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Conference to focus on Internet gambling

By Brian Hallenbeck

Publication: The Day

Published October 24. 2012 4:00AM
Problem gambling group expecting big crowd in Westbrook

Internet gambling, a hot topic in Connecticut earlier this year, will be the focus of the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling's annual conference Thursday at Water's Edge Resort & Spa in Westbrook.

Interest in the subject may not have cooled a whole lot if the expected turnout is any indication.

Due to space restrictions, the council had to close registration for the conference after more than 200 people had signed up, Mary Drexler, the council's executive director, said Tuesday. Drexler said she believes the response reflects the high level of interest in Internet gambling, which many believe will eventually become legal throughout the United States.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy began publicly discussing the issue in January, soon after the U.S. Department of Justice released a ruling that appeared to pave the way for states to legalize online gambling. Ultimately, neither the governor nor the legislature pursued the matter.

Nevertheless, Drexler said that with states such as New Jersey and Delaware considering legalizing Internet gambling and sports betting, it was important for the Clinton-based council to disseminate the appropriate information.

"We want people to know what online gambling looks like and what the safeguards ought to be," she said. "I thought it was important to hear from the National Council (on Problem Gambling) as well as the industry."

Mark Griffiths, a psychologist and professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University in Nottingham, England, will give the conference's keynote address, "Psychosocial Impacts of Remote Gambling." Online gambling is legal in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe and other parts of the world.

Following his speech, Griffiths will moderate a panel discussion on safeguards for Internet gambling. The panelists will include Anne Noble, president and chief executive officer of the Connecticut Lottery Corp.; Don Feeney, director of research and planning for the Minnesota State Lottery and president of the National Council on Problem Gambling; Jeff Beck, assistant director for clinical services for the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey; and Chuck Bunnell, chief of staff of the Mohegan Tribe, which owns Mohegan Sun.

Both of southeastern Connecticut's casino-owning tribes, the Mohegans and the Mashantucket Pequots, who own Foxwoods, have been preparing for the legalization of online gambling. Mohegan Sun announced this month that it has reached an agreement with Las Vegas-based Bally Technologies to provide free-play poker on the casino's website. The Mashantuckets also have had talks with operators of online gambling sites.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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