GA to be funded by ESPN?

You can’t help but notice that poker is ubuquitous on television these days. New Jersey assemblywomen Joan Voss has, and she thinks that those who profit from the Hold’Em craze should pitch in when it comes to helping those with a problem.

From AP via Newsday:

On Bravo, it’s “Celebrity Poker Showdown.” On ESPN, it’s “The World Series of Poker.” On compulsive gambling help lines, the real stakes emerge.

Problem gamblers, enchanted by the Texas Hold ‘Em games they see on TV and eager to get in on the action, are reaching out for treatment after they get in too deep, according to experts.

Now, a New Jersey lawmaker is calling on cable networks that air card games to start giving money to problem-gambling treatment agencies.

Ante up, or else, said Assemblywoman Joan Voss, who called Tuesday for a surcharge on New Jersey cable providers if the cable networks don’t cooperate.

“Cable television channels that are heavily promoting the Texas Hold ‘Em rage should be held responsible for some of the unglamorous side effects, like juvenile gambling addictions,” said Voss, D-Bergen.

New Jersey casinos kick in $600,000 annually for anti-compulsive gambling programs; it’s only fair that poker networks contribute, according to Voss, who said televised poker has bred a popular explosion of card games in suburban basements and increased participation on Internet gambling sites.

It has also led to problem gambling, according to Voss and compulsive gambling advocacy groups.

“The broadcast media has been very irresponsible in the way they’ve broadcast gambling-related shows,” said Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, in Washington, D.C.

“They have almost completely failed to provide any sort of health warnings, public service announcements or responsible gambling tips,” said Whyte, who said poker-playing minors are increasingly calling the National Council’s help line.

For two years, Whyte has lobbied cable networks in hopes they would air information about the help line. The pleas have been ignored, he said.

In New Jersey, 28 percent of the nearly 20,000 calls made to the state help-line last year came from gamblers who cited cards or dice as their gambling vices, up from 4 percent in 2003, according to figures released Tuesday.

Many are high school- and college-age youths who idolize poker stars such as Chris Moneymaker and Phil Ivey.

“When they play Texas Hold ‘Em in somebody’s house, the parent is thinking, ‘Wow, this is great, my teenager is in my house, in my basement. They must be safe,”‘ said Terry Elman, education coordinator for the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, which is pushing to get problem-gambling awareness education into public schools.

NJ lawmaker wants poker networks to chip in for gambling addicts

I say, more power to Voss. In a society where gambling is endemic, it doesn’t seem right to ask casinos–only one gambling provider out of many–to be the sole industry asked to contribute to helping problem gamblers.

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