Senator Sonny Angara has called on authorities to strengthen measures addressing gambling addiction in the country by making rehabilitation programs more accessible to problem gamblers.
Angara made this call in the wake of the deadly attack on Resorts World Manila which left 38 people dead, including the gunman, Jessie Carlos, who was a gambling addict buried in debt.
Based on Pagcor’s National Database of Restricted Persons, Carlos was among approximately 400 gambling addicts with player exclusion orders, which can be filed by concerned family members or the gamblers themselves who opt for self-exclusion.
“It is not enough that gambling addicts are barred from playing in casinos. They should be afforded with proper psychological counseling and treatment to help them get rehabilitated from their gambling problems,” the veteran legislator said.
The seasoned lawmaker, one of the authors of the Mental Health bill approved by the Senate, emphasized that gambling addiction can be treated like other forms of substance abuse-through rehabilitation, therapy and if needed, even medication and community intervention.
At present, to prevent gambling addiction and minimize potential harm, PAGCOR is implementing programs to heighten awareness on responsible gaming. These include training of gaming employees on how to spot gambling addicts, information dissemination and advertising, and 24/7 helplines to assist gamers seeking professional help.
“Psychological counseling services usually cost a lot, and for gambling addicts who may be deep in debt, it would be unlikely for them to afford or even consider resorting to professional help,” the youthful senator said.
“With the recent Senate passage of the Mental Health bill, I am hopeful that gambling rehabilitation will be part of the mental health services and programs that will be integrated in our public health system,” he added.
The bill mandates the government to provide basic mental health services at the community level and psychiatric, psychosocial and neurologic services in all regional, provincial and tertiary hospitals.