Korea has 3.2 million adults addicted to gambling, and 1.3 million of them are seriously addicted and in need of urgent medical treatment, according to the Korean Racing Association, which sponsors gambling activities, and the Seoul Olympic Sports Promotion Foundation.
The figures were presented to the Millennium Democrat lawmaker Lee Jung-il, a member of the National Assembly’s Committee of Agriculture, Forestry, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. According to the statistics, 9.3 percent of Korean adults are addicted to gambling, and 49 percent show a lack of will power, 32 percent suffer problems with relationships, 39 percent are unable to pay off debts, 16 percent are unemployed and 14 percent are violent toward their spouses.
Also, the committee was also told that 3.8 percent of Korean adults have severely lost their sense of control and have a high possibility of endangering themselves, their families or co-workers, and thus are in need of immediate medical treatment.
This percentage of gambling addicts among adults is four to five times higher than that of other nations such as the United States (1-2 percent), Canada (2.6 percent) and Australia (2.1 percent). The ratio is even higher that that of the U.S. state known for gambling, Nevada, which is 6-8 percent.
The symptoms for gambling addictiveness are mostly found in people who use legal gambling services. Those who bet on bicycle racing, horse racing, and casinos make up 44.4 percent of the total, followed by Internet gambling at 30.9 percent and cards at 19.85 percent.
CRITICS WARY OF COMPULSIVE GAMBLER BAN
Compulsive gamblers soon may be able to ban themselves from Indiana casinos, but critics charge that the proposed system works only when the gamblers win.
Under the program, expected to begin next year, TOGEL casinos will share a statewide computerized database of names, addresses, Social Security numbers and photos of addicted gamblers who want to bar themselves from gambling.
Each time such a gambler tries to cash a check, claim a jackpot of more than over $1,200 or use his or her player tracking card, he or she would be removed from the casino, and the winnings would be turned over to the state. Those violating the ban also could be charged with trespassing.
“They can’t win, but they can still lose,” said John Wolf, director of the Indiana Coalition Against Legalized Gambling.
Three Indiana casinos have been sued for allowing admitted problem gamblers to bet. On Wednesday, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago heard oral arguments in the case of David N. Williams, who sued Evansville’s Casino Aztar after he gambled away his life savings. A ruling is expected in January.
The program was approved by the General Assembly earlier this year. The rules now must be approved by the Indiana Gaming Commission, the attorney general and the governor. The Gaming Commission will have a public hearing on the rules at 10:30 a.m. Friday.
“If you know you can never possibly win, you will be less likely to go,” said Jennifer Arnold, spokeswoman for the Indiana Gaming Commission.
Wolf thinks casinos can do more to track problem gamblers.
“With million-dollar security cameras, they would know who the problem gamblers are if they wanted to,” he said. “Bartenders know who the drunks are.”
Casino operators say it would be impossible to check every patron without creating lines as long as security checks at airports.
“Nobody wants those folks in their casino. Nobody,” said Rick Mazer, general manager of the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, which operates its own eviction list for gambling addicts.
He said the casino will find people on the list “not just when you win. It’s whenever we get that information in our hands and go to that computer to do paperwork, and it can happen at any number of places.”
The program is modeled after a similar system in Illinois, where 977 compulsive gamblers have chosen to bar themselves from that state’s casinos since the program started in July 2002, said Gene O’Shea, acting director of the Illinois Gaming Board’s self-exclusion program.
“Casinos are very good at finding these people,” O’Shea said. “We’ve had security people find self-excluded people because they recognized them as being on the list. It’s amazing.”
The Indiana Gaming Commission already has received requests from gambling addicts who want to bar themselves from the state’s casinos, Arnold said.
Indiana’s casinos took in $2.16 billion in revenue during the fiscal year that ended in June, according to data from the Gaming Commission. During that same time, nearly 1,100 people called Indiana’s problem gambling hotline, 1-800-994-8448.
The majority of the callers found the number on their casino admission ticket or on casino billboards, according to data from the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.
Doug Briody, an attorney for Williams, credited his client’s case with spurring the legislature to create the statewide self-exclusion program, saying that riverboat-operated eviction systems, such as the one at Casino Aztar, “had no teeth.”
“Aztar promised him they would not allow him back on the boat unless he could prove his gambling wasn’t going to be a threat to his safety or well-being. But they reneged on that,” Briody said of his client.
Casino Aztar’s attorney, Pat Shoulders, did not return calls Wednesday.
Williams’ attorneys told the court Wednesday that Aztar sent marketing and promotional materials to entice him back to the casino, even though Williams had signed up to be banned from the boat. They said that the casino kept track of Williams’ betting with his casino “Fun Card” but didn’t stop him from losing $175,000.
The new system would require each Indiana casino to regularly update the computerized database of banned bettors and stop all direct marketing to each person on the list, Arnold said.
That’s key to keeping a person away from casinos, said George B. Brenner, director of addiction services at Community Health Network.
“You want to reduce the number of cues that would entice them to think ‘Maybe I can gamble’ or ‘Maybe I can do this for entertainment,’ ” Brenner said. “If you’re going to send me big mailings and you’re going to offer me free lodging, then it would clearly not be a benefit for my recovery.”
But Brenner and others who treat addiction warn that a self-exclusion list won’t be a cure-all for compulsive gamblers, because they can still bet on horse races and play the lottery.
“Something as innocuous as the office pool or a raffle ticket at the local parish or school” can have the same effect.