Gamblers in Southern Illinois could have some problems fighting their addiction.
According to www.gamblersanonymous.org, the closest Gambler’s Anonymous meeting Southern Illinois is in Belleville.
The lack of programs for gamblers is troubling to mental health professionals. Gamblers can usually only find treatment if they suffer from other addictions.
Dr. Mark Dixon, coordinator of the Behavior Analysis and Therapy Program at SIU said there just aren’t many options for of the area of the state.
“Southern Illinois does not have a lot of treatment options because of its rural and spread out population base,” Dixon said. “Gambling anonymous meetings are one source of help but more successful active options are through therapy.”
SIU offers treatment for gambling addiction at its on-campus Rehabilitation Institute. He said the program provides pre-therapy options and will provide eight free weeks of therapy to those who need it, Dixon said.
For more information on the program, call 618-536-7704.
He said there are a number of ways to help treat the addiction, ranging from church meetings, Gambler’s Anonymous meetings, self-help books and treatment from a therapist.
Dixon has written several self-help gambling books, most recently “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Pathological Gamblers,” which is available on www.amazon.com.
Problem gamblers can call an Illinois Gaming Board hotline at 877-968-7848 to learn how to be placed on a voluntary self-exclusion program.
Gene O’Shea, director of the Illinois Gaming Board’s self-exclusion program said the there are more than 10,500 people on the list as of Thursday.
“They sign a contract with the state of Illinois saying they will not gamble any longer,” O’Shea said.
“I have had people tell me that this program has changed their life,” O’Shea said. "I think Illinois has a realistic view on handling problem gamblers.”
Once on the self-exclusion list, it is a usually a lifelong ban from Illinois casinos. However, after five years on the list, a person may petition to be removed.
In order to be removed, the individual must provide an affidavit from a licensed mental health professional who is also a certified gambling addictions counselor.
The affidavit, which must be addressed to the Administrator of the Illinois Gaming Board, must confirm that the licensed, certified gambling addictions counselor has determined that the self-excluded person no longer is a problem gambler.
If a banned person is caught in an Illinois casino, all chips or winnings in their possession will be taken and donated to a charity created to help problem gamblers.
Program signup is available at all Illinois casinos. Also, in Southern Illinois, the Fellowship House at 800 N. Main St. in Anna can enroll individually on the list. To schedule an appointment, call 618-833-4456.
O'Shea said the self-expulsion program works, but several other types of addicted gamblers are left without a program.