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Treat Problem Gamblers or Send Them to Jail

Treat Problem Gamblers or Send Them to JailA law meant to assist addicted gamblers was adopted recently in Las Vegas.

Jerry Meador’s attorneys claimed that the 53-year old should be released from prison. Meador had been incarcerated for stealing over half-a-million from a plumbing company.

The state law, passed in 2009, gives the court system a framework for preventing and treating gambling addicts. The law permits courts to set up rehab programs for any gambler facing charges; meaning therapy rather than prison. Any conviction would be expunged from the documents of those who finished court-ordered programs.

Carol O’Hare, manager of the Nevada Council on Addiction Gambling says the law’s purpose is to aid people who, in the absence of a gambling addiction, would not be perpetrating the crimes.

“The crime isn’t driven by a decision to violate the law,” O’Hare said. “They come from maladies that develop.”

Morbid gambling is characterized as a mental disorder according to the American Psychiatric Association. As many as 125,000 state residents are affected.

Denise Quirk, CEO of Reno’s Problem Gambling Center has worked with citizens confined to therapy. The addictions instructor, who moonlights by teaching a course on problem-gambling, claims that allowing problem gamblers to receive therapy and seek work rather than being confined benefits marks as well; if not incarcerated, those convicted can begin restitution payments sooner.

So what is to prevent thieves from blaming their crimes on “gambling addiction”? Quirk claims those attempting to game the system would be found out within days and tossed in jail if they don’t complete therapy which can be rigorous.

Las Vegas lawyer Doug Crawford qualified for the plan when he was indicted for embezzling from his clients in 2005. Crawford was sent to a six-week outpatient program, and three problem-gambling meetings until his $300,000 restitution is paid off.

Crawford claims he entered a “life of recovery” and plans to continue his meetings ever after he has finished his restitution obligations.

“This is the best law we’ve had for problem players,” Crawford said.

The owners of Rakeman Plumbing, where Meador worked, aren’t too happy. They don’t believe their company’s money was stolen to feed Meador’s addiction.

“It goes past that,” said Aaron Hawley, the owner. “In our case, she was paying for her mortgage and cell phone bills.”

“I’m sure the best remedy for gambling addiction would be to put her (Meador) in a spot where she can’t get to slot machines — like a penitentiary,” said Hawley.

Meador’s lawyer, David Figler argues judgment in the victim’s eyes isn’t always justice in the community’s eyes. “Just because somebody is paying private costs doesn’t mean they don’t have a gambling difficulty,” Figler says.

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