slot machines--we don't have any of these here in Texas, but they're only a car-ride away.  And studies show 80 percent of people inside Louisiana casinos are...you guessed it, Texans.  And about three to four percent have a gambling problem.  Everyday, hard-working Texans addicted to the rush.

"It is a problem and Texas should invest in it," says Reece Middleton, Executive Director of the Louisiana Council On Compulsive Gambling.

He says Texas used to invest two million dollars in it, providing state-funded resources and treatment.

"That is no more...the reality is in Texas there isn't a lot available for people," he adds.

For instance, if you call the Texas hotline on problem gambling, looking for help, you'll get someone from Louisiana.  That's because Texas' council essentially no longer exists.

State Representative Leo Berman says funds for problem gambling were relocated in 2003, because resources simply weren't being used.

"If we do have a problem, we're not aware of that problem because people are not calling in asking for help with their problem gambling," Berman adds.

He says if the problem isn't there, it's like playing Russian roulette with taxpayer money.

"The state government shouldn't be the granddaddy of every single problem that comes along with people," he says.

But Middleton says making resources available is actually an investment.

"Number one you save money, number two you save lives, and number three you restore people to good health, productivity and tax- paying citizens."

But for now, it looks like your only place to get help for gambling is also the place where you can find it the easiest.

This week is actually "Problem Gambling Awareness" week because of the surge seen in gambling during March Madness.

Tracy Watler, Reporting tracy@kltv.com

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