National Council on Problem Gambling Announces 2010 Portland Conference

The National Council on Problem Gambling has announced plans to hold its annual conference in Portland, Oregon from June 10th to 12th, 2010. The organization is fresh off its Indianapolis convention, which attracted 350 industry representatives.

For National Council on Problem Gambling Executive Director Keith Whyte, one of the highlights of the Indianapolis conference was a session on “gambling court.” Essentially a diversion program for first-time gambling offenders, the court is one-of-its-kind and makes its home in New York. A judge from the gambling court traveled to the Indiana capital for an educational session and held five vignettes. However, the audience was in for a surprise at the conclusion of the final skit. Whyte recalled, “The fifth case was actually real. Fourteen members of the person’s family came down from Buffalo. He actually graduated during the session and his sentence was expunged. He received a standing ovation from the audience.”

A total of 350 people attended the conference and, although the number was down by 40% from the 2008 version, Whyte remained optimistic due to the sluggish economy. He remarked, “We were still really pleased with the turnout. The majority of the attendees were counselors. We had some good corporate support, including every segment of the Indiana gaming industry: lottery, tracks, and casinos.” A New York Times award-winning author was also in attendance.

State chapters of the Council bid to host the conference each year. This time around, the Oregon and Washington delegations teamed up to pitch an event in Portland. According to Whyte, Oregon boasts the highest funded problem gambling program per capita. In addition, he explained, the Western state has “one of the most widely distributed gambling environments including card rooms, video lottery machines, and tribal casinos. They have more non-casino gaming machines than almost every other state. In spite of the risk factors, they seem to have made a big impact.” The Oregon conference will be held concurrently with the Portland Rose Festival, which takes place every June.

Last month right before the conference, Whyte and the National Council on Problem Gambling successfully lobbied for the introduction of HR 2906, the Comprehensive Problem Gambling Act. The groundbreaking piece of legislation currently boasts seven co-sponsors, including Congressmen Barney Frank (D-MA) and Jim McDermott (D-WA). Whyte explained, “We’re trying to take the offensive with this bill. We’re showing that, if you’re concerned about problem gambling at all, this is how we would address it. We’re hoping to show that there are possibilities regardless of a person’s personal or political opinion on gambling. Every Congressman supporting Frank’s bills should be on ours as well.”

The Council has sent letters to co-sponsors of Frank’s HR 2266 and HR 2267 calling for their support of HR 2906. The former bill delays industry compliance with the regulations of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) until December 1st, 2010. HR 2267 outlines a licensing and regulatory framework for the internet gambling industry in the United States. Whyte and company have also contacted co-sponsors of HR 2268, McDermott’s Internet Gambling Regulation and Tax Enforcement Act. The measure currently has two co-sponsors, Frank and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

HR 2906 calls for $14.2 million per fiscal year to be allocated towards funding public awareness, research, and treatment of problem gambling. The piece of legislation was introduced by Congressmen Jim Moran (D-VA), Lee Terry (R-NE), and Frank Wolf (R-VA) and referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The bill’s text notes that six million adults met the criteria for problem gambling in 2008. In addition, the social cost of problem gambling approached $7 billion last year.

Visit the website of the National Council on Problem Gambling for more information.

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