SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - The full extent of problem gambling in Louisiana could be nearly three times as bad as previously thought, says the head of the Louisiana Association on Compulsive Gambling.
Janet Miller, the association's executive director, made the comment during a media event Wednesday morning, March 8, at its Center of Recovery-CORE, a state-funded residential and outpatient treatment center at 635 Stoner Ave. in Shreveport.
Research in 2008 showed the prevalence of problem gambling in Louisiana stood at about 2 percent to 3 percent of the population, she said.
Initial results of a study in 2016 by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals shows that now stands at about 8.3 percent, Miller added.
She explained, "So we know that with that huge increase in 8 years that we need to continue the efforts to take care of our people."
Increased awareness and improved outreach efforts are responsible for at least some of the dramatic jump in reported problem gambling, she said, speculating that those efforts might have helped ease some the social stigma associated with gambling addiction.
Miller also read a proclamation from Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards that declares March as Problem Gambling Awareness Month.
Bossier City Mayor Lorenz "Lo" Walker read a similar proclamation for the twin cities of Shreveport-Bossier City.
CORE has reportedly helped several thousand gambling addicts since opening in 1999. That includes Edward Ghiz who told us he knew when it was time to get help.
"My breaking point was when my sons stopped talking to me. That was it. They were onto my lies," said Ghiz.
Gambling industry leaders say they're grateful to work with CORE. Margaritaville General Manager Barry Regula told us, "People may not know this but CORE is a beacon of treatment in the gaming addiction industry."
And Miller told the gathered crowd that calls to the association's National Problem Gambling Helpline jump by an average of 30 percent each March.
If you or someone you know need help, you can call the toll-free help line at (877) 770-STOP (7867). The call is free and confidential.