Poker: A Big Deal--Part III - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

02/02/06

Poker: A Big Deal--Part III

Where there's gambling, chances are there are addictions. Experts say online gambling, especially poker, has not only become popular, but dangerous.

And it has a whole new audience. More women and teenagers are getting hooked online, where all you need is a credit card--not even your own--to win cash. Or try to win your cash back.

Millions play it. Some for fun, some for money. "It's a fun game, if you quit when you are out of money," said Frank Barker, a gambling specialist at the Recovery Place in Savannah.

And some people lose a lot. Barker says online gambling has taken addiction to a new level. "It opened it up for people who would never have been exposed to it," he said.

When WTOC went aboard the Diamond Casino boat, men far outnumbered women. "Women composed 15 percent of the mix," said Barker. "Online, they are 40 percent of people playing poker."

Barker points to websites like partypoker.com. You log on and play, not knowing who you are playing against. He says once someone is hooked, they keep trying to win their money back, using their credit cards--or other people's credit cards, their homes, and even second mortgages.

"They always think they will get some back, make excuses," he said. "One more bet. One more bet, get my money back."

"I cannot win online," said Jeff Embry of the Diamond Casino. "You don't know who you are playing against, who really knows?"

He has been in the gambling business 15 years. He's played online games for years, but says at least in the casino, you see a face.

"You know who you are playing against," he said. "You know that for sure."

Barker thinks the more people see poker, the more attractive it becomes, and the easier it is to get hooked. "If you look at the cable list, you'll see poker on every station," he said. "It's just reinforcing it."

Barker says if you think you have a gambling problem or someone you know does, contact the Recovery Place or Gamblers Anonymous. There are 6 million gambling addicts in the US.

And new studies are out. They are actually coming up with a pill to help people curb their gambling.

Reported by: Don Logana, dlogana@wtoc.com

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