Tribes donating $103,000 to help gambling addicts
BISMARCK -- The North Dakota Indian Gaming Association will give $103,000 to the Mental Health Association this year to help compulsive gamblers. The money is used to support the association's statewide toll free crisis line, educate compulsi...
BISMARCK -- The North Dakota Indian Gaming Association will give $103,000 to the Mental Health Association this year to help compulsive gamblers.
The money is used to support the association's statewide toll free crisis line, educate compulsive gamblers and pay for their assessment by gambling addiction counselors, said Allan Stenehjem, executive director of the MHA in North Dakota. In some cases, it will pay travel expenses of someone living in a rural area who can't afford to attend treatment.
This is the seventh year in a row Indian tribes have made a voluntary contribution to the MHA in North Dakota, but the amount is larger than usual. Last year, the Indian Gaming Association gave $85,000.
"Calls in to the help line are starting to increase, simply because problem gambling is starting to increase," Stenehjem said.
If addicted gamblers don't enter treatment, their problem often leads to homelessness, broken families, suicide or commission of crimes including embezzlement, Stenehjem said.
"This addiction is treatable," he said.
Stenehjem said the MHA is also sending letters to about 150 groups in the state that sponsor charitable gambling, such as blackjack, bingo and pull-tabs, asking each to contribute $1,000 for supporting the assistance the MHA gives to addicted gamblers. He hopes it will raise about $50,000.
Stenehjem said that the tribal contributions are made voluntarily and are not required as part of the gambling compact between the state and tribes. The contributions started in 1996 when the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe made a donation to keep the help line going at a time when it was in danger of shutting down, he said.
"We care about our people, about our fellow North Dakotans," said Tex Hall, chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes on the Fort Berthold Reservation.
Kurt Luger, of the North Dakota Indian Gaming Association, said the tribes do not think of it as unfair that they are the only gambling group donating money to help with gambling addictions.
"We don't approach it that way. We're going to be good neighbors," he said. "Having compulsive gambling in our business is bad for business."
His group will give a presentation at the National Indian Gaming Association annual meeting in April in Phoenix.
Luger also said a national gambling addiction study noted that the Indian casinos have recognized the issue of problem gambling in a way never addressed by the older casino industry in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, N.J.
The help line is staffed by trained volunteers 24 hours a day. It takes crisis calls of all kinds, not just about gambling. The number is 800-472-2911.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830