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Aug. 23, 2002 – With gambling addiction an increasingly visible problem since the Divi Carina Bay Casino opened its doors in March 2000, the V.I. Alliance for Responsible Gaming wants to help.
However, Casino Control Commission Director Shawna K. Richards said the Finance Department hasn't released a penny of the more than $3 million deposited by Divi Carina Bay in the Casino Revenue Fund so the Alliance can set up a treatment program.
The V.I. Casino and Resort Control Act of 1995 mandates that 1 percent of the casino fund go to gambling and addiction programs and 1 percent to The Village–Virgin Islands Partners in Recovery, for preventing and treating gambling addictions.
While the law doesn't state who gets the first 1 percent, the Alliance for Responsible Gaming is an appropriate organization to set up such a program, said Richards. The alliance is made up of representatives from the casino, lottery and horse-racing industries, gaming regulators and mental health professionals.
"Although providing gambling education and treatment programs is not a mandated responsibility of the Casino Control Commission, we have taken a very aggressive role in spearheading the efforts of the Alliance because we believe it is our responsibility to the Virgin Islands community," Lloyd McAlpin, Casino Control commissioner, said in a news release.
Richards said the Alliance would like to provide training for people who deal with gambling addictions and set up a 24-hour hot line for people who need help. She did not know how much money would be needed for these programs.
McAlpin said access to those funds would allow the newly formed Gamblers Anonymous and The Village to help people who need it.
Despite the provision in the Casino and Resort Control Act of 1995 that it get 1 percent of the Casino Revenue Fund, The Village also has not received any money, director Chainie Lang said.
"People will seek help if they know help is there, but we cannot do it without dollars" Lang said.
Both she and Richards are quick to point out that gambling addictions existed across the territory before the arrival of the Divi, mentioning horse-racing, dog fights and cockfights as examples.
One member of Gamblers Anonymous who spoke on condition of anonymity said that across the United States, about 3 percent of the population are thought to be compulsive gamblers. Gamblers Anonymous started about six weeks ago, according to this source, who said attendance was low, in part because word isn't out about the group.
"Compulsive gambling is a new subject. There hasn't been any type of awareness program," the person said.
A money management program that starts with children and high school students could help prevent people from becoming compulsive gamblers, said the source. Instead, they would learn to budget a set amount for entertainment, including gambling, and stop when they spent it.
Gamblers Anonymous follows a 12-step assisted self-help program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. The source said the group did not need funding.
In fact the GA Web site states "Every Gamblers Anonymous Group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions." Twelve-step groups traditionally support themselves by accepting small donations, usually about $1, at meetings.
The organization meets at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays at Speak the Word Ministries in Peter's Rest, St. Croix.
Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull did not return a phone call requesting comment about the money earmarked for treatment.
Lang said people who want information about Gamblers Anonymous can call the Village at 719-9800 or write to Gamblers Anonymous in care of The Village at Box 5105, Sunny Isle, St. Croix, 00823.

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