Montana Council on Problem Gambling
So far, gaming businesses have contributed over a half million dollars to the operations of the Montana Council on Problem Gambling.
The council, headed by executive director Donna Johnson of Billings, organized and administers group therapy treatment programs for problem gamblers in 18 cities throughout the state, with more coming on line.
Further, the Council conducts training for therapists wishing to become licensed for problem gambling treatment and for continuing education. When the program was launched four years ago, there were nine therapists qualified and willing to work with the council to establish group therapy treatment programs for problem gamblers. Today, there are 30 and more are becoming qualified all the time.
In 2003, 525 counseling sessions were conducted for 1,770 participants. So far for January-June 2004, 342 sessions have been conducted in 18 communities for 828 participants.
Johnson said, in viewing the national scene, she estimates only about half the states have a problem gambling council or any program to deal with gambling addiction, "and only one-fourth of the states have anything as active as the Montana program; we're cutting-edge."
Indeed, directors of other councils and programs have come from around the country to see first-hand and up-close what the Montana Council has developed and implemented, including Barbara Barr from the Delaware program, who said she was impressed with what she saw. A group from North Dakota also attended a Miles City training in hopes they could get some ideas to augment a grant they are pursuing.
She said the widely advertised problem gambler help hotline, paid for by gaming business groups and companies, is the chief tool that can lead people with compulsive gambling disorders to help.
Johnson said she appreciates the gaming businesses that are stepping up to fund—then advertise—the hot line and treatment programs.
The move toward a private solution for problem gambling has come after three separate legislatures (in 1995, 1997 and 1999) rejected proposals for using existing gambling tax revenues. Among the reasons was that gambling tax money was committed elsewhere and that it would be difficult to determine how much money would be needed because the extent of the problem is not well known.