Pharos-Tribune

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March 8, 2013

Meeting addresses high stakes of gambling

It has been more than 12 years since Chuck Bovis’ last wager and he is doing his best to keep it that way.  

Bovis, a recovering addict and certified gambling counselor from Indianapolis, spoke at a town hall meeting Thursday night at Dessert First in Logansport about his recovering gambling addiction.

Four County Counseling Center, who sponsored the meeting, was one of three agencies in the state offering a program during National Problem Gambling Awareness Week, which is March 3 to March 9.

Bovis, who said his gambling was unconscious, gambled daily from his late 20s into his 40s.

“I’ve hit many rock bottoms in my life,” Bovis said. “There’s always a trapdoor to take you down another level, just like any addiction.”

Four County Counseling had the meeting to discuss gambling addiction and the fact it’s apparent everywhere, Kathy Coffing, gambling counselor at Four County Counseling said.  

“Gambling addiction is a newly recognized addiction and is a fast growing problem,” Coffing, who has been counselor for two years said. “We want to be able to make the public aware of the gambling problem, that is an almost hidden problem.”

During the meeting, Bovis discussed two types of gamblers, action and escape. He described an action gambler as someone who talks about their wins and is more about the bells and whistles and an escape gambler, someone who hides and doesn’t want people to know about it.

When most people think about gambling they think poker, casinos and the lottery, Coffing said. They don’t think about Bingo, Bunco, pull-tabs and athletic bracket competitions like those used in the NCAA tournament, she said.

Jose Flores, of Avon, spoke at the meeting about the damage caused by gambling. He discussed how people can lose everything when they gamble.  

“Those addicted to gambling aren’t bad people, they’re sick people doing bad things,” Flores said. “When people look from the outside they can’t understand why the person doesn’t just stop. It’s a lifelong program.”

Flores referred to addiction as an illness.

In 1978, there were only two states that had legalized gambling and in 1998, 20 years later, there were only two states without some form of gambling.

“It’s easy to see gambling events as a social event,” Coffing said. “We don’t want to give the message anyone who plays will be addicted because not everyone who participates are at-risk. But there are people who will have those impulsive, compulsive behaviors.”

Six million adults and 500,000 teens nationwide meet the criteria for gambling addiction, Coffing said.

Four County has offered gambling services for about six years and has been recognized as the state provider for services in the state of Indiana for the past two years.

Four County Counseling offers free services for people dealing with gambling addiction and their families.

Coffing said she has seen families fall apart because of an addiction to gambling where the person addicted gambled money away and lost relationships to people surrounding them. Four County Counseling offers help to not only those addicted, but their families as well.

Dick Farrer, of Four County Counseling Center, said they want to let people know there are ways to get help before they hit rock bottom.

“Communities have made it so hard to get help for an addiction,” Farrer said. “There might be people who didn’t attend the meeting because they didn’t want to show they have a problem. We can and want to help.”

Bovis closed the meeting by talking about the support that can be found at meetings like the one Thursday for gambling addiction.  

“There will always be a stigma with attending meetings and getting help,” Bovis said. “But it is better than it used to be and it is now accepted as an illness.”

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