Casinos, Card Clubs, Racetracks Tackle Common Problem
Unhealthy Gambling Hurts Industry’s Image
By Rob Schmidt
October 10, 2003
(COMMERCE, CALIF.) — It was a historic night for California’s gaming industry.  For the first time in memory, representatives of tribal casinos, card clubs, racetracks, the state lottery, and Internet betting sites broke bread under one roof.  Their goal:  to fight a common foe, problem gambling.
The occasion was the First Annual Problem Gambling Charity Dinner Party.  The event was held September 30 at the Commerce Casino to support the California Council on Problem Gambling (CCPG).  Industry leaders gathered to nosh and share “an evening of comedy & camaraderie.”
Among the dignitaries were Peter B. Bensinger, former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration; Arlo Smith, a commissioner of the California Gambling Control Commission; and Dr. Richard Rosenthal, who founded the CCPG and wrote the diagnoses for problem and pathological gambling in the DSM IV book.  The Native officials included Jacob Coin, executive director of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA); Brenda Soulliere, CNIGA’s chairwoman; and representatives from San Manuel, Agua Caliente, and Morongo.
The nonprofit CCPG promotes awareness, education, research, treatment, and prevention for problem gambling.  It provides a clearinghouse for information, certification for gambling counselors, a toll-free hotline, and other services.
Andy Schneiderman, president of the Golden State Gaming Association, launched the proceedings by wondering why gambling has such a bad reputation.  Like the Dodgers and Disneyland, gambling entertains millions of people and generates untold economic benefits, he said.  Nevertheless, the industry can’t shake its negative image.  One reason, he speculated, is the small number of people who gamble to excess.
Next up was Victor Rocha, owner of Pechanga.Net, an Internet news site.  Rocha said he was happy to see everyone together—“and not in a courtroom!”
His message was that the industry cares about its customers, whom he called “clientele.”  So-called problem gamblers are multifaceted people—“mechanics and MBAs, pundits and parishioners”—with many admirable traits.  They need recognition and help, he said, not scorn and censure.
Bebe Smith, the CCPG’s new executive director, introduced a short film on problem gambling.  It noted that gambling addicts suffer alone because few treatment programs or insurance policies will assist them.  Smith then described the CCPG’s work and urged the audience to support it.
She presented Chairwoman Soulliere an award to acknowledge CNIGA’s efforts to counter problem gambling.  CNIGA has been a leader in sponsoring legislation and programs to address the issue’s impact.  For instance, California’s tribal governments have contributed $453,757 to the CCPG since 1997—more than the combined contributions from the state’s lottery, racetracks, and card rooms.  (Source:  CNIGA.)
Then the entertainment—comedian Frazier Smith and ventriloquist Sammy King (and his Mexican parrot Francisco)—took the stage.  Afterward, people mingled and exchanged business cards.  The consensus was that the evening was a success:  an important step in uniting rivals for a common cause.
The evening was also a success financially.  The CCPG raised more than $100,000 in cash and in-kind contributions, according to Bebe Smith.  “The money will be used for technology and capacity building,” she said.  “It felt wonderful to be able to show our appreciation to everyone who contributed to the Council this year.”
The dinner was a prelude to California’s first annual Responsible Gambling Awareness Week, October 13-17.  CCPG and CNIGA are co-sponsoring “Tumbling Dice,” a series of symposiums and panel discussions on gambling addiction.  The events will take place at the state capitol building in Sacramento on Monday, Oct. 13; at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento on Wednesday, Oct. 15; and at the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula on Friday, Oct. 17.
For more information about Responsible Gambling Awareness Week and the “Tumbling Dice” series, contact CCPG or CNIGA.
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