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Video gambling ‘an instant addiction’ for some, expert warns

Updated: September 12, 2013 6:38AM

One addiction counselor calls it the “crack cocaine of gambling.”

And as legalized video gambling spreads across Illinois, he expects the social problems to follow.

Pathological gambling is now classified as an addiction by the American Psychiatric Association, and one that might see a spike alongside the statewide accessibility to video gaming, Bob O’Connor predicts.

O’Connor, a licensed counselor, has treated addiction at The Way Back Inn and Grateful House treatment centers in Chicago and the west suburbs for 14 years.

And although he hasn’t seen a rise in video gambling patients, he’s expecting it soon.

“I anticipate they’re going to come in by the end of the year, or early next year. Right now I deal with casino gambling, OTB, race track and online gaming, but nothing from video gaming,” O’Connor said.

“But it will come. That’s the crack cocaine of gambling. It’s an instant addiction. It’s [video gaming] more accessible and people are going to be playing more. You’re going to see a big uptick in this.”

The Illinois Church Action on Alcohol & Addiction Problems is continuing its fight against video gaming expansion, contacting local officials and communities and providing them with information about the impacts of video gambling.

“It’s because of all the harm, the increase in addiction, bankruptcy and crime,” executive director Anita Bedell said. “When you make gambling more available and accessible, then more people will be gambling, and there will be more problems.”

She considers recent decisions in Plainfield and Palos Heights to continue the ban in video gaming a win, but says often communities get tired of fighting off gambling interests, with many businesses desperate to stay alive.

“They keep coming back. Sometimes they have to go back [to towns] and fight two or three times,” Bedell said. “They are wearing people down.”

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