After working in the casino advertising field for most of her career, Stephanie Goodman should have known a little more about responsible gaming. But she didn’t.
“Shame on me,” she says. “I used to think the solution was easy. Just don’t go to a casino. But I was ignorant.”
So when she was appointed the executive director of the Problem Gambling Center, it was time to get an education on problem gambling.
“I’ve learned so much. I realize that this is a legitimate DSM-5 addiction,” she says. “It lives in the same part of the brain as drugs and alcohol. And then I see our clients, working with these amazing people and our counselors, and the passion they have to solve this problem. It’s really incredible to be a part of this. So my background in gaming advertising definitely opens up some unique doors in that I’m able to talk to the industry because I used to be industry. I love that aspect.”
Her previous job also gave her a leg up. “Before that, I worked as the chief of staff for our mayor Oscar Goodman in Las Vegas. That was just an incredible position. Talk about cutting your teeth with one of the smartest and toughest guys I think that’s ever been.”
The center was rebranded to honor Doctor Robert Hunter after his unfortunate death in 2018.
“Dr. Hunter is a legend,” says Goodman. “What he did for problem gambling and all of the inroads he made in this state to really show the best practices is amazing. He worked with the pioneers who were able to identify gambling as a true DSM-5 addiction. So he did so much incredible work.”
The center doesn’t need to advertise for clients; they get there via word of mouth and it’s usually their last chance. They are immediately placed into a program designed to get to the root of the problem.
“The program is a mixture of cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, and then teaching our clients about the science of the brain so that they understand this isn’t just them. We tell them they are not weak. This is a biological disorder within their brain.
“We have an intensive outpatient program. We see individuals one-on-one. We try to make it work for the client. We just want to get them in here, because once they get in here, we’ll figure out a way to get them the help they need.”
While she admires Gamblers Anonymous (GA) and other groups that offer help, she says the center tries to drill down and get the individual to realize that they can change.
“Our program really is rewiring your brain and using that cognitive behavioral therapy to
really start getting you to think differently about how you react. Typically, you have a thought and then there’s an action. Well, we’ll make you think about seven more things before you make that action so that you can stop yourself from getting there. So I feel like our program is vital to get you to that space where you can be in recovery. And then GA is such a great way to continue on so that you have that support moving forward.
“You are committed. It’s a six-week commitment, and you are really committed when you walk out of here. It’s amazing the metamorphosis that takes place with our clients from day one to the end of week six. It is a literal day-and-night experience if the person is ready for this change.”