TALK ABOUT BEING CHEAP. The Pennsylvania slots law earmarks just $1.5 million annually in slots revenues for programs to treat gambling addicts.

That’s $1.5 million out of a new revenue source that will bring the state $1 billion in revenues annually if accepts the rosy estimates of Gov. Ed Rendell and others. It seems like a woefully inadequate amount to deal with the problems with compulsive gambling that will crop up a few years from now.

Let’s see. There could be up to 61,000 slot machines scattered around 14 slots casinos in Pennsylvania. That means a lot of opportunity for someone with a gambling problem to dig himself or herself into a deep hole.

House lawmakers have voted to increase the earmark for treatment programs by $2.5 million annually. Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, inserted the amendment into a broader gambling bill that passed the House. The gambling bill will be the subject of much negotiation between the House and Senate in the months ahead, but we urge lawmakers in the two chambers to come to quick agreement on the need to bring the annual earmark for gambling treatment programs to $4 million.

If lawmakers have any doubts about the eventual need for treatment programs, take a look at New Jersey where a dubious milestone was celebrated during its recent Gambling Problem Awareness Week.

New Jersey has a program where people with gambling problems can make a public declaration that they want nothing to do with casinos and the promotional offers that come to their homes. The 500th person has just signed up for New Jersey’s self-exclusion registry.

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