BERLIN — The Worcester County Health Department (WCHD) is currently waiting for the results of a state-run gambling prevalence survey.
Until those results are in, the WCHD will not be sure what percentage of revenue from the newly opened slots Casino at Ocean Downs will go toward fighting gambling addiction in the area.
Health Officer Debbie Goeller admitted that the revenue from the casino could be a big help this year, as the department is expecting a 3-percent overall decrease in state funding for all of its addiction counseling services.
“It doesn’t specify any particular amount [to treat gambling addiction],” said Goeller, referring to the agreement between Ocean Downs and the WCHD.
Instead, settling on exactly how much revenue from the slots will go toward funding the county’s gambling addiction services has been left up to the state. Hence the prevalence survey now underway, as state legislators are unwilling to choose a definitive number before fully understanding the problem.
“That will form the basis … of how they [the state] will distribute their funding,” said Goeller of the prevalence survey.
While the WCHD will have to wait for the survey to get a better picture of how much of a problem gambling addiction is in Worcester, Goeller is not anticipating the figures to be drastic.
According to Goeller, gambling addicts make up only a small portion of the clients that utilize the WCHD counseling services.
“The vast majority are substance abuse problems of some sort,” she said.
However, what impact, if any, the recently opened casino might have by way of contributing to gambling addiction in the county is still unknown. With the casino open for less than three months, Goeller said that its impact couldn’t be gauged as of yet.
“It’s too soon to tell,” she said.
If the WCHD does begin to see an increase in cases, though, Goeller was confident that the counseling services branch would be able to manage. Goeller pointed out that there are six fully trained addiction counselors available. Additionally, she mentioned other non-county affiliated programs, such as those offered by the Atlantic Club in West Ocean City.