The National Council on Problem Gambling has moved its headquarters from New York City to Columbia in an effort to gain influence in Washington, 25 miles away from the new Town Center office.
The offices at One Mall North at the intersection of Little Patuxent and Governor Warfield parkways will also house a 24-hour national 800-number hot line for troubled gamblers and be the headquarters for the council's efforts to increase awareness about the problems associated with compulsive gambling.
As state legislatures around the country continue to legalize gambling, from scratch-off lottery tickets to offshore casino lounges and Indian reservation sites, the number of Americans who gamble compulsively is skyrocketing, according to the council.
Maryland's legislature is weighing casino gambling.
The council's offices were moved to Columbia because the office space was donated by a group of psychotherapists and the proximity to Washington will give the council a greater voice in the national debate over legalized gambling in this country, officials of the not-for-profit group said.
With a grant of slightly more than $100,000 from Harrah's Entertainment Inc., a Memphis-based corporation that operates and manages gambling facilities internationally, and a computer donated by AT&T;, the council's phone bank will allow troubled gamblers from all states to call one number for help. It should be in use by next week, said Stephen Forrest, project director.
The national phone system will forward calls to the state affiliate with a phone bank that is closest to the caller. Those affiliates then refer a caller to local counseling.
A number of groups in Maryland provide treatment and counseling services for compulsive gamblers. They range from church groups and private doctors to the Compulsive Gambling Center in Baltimore and the Maryland affiliate of the National Council on Problem Gambling in Catonsville.
The council has been hard-pressed to come up with funding. With the new grant and free office space, the council was able to consider the move to Columbia and the hot line.
Council administrators and the board of directors are searching for an executive director to run the new offices in Columbia.
Mr. Forrest, who lives in Baltimore, said he and one co-worker were hired this summer to run the new office and set up the phone bank.