Thousands of Oregonians are betting on gambling addiction services, according to the Oregon Department of Human Services.

Jeffrey Marotta, the DHS problem gambling services manager, said Oregon has the nation's highest recorded rate of persons seeking help for a gambling problem in the nation.

Enrollment in state-sponsored gambling addiction treatment programs grew from 2,323 in 1999-01 to 3,432 in 2001-03, reflecting a 48 percent increase.

"Considering how reluctant problem gamblers are to seek help, it is gratifying to see so many gamblers place their bet on treatment," said Marotta.

"It is a good bet, about 75 percent of the people who enter our programs resolve their gambling problem, improve their life, their family's security, and their community's health."

From 2001 to 2003, the Oregon Problem Gambling Help-Line (877-2-STOP-NOW) received more than 8,000 calls. During the same period, more than 3,400 people found help from one of 28 gambling treatment centers, which are funded by the Oregon Lottery.

"The large increase in gambling treatment is believed to be due to the success Oregon is having in addressing this issue, said Marotta. Oregon, which has received national and international recognition, has been cited as a model state in its efforts to stem the tide of problem gambling. DHS, the Lottery and county governments have worked collaboratively to address gambling problems.

The 2003-05 budget provides DHS with $5.6 million in Lottery funds for problem gambling treatment and prevention services. Marotta said those funds will be used to help Oregon strike a balance between maximizing the benefits of state-operated gambling with minimizing the costs.

"I believe the funding level combined with a dedicated workforce will allow Oregon's gambling treatment and prevention system to remain strong," said Marotta.

"I just hope it is strong enough to keep pace with the expanding face of gambling. If it does not, we all lose as there are heavy social and economic costs associated with problem gambling."

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