Casino supports rehab program for gamblers

The Loutraki Casino, near Corinth, has been funding a program for gambling addicts that is a first in Greece. «We want to set up an agency staffed by specialists to provide help for those who need it. We don’t want our customers to be ruined, because we want them to keep coming back,» said Yiannis Vrachatis, the casino’s public relations officer. The Loutraki Casino, administered by a consortium including foreign groups such as Casinos Austria International, has introduced a policy of «social responsibility» common in other gambling establishments abroad. A few months ago, the European Casino Association instituted a «Code of Practice for Responsible Gaming» which requires its members to carry out a self-exclusion policy for players requesting to be stopped and to provide customers with support and assistance. «Casino managements fund support programs to improve their image and ensure viability. Meanwhile, the money spent on these programs is tax-deductable,» said psychologist Andreas Foundoulakis of the Greek Center for Cross-Cultural Psychiatry, which is running the support program. «When a customer asks for help, we refer him or her to the center,» said Vrachatis. Requests for self-exclusion can be signed either by the customers concerned or a member of their immediate family. Since 1996, over 5,000 people have signed one of these requests, of which 2,000 returned to the gaming tables once the self-exclusion period had expired. The hotline, set up in November 2002, has received 588 calls, of which 204 were from compulsive gamblers, 238 from a spouse and the rest from siblings, parents or children. Nearly half turned up for an initial consultation, but only 113 came back for a second session.

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