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Gambling addiction expert weighs in on Bristol casino concerns

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A gambling addiction expert said Monday that much of the research on the relationship between mental health disorders and the proximity of a casino is inconclusive. 

This comes a day after more than one thousand people turned out to rally against a proposal to convert the vacant Bristol Mall into a casino, according to event organizers. 

Opposition has come largely from the religious community. Organizers said more than 40 local pastors attended the rally Sunday with members of their congregation. 

Among their many concerns are fears that a casino will lead to increases in mental health disorders and poverty.

Dr. Meredith Ginley, assistant professor of psychology at East Tennessee State University, has researched gambling addiction for nearly a decade and has worked with patients in clinical settings. 

She said in an interview Monday that disordered gambling, now considered on par with substance abuse disorder by professionals, is rare. "About 85 percent of individuals in the U.S. will have gambled within their lifetime and only about 2 percent of the population will ever meet the criteria for gambling disorder," Dr. Ginley said. 

Even in communities where casinos are more accessible, she said researchers have yet to find a conclusive relationship between proximity and increased incidence of disordered gambling. 

Dr. Ginley confirmed that gambling addiction often co-occurs with substance abuse. She said it's also related to increased rates of suicide. 

"Just because two things happen at the same time doesn't mean that one predicts the other," she said, "Is it that people have these mental health problems and then that leads them to gamble or they're gambling and that leads to mental health concerns? We just don't have good research there yet." 

She said research has received more funding in recent years as state lawmakers across the country consider legalizing casino-style gambling to tap into new sources of tax revenue. 

The Virginia General Assembly is expected to consider this change to state law in their next session. 

Dr. Ginley strongly advised lawmakers to dedicate resources to expand addiction treatment services and fund localized research if they plan to support casinos: "Looking at the impact so that they can quickly determine whether there is something special about Bristol that may make it a higher risk place to put a casino."

Casino developers did not respond to News Channel 11's request for comment Monday. 

Read more http://news.google.com/news/url?sa=t&fd=R&ct2=us&usg=AFQjCNHkj9hu6zIbmCAR9FUSUJ1ZXpwllg&clid=c3a7d30bb8a4878e06b80cf16b898331&ei=g0XPW8C3LIXghgGnxYSYCg&url=https://www.wjhl.com/local/gambling-addiction-expert-weighs-in-on-bristol-casino-concerns/1542456925

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