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Pathological Gambling is a Fast Growing Problem
September 2007
Harbour Pointe is Among Just a Few Private Pay Gambling Specialty Clinics

Harbour PointeA few years ago, Michael Osborne found himself on the skids. Working as a real estate agent, Osborne had, over time, developed a serious gambling habit, which later began exhibiting signs of becoming severely pathological.

Living in the Baltimore area, Osborne found himself badly needing help with his growing gambling addiction. Eventually he found it at a small specialty gambling treatment facility then called Harbour Center.

“They saved my life,” said Osborne, who now has quite a few years under his belt without having gambled. But in the meantime, he unfortunately lost his real estate license and therefore his ability to work in the real estate business. Over time, Osborne stayed in touch with Harbour Center, which was having trouble staying afloat. Talks about the possibility of Osborne taking over the center were held, leading to a sale in 2005.

Since then, Osborne has turned the center around, also renaming it Harbour Pointe. Although small at 8 beds, the center will soon expand to 10 beds. And Osborne says he is now talking to three investor groups, who are interested backing a play to expand Harbour Pointe to other regions.

With a history stretching back over 20 years, Harbour Pointe is one of the country’s oldest clinics specializing in treating addiction to gambling, and still just one of a handful of centers that specializes exclusively in compulsive wagering.

And there aren’t many places one can go to get residential care for gambling addiction, with just a few centers, including facilities like CARE in Florida and Rimrock Foundation in Montana, offering tracks that treat clients with gambling problems.

Michael Osborne, Executive Director, Harbour PointeIt’s not surprising that Osborne has attracted the interest of investors for his expansion plans. Gambling addiction could very well be the fastest growing type of addiction in the U.S. In 2003, Harvard Medical School estimated that 1.6 percent of Americans, about 5 million people, are likely to develop an addiction to gambling in their lifetime. That’s about twice the prevalence of addictive gambling commonly estimated in studies undertaken during the 1970s.

Driving the huge increase in prevelance of gambling disorders - and over two times as many people will develop a gambling problem that does not become pathological - is the enormous proliferation of legalized gambling in the United States.

Indian gaming, the rise of state lotteries and the expansion of legalized wagering to states other than Nevada have been behind the expansion. And bills now pending in Washington, which propose the legalization of Internet gambling and sports betting, promise an even greater explosion in gambling if they are passed by Congress. “We see strong demand going forward for addiction treatment services oriented toward those addicted to gambling,” says Osborne. “That’s why we are looking at expansion of our model to other regions.”

And programs definitely appear to be responding to increased demand for services. Betty George, director of the non-profit North American Training Institute, which sells training programs for clinicians, who treat gamblers, says that sales are up by more than are more and more setting aside funding for gambling treatment as part of their addiction treatment budgets,” says George, pointing out that Minnesota recently allocated $2 million to go towards treating pathological gambling.

But Montana has widespread gambling problems and a lack of funding, according Rimrock Foundation COO Mona Sumner. Rimrock has thus, since 1988, developed highly regarded private pay programs, both residential and outpatient. JW

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