Gambling problem put Nevada woman on road to helping others

Carol O’Hare discovered the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling in 1991, about the same time she sought help for her own gambling addiction by attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings.

Today, O’Hare’s problems are behind her, but as the nonprofit’s executive director, she remains passionate about educating the public about problem gambling’s impact on Nevada and about what the council has to offer.

“I’ve been with the organization for just over 17 years,” O’Hare said. “I started as a person in gambling recovery. I was introduced to the council and decided to volunteer. That’s how I began my career.”

She said at the time the industry was just beginning to look at the issue of problem gambling in Las Vegas. Those same companies support the work of the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling, O’Hare said.

“We do everything but provide direct treatment services,” O’Hare said. “We offer prevention and professional education and provide a 24-hour helpline. All of this increases awareness of problem gambling.”

The council’s mission matters — 6.4 percent of the state’s population is categorized as problem or pathological gamblers, a year 2000 study funded by the state of Nevada found. A similar study found 2.2 percent of Nevada’s adolescents were classified as problem gamblers and another 9.9 percent were “at risk.”

The council offers a one-hour class for company employees that explains the gambling experience, and discusses problem gambling’s effects on individuals, families and workplaces. The council also is involved with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the University of Nevada, Reno, offering courses on compulsive gambling counseling and exploring gambling behaviors.

O’Hare said council aims to create “a better safety net” and spread an understanding that problem gamblers are not all bad people, but people who have a treatable disorder.

The Nevada Council on Problem Gambling, founded in 1984, is the state’s designated affiliate of the National Council on Problem Gambling, and does not take a position for or against legal gambling.

Since its founding, the council has distributed more than 1.5 million “When the Fun Stops” information brochures, primarily through Nevada gaming locations. The council develops and distributes publications on issues, such as Problem Gambling and the Law and Financial Strategies for the Loved Ones of Problem Gamblers.

The council also provides information and resource materials to social service agencies and other community organizations that want to incorporate problem gambling awareness and prevention into their programs and services.

O’Hare said the council’s funding was as diverse as the population it serves.

O’Hare said 25 percent to 30 percent of the council’s annual budget comes from gaming companies; the rest comes from nominal fees it charges for services and state grants. She said Nevada has restored its funding.

O’Hare said the council doesn’t take a position for or against online gambling.

“Our concern is that we are adequately prepared for online gambling,” she said. “We want to know that the best protections are in place. We have to have a realistic view of what may happen when you introduce online gambling.”

So far, Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware have legalized online gambling. She said the impact is uncertain.

But, she said, if 6 percent of the population is predisposed to problem gambling, there will be problem gamblers among those people online.

“(Online gambling will) require us to adjust how we deliver information,” O’Hare said. “Our goal is to continue to focus on problem gambling as a community health issue.”

Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at or 702-477-3893. Follow @sierotyfeatures on Twitter.

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