Wyomingites for a Better Economy Today and Tomorrow
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Professor:  Video Poker "Crack Cocaine" of Gambling

The Advocate, Capital City Press 2/16/01
     One of the nation’s foremost experts on gambling addiction, Harvard Medical School Professor Howard Shaffer, was the first to call video poker the "crack cocaine of gambling."
     "What I meant was that these are rapid games, quickly played, relatively private, and hold the greatest potential for addictive disorder because they work our neuro-biological systems in the most threatening of ways," Shaffer said during a recent visit to Baton Rouge.
     "These fast-acting games are like fast-acting drugs. You get a rush (when you win), and then you’re off, and you’re still there to play again," he added. Even though no drug is involved, Shaffer said many gambling addicts show some signs of physical withdrawal when they stop feeding their habit – just as if they were hooked on heroin and in need of a fix.
     While Shaffer has made a career of studying gambling addicts, he’s also working to stop gambling problems before they start. Shaffer was in town last week to help train teachers for a new program that uses math to teach eighth-graders about the pitfalls of gambling.
     "What we are trying to show, through math, is that when you gamble, you are placing a bet on an uncertain event. And the uncertainty of that event is far greater than you think," Shaffer said.
     Problem gamblers generally think their odds are better than they really are, he said. For instance, someone who buys a lottery ticket or plays a slot machine should realize that the odds are against breaking even, much less winning anything.
     "So if I play, I have to be willing to say that I am throwing my money away," Shaffer said. "Now if I enjoy that, it’s just like going to Disney World, because I don’t come home from Disney World with any money either," Shaffer said.
     The difference is that most people who go to Disney World generally know how long the visit is going to last and when money is going to be taken from them.
     "But when you gamble, money can be taken under contingencies that you didn’t anticipate," Shaffer said…
     Shaffer said some gambling addicts have sued slot machine manufacturers, following the example set by victims of cigarette smokers who went after tobacco companies
     "None of it has been successful yet, but it wasn’t for the tobacco industry for a long time," he said. Shaffer noted that, while tobacco companies denied the hazards of smoking for years, the casino industry acknowledges some people have problems with gambling…”