Wyomingites for a Better Economy Today and Tomorrow
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In an article dated August 6, 2001 in the Missouri Post-Dispatch, gambling research was reported on that indicated that 11% of those questioned were compulsive gamblers.  Reporters Virginia Young and Erik Stern found that, “…senior citizens who frequent riverboat casinos and bingo parlors to escape boredom may be more prone to develop gambling problems than younger adults.

"The Missouri casino industry and state regulators are spreading that message this week in hopes of helping families spot an elderly loved one's problems and get help.

"While little research has been done on gambling by the elderly, experts say older adults are a prime target for the industry. Casinos, in particular, court those 65 and older with cheap buffets, free transportation, money-back coupons and other discounts.

"A national study by the University of Chicago found that the number of older adults who had placed a bet nearly doubled from 1975 to 1998, a period in which legalized gambling exploded. That rate of increase was much higher than for other age groups.

"Dennis McNeilly, who teaches psychiatry at the University of Nebraska Medical School, said Monday that most older gamblers had a predetermined limit and quit betting when that money was gone.

"'But there is another group who tend to be . . . more isolated, lonely, bored, so that's the group that tends to have more problems with gambling," he said.

"McNeilly was the featured speaker at a seminar conducted by the Missouri Alliance to Curb Problem Gambling, made up of state officials and casino executives. The event was at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park.

"McNeilly explained how he had surveyed a cross-section of people 65 and older by distributing surveys among older adult groups and casino bus trip participants and at retirement centers, bingo parlors and other locations.

"The study was done in an unidentified city in the Midwest, where casino gambling and a state lottery had become available in the last six years.

"A total of 315 people - a relatively small sample size - returned the questionnaires. About 11 percent of those who gambled showed signs of being pathological, or compulsive, gamblers, McNeilly said.

"For example, they gambled with increasing amounts of money to achieve a desired level of excitement, returned to try to win back their losses and borrowed money to gamble.

"'This is a pretty high percentage," he said. Only about 1 percent of the overall adult population is considered to have such severe gambling problems, according to surveys compiled by Harvard Medical School's Divison on Addictions.

"'The largest percentage said they went to relax, to pass the day away, to pass time if they're bored, and the highest thing that they endorsed was the meal - the inexpensive buffets," McNeilly said.

"Those themes rang true Monday at the President Casino on the Admiral downtown.

"Mary, 65, of Lemay, takes a Bi-State bus to Laclede's Landing anywhere from once a month to twice a week to board the gambling boat.

"While sitting at a bar watching a soap opera, she pulled out of her purse a sheet of coupons she gets in the mail every month from the casino for free buffet meals and other perks. Mary, who declined to give her last name, said she spends about three or four hours on the boat, usually playing the dollar slots and abiding by a $50 budget.

"Another regular - a 60-year-old man from Festus who wouldn't give his name -said he and his wife take a free shuttle bus to the casino once or twice a week.

"'We don't gamble that much," he said. "I like the meals.'

"The man said he keeps his gambling to under $40 and spreads it over a three-hour period. He gets discount coupons for the buffet on the shuttle.

"'You can't afford to come up here and gamble too much," he said, sipping draft beer out of a plastic cup and looking down from the second floor at people gathered around a roulette wheel. "You have to know what you're

"Arlene Miller, a certified gambling counselor in the St. Louis area, said casinos provide an insulated, artificial environment, with employees trained to know customers' names.

"'Where else are we so hospitable to the elderly?' asked Miller, who attended the conference Monday.

"She also said it's the nature of older people not to seek out help for problems and the same is true for problems related to gambling. And older adults on a limited income might not be able to recover from gambling losses and be inclined to gamble even more, she said.

"Scott Damiani is the executive director of the Outreach Foundation for Problem and Compulsive Gamblers, based in suburban Chicago.

"He said in a telephone interview that his group recently stepped up its education and awareness efforts at centers for older adults in the Chicago area and that he noticed more denial of gambling addiction among them.

"They feel that at their age, 'This can't be happening to me. I've got the money, so what if I spend more?'" he said.

W. Scott Wood, a Drake University psychology professor, said more older adults are exposed to gambling through targeted marketing that makes the pool of potential addicts greater.

"'They've got money, they've got time,' he said by telephone. 'If you've got an aging mother, she's probably taken a tour bus to a casino one time or another."

"In Missouri, 1,446 people called a hot line in the first six months of this year to seek help for gambling problems. That's more than twice as many calls as in the first half of last year. The data released at the conference did not indicate how many of those people were older adults. The average age of the callers this year was 38 years old."

The article went on to cover a proposed "Responsible Gambling Week" scheduled the week of August 8, 2001.