Speakers, Awards Featured at Alliance's 10th Anniversary Event
A nationally acclaimed speaker and a St. Louis area woman, who is in
recovery from a gambling addiction, highlighted the 10th anniversary
event of the Missouri Alliance to Curb Problem Gambling (Alliance).
Two special awards also were presented during the event, which was held at 1 p.m. Dec. 17 at Provident Inc., 2650 Olive St. in St. Louis.
"This event gave us the opportunity to highlight many of the Alliance's programs and important individuals from the past 10 years," said Gary
Gonder, chairman of the Alliance and director of Integrated Services
for the Missouri Lottery. "This Alliance works only because of the
commitment from its members. While we looked at the past today, we are in the process of planning for the future. We need to continue to
reach out to problem gamblers and their family members, and develop the programs that will provide them the help that they need to beat this
The featured speaker for today's event was Dr. Renee
Cunningham-Williams, an associate professor at George Warren Brown
School of Social Work at Washington University, who presented
information on recent problem gambling research.
Marlene, a St. Louis area woman, provided a moving personal story about the addiction that left her contemplating suicide. Through counseling
and group therapy, Marlene is in recovery and is enjoying her life.
"My daughter talked me into calling the Bets Off number," she
recounted. "From the first lady I spoke to on the Bets Off line to my
counselor, everyone has been so wonderful and so understanding."
Marlene said her addiction nearly took her life, but today she is
enjoying spending time with her family, especially her two young
"I'm working three part-time jobs to pay off my debts," she said.
"Every time I clean a toilet or mop the floor with a broom, I remember
why I'm doing this and why I never want to go back. If I hadn't gotten the help I needed, I would've had two grandbabies who never would have
In addition the speakers, Dr. Cunningham-Williams received the
Alliance's 2007 Outstanding Contributor award for her work in problem
gambling research in Missouri and her valuable contributions and
insights in helping design many of the Alliance programs and
initiatives. She is one of few social workers in the nation conducting award-winning epidemiologic and treatment research in pathological
gambling and co-occurring disorders.
Mike Ryan, owner of Ryan and Associates of St. Louis and former
executive director of the Missouri Gaming Association, was presented
with the Alliance's 2007 Service Award. Ryan was instrumental in the
creation of the Alliance. He guided the casinos in establishing the
nation's first statewide responsible gaming committee, which
1-888-BETS OFF help line. He led the effort to
establish responsible gambling standards for Missouri casinos and a
statewide college scholarship program. He officially retired from the
Missouri Gaming Association in December 2006, but he remains active on
the Missouri Gaming Association's Responsible Gaming Committee and is
serving on committees for the Midwest Conference on Problem Gambling
and Substance Abuse.
The Alliance was the first statewide coalition created in the United
States to build awareness of problem gambling issues and programs
available to Missouri residents. Its unique voting membership includes the Missouri Council on Problem Gambling Concerns Inc., the Missouri
Department of Mental Health, the Missouri Gaming Commission, the
Missouri Lottery, the Missouri Gaming Association and the Port
Authority of Kansas City. Additional members include counselors,
researchers and representatives from other organizations and state
The Alliance's mission is to heighten public awareness of the dangers
of problem gambling; develop prevention and education programs for
gamblers of all ages; and direct problem gamblers and their families to the 1-888-BETSOFF help line and free treatment.