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For many Oklahoma addicts, help is last resort

BY ANN KELLEY Modified: February 17, 2009 at 11:42 am •  Published: February 1, 2009
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SHAWNEE — Gambling addiction counselor Cindy Satterfield thinks at least 3 percent of Pottawatomie County’s population could have a gambling problem.

That estimate is based on a national study about populations living near casinos. If it’s correct, more than 2,000 people in the county are struggling with a gambling issue.

"We know there are many more (problem gamblers) out there,” Satterfield said. "Either we’re not reaching them, or they haven’t hit rock bottom yet.”

Satterfield, works at Gateway to Prevention and Recovery, the sole organization in the county with certified problem gambling counselors. She said there are only seven people in treatment now.

The program is in its second year and Satterfield has placed posters and handbills in public buildings and kept information updated on the agency’s Web site.

Her competition is the widescale casino advertising campaigns. Along Interstate 40 between Shawnee and Oklahoma City alone, there are 20 casino billboards, but not one for the gambling helpline.

In fact, the casinos have gambling treatment information most readily available. The Oklahoman found that six casinos within 20 minutes of downtown Shawnee carry some type of information.

Satterfield said gamblers seeking treatment are generally in crisis, although shame generally keeps them from getting it sooner. They are often more than a month behind on their mortgage, car payments and utility bills. Some have resorted to stealing to support their habit, but always have intentions of paying it back.