“It’s something we take very, very seriously”

For many, a trip to the casino is an enjoyable night, win or lose.

For some, however, an addiction to gambling can make it a lose-lose proposition.

While there is treatment for those who find themselves addicted to gambling and help is also available for families, it is much more difficult to identify people whose betting is out of hand, people in the field say.

“It’s extremely difficult” to identify an addict, said Jeremy Wampler, clinical director of the State Department’s Problem Gambling Services Unit of Mental Health and Addiction Services. “In our field, gambling is considered the hidden addiction because there is no sign. If someone bets heavily, it doesn’t mean anything.

State Representative Michael DiMassa, D-West Haven, arrested last week on a federal criminal complaint accusing him of wire fraud, may be one for whom the signs were invisible. The FBI affidavit lists a number of withdrawals he allegedly made from a limited liability company that received payments from the West Haven Department of Health while claiming she worked for the city, as well as ‘a list of alleged cash purchases for Mohegan Sun tokens. casino.

For example, on May 7, the day DiMassa allegedly made his first withdrawal from the Compass Investment Group bank account, investigators said in a warrant affidavit that he purchased $ 9,800 in tokens from Mohegan Sun and then had made further token purchases from Mohegan Sun in May. 10, 12, 13, 15 and 17. Then, on May 21, DiMassa allegedly bought $ 4,000 in tokens from Mohegan Sun, and further token purchases were made on May 23, 28 and 29, states the affidavit. .

US District Judge Sarah AL Merriam told the court that she “understands” DiMassa is “in treatment” for a gambling addiction. DiMassa did not respond to requests for comment.

Both Connecticut casinos have responsible gambling programs.

“This is something we take very, very seriously,” said Ray Pineault, CEO of Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, which operates the Mohegan Sun Casino in Montville.

“We have a training video on identifying problem gamblers and… how to treat the person with respect because you have to do it individually,” he said. “We have to be careful not to accuse someone of something they may not have.”

Each employee has a “secondary badge” with the board’s help line number that can be shown to players, Pineault said.

Signs in the casino offer assistance to visitors. He said Mohegan Sun has had discussions with GameSense, but “they’re just very protective of their brand.” GameSense, first launched in British Columbia, is a program in which casino walkers help identify problem gamblers and approach them discreetly.

GameSense was unable to respond to a request for comment.

Anika Howard, Vice President of Foxwoods Resort Casino, issued a statement, saying, “Fostering a safe and responsible gaming experience for our gaming community is a top priority for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and Foxwoods.

“In addition to working with the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling, alongside DraftKings, we are committing millions of dollars to promote safer gambling initiatives and leverage technology, employee training and research based on evidence to improve these efforts, ”Howard said.

Wampler’s unit oversees five regional Bettor Choice treatment programs offered statewide, in partnership with the Department of Consumer Protection, the Department of Children and Families, and the Department of Criminal Justice.

“They are mainly funded by the tribes,” he said of the programs, which include those aimed at young people and multicultural groups.

“We know that in terms of problem gambling, this is an area that a lot of people don’t have a lot of basic knowledge about,” Wampler said. “Unlike addiction and mental health, a lot of people don’t learn these things in school. “

With the state and two Native American tribes each responsible for gambling in Connecticut, a coordinated effort is not as easy as in a state like Massachusetts, which has a statewide gaming commission, according to an expert.

“These are apples and oranges,” Goode said. “It’s really not a fair fight to compare a state that has a gaming commission with a state that doesn’t.”

In Connecticut, separate agencies oversee prevention and treatment. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission introduced GameSense. In Connecticut, GameSense is only used by CT Lottery, which has information on its website and a logo: “Use Your GameSense. It just makes sense.

GameSense has a robust website, which includes myths and facts about a number of casino and card games and slots (bottom line: the house always has the edge).

When Massachusetts incorporated it, “they were the only state in the United States that had GameSense, so it’s kind of a pilot site and it was very successful,” Wampler said.

But GameSense is limited in Connecticut. “There is a little green sticker that all lottery retailers are supposed to have visible in their outlets, but there is no helpline number affiliated with it,” said Diana Goode, Executive Director from the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling.

“GameSense said you can’t cross-promote and use the hotline number,” she said. “You can only use GameSense. There is no next step. There is no “now what?” “”

The council’s helpline, 888-789-7777, has become ubiquitous, on its own panel.

“We decided we wanted a logo, a helpline number that everyone would use,” Goode said.

It is seen in Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos, Sportech (available at Winners and Bobby V’s Restaurant & Sports Bar), the lottery and the new online betting sites available: FanDuel, DraftKings and Rush Street Interactive.

But the helpline requires players to admit they have a problem or for family members to call. There are also self-exclusion programs offered by casinos and the state, but there is no unified list, Goode said.

For State Senator Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, an opponent of online gambling, it’s not enough to expect problem gamers to ask for help. “It shows that we as a state and our governing body do not understand the psychology and the power of gambling addiction,” he said.

“Unless you are put in the situation of being arrested or being financially exhausted or doing something to nurture that habit, it is very difficult to be discovered,” he said. “We have to go out there and warn of the danger of addiction. “

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