A big gamble
Workshops help deal with addiction

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

Rankin Inlet (Feb 09/00) - Compulsive gambling is becoming a problem in Kivalliq communities.

The Kataujaq Society is Rankin Inlet is holding a series of workshops beginning next month to address the situation.

Evelyn Thordarson, executive director of the Kataujaq Society Safe Shelter, says compulsive gambling is a problem right across the North.

"It's a big-time problem both here in Rankin Inlet and all the smaller communities in the Kivalliq," says Thordarson.

"This is especially true in communities where they have home games of Pattiq.

"They play for big money and snowmachines. It's a real problem."

Thordarson says a lot of money is being spent on bingo games, scratch tickets -- anything that people think might get them the "big win."

Even more saddening, she says, is that most of it is being spent by those who can least afford it.

"A lot of times, gambling in the family leads to family violence.

"Somebody gambles away the family's money and there's none left for food."

Statistics show gambling is often prevalent in economically depressed areas.

Thordarson says people actually commit suicide because of their gambling addictions, violence increases and families break up.

"People are going to bingo regularly who are literally taking the food right off their family's table.

"More and more youth are buying scratch tickets than ever before, and single mothers and people on fixed incomes are spending all their money on gambling.

"We have to address this problem now."

Three workshops are scheduled to be held at the Friendship Centre.

They are: Understanding Problem Gambling (March 27-29); Family Violence and Addictions (March 30-31); Anger Management and Addictions (March 31-April 1).

The workshops will help train front-line workers to treat compulsive gamblers.

Two facilitators from the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba will deliver the program, which is being funded by Brighter Futures.

Thordarson says the group's ultimate goal is to put together a 12-step program to help compulsive gamblers right in Rankin Inlet.

"These facilitators will return when our workers are actually treating problem gamblers.

"This is not an easy addiction to overcome, but we have to start addressing the problem now, before the price gets even higher."