Before ilani even opened in April 2017, the Cowlitz Tribe promised it would fund therapy for compulsive gamblers.
That service became a reality this summer. Anyone struggling with a gambling addiction can seek help from three certified counselors who work for the Cowlitz Tribe.
Kara Fox-LaRose, ilani president and general manager, said the counseling will operate autonomously from casino influence.
“The tribe has been involved in health and human services for many years,” said Fox-LaRose. “In anticipation of the (casino) opening, the tribe made a formal commitment to the state of Washington by way of their compact to dedicate a portion of gaming revenue to programs and services in support of its dedication to fostering healthy communities. … This is a new service available to those seeking assistance with compulsive gambling.”
The Cowlitz Tribal Treatment Program is at 7700 N.E. 26th Ave., Vancouver. Fox-LaRose said that staff at ilani won’t seek to refer gamblers who appear to have a problem, but will be able to give information to anyone who inquires.
Fox-LaRose said the main emphasis is in training casino staff so that they are properly educated on all of the services if someone does want help. There is a Player Services area at the casino that can provide assistance. People may also call the Washington State Gambling Helpline: 800-547-6133. Cowlitz Tribe counselors can be reached at 360-947-2247.
“We train our team members to be prepared if one of our guests are inquiring about programs that may be available or if they want to seek help,” Fox-LaRose said.
Right now the services will involve individual counseling. That counseling isn’t restricted to compulsive gamblers, and can also help with other areas such as substance abuse.
“They’re able to provide treatment based on their assessment of an individual that may be seeking some guidance,” Fox-LaRose said. “They’re prepared to provide recommendations to them, as they would with many other types of addictions they’ve been dealing with.”
Last year, the American Gaming Association rolled out a new code of conduct in an effort to protect consumers and promote responsible gambling. It called on casinos to be more transparent with gamblers, and for operators to better explain to patrons their odds of winning or losing.
Industry estimates consider about 98 percent of gambling to be “responsible gambling,” with the remaining 2 percent landing in the compulsive area. With the legalization of sports gambling this year, gambling has been granted another legal avenue. Washington sports betting laws currently allow only horse racing, although the law could change.
In May, the Cowlitz Tribe’s partner, Mohegan Gaming, told The Columbian that it would consider offering sports betting at its six properties, including ilani, if allowed by state governments.
Fox-LaRose said the tribe will monitor the counseling program, and make any needed changes as they come. There are plans to offer group counseling in the future.
“We’ll continue to evaluate the need as our business matures and grows,” Fox-LaRose said.
Wyatt Stayner: 360-735-4546; firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter.com/WStayner