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UMd. creating problem gambling center

Sunday - 9/23/2012, 9:15am  ET

Kathy Stewart, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - The University of Maryland School of Medicine has received a $5 million grant to create a problem gambling center.

The center, which will be in Baltimore, will be called the Maryland Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling.

"There is so little that is known about problem gambling that we felt the obligation to add to the knowledge base," says Joanna Franklin, the center's deputy director.

The center will be like one stop shopping in providing access to the state's problem gambling services -- including running the statewide problem gambling helpline.

Franklin says the state's problem gambling hotline was one of the best keep secrets.

"It was virtually unadvertised. And very few people know about its existence," she says.

Not only does she want to man the helpline 24/7 but also put on a major PR campaign to get the number out to the public.

Franklin says it's her job to try to get the helpline number to be everywhere across the state, at bus stops, on billboards, on the radio and on TV.

The telephone helpline will direct residents who have a gambling problem to treatment or other resources. The help line's number is 1-800-522-4700. All calls are confidential.

"Then we also have as part of our mission, doing some training programs for behavioral healthcare providers across the state."

The grant will also be used as seed money for researchers to create pilot studies on gambling problems. From there the scientists can use that small body of data to go after other types of funding. 3

Franklin says the first ever youth gambling prevention program will be coming to the state. She says youth gambling problems are twice as prevalent as adult gambling problems.

Maryland residents will be voting in November on proposals to add table games to slots parlors and a new casino site in Prince George's County.

The grant money comes from the annual fees levied on each slot machine, which the owners pay.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP & the Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)