Gambling disorder grows in Delaware

On Horse Racing

September 15, 1996|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

As millions and millions of dollars pour through slot machines at Delaware's three racetracks, one disturbing trend emerges. Since the first machines opened last year at Delaware Park, calls to the state's gambling crisis center have more than doubled.

"They doubled almost immediately," said Elizabeth Pertzoff, executive director of the Delaware Council on Problem Gambling. "People got into trouble with slots right away. But that came as no surprise. Slots are one of the most addictive forms of gambling."

Pertzoff said her organization, an affiliate of the National Council on Problem Gambling based in Columbia, received about 20 calls a month the past few years.

In January and February, that number jumped to 40 or 50, she said. It declined slightly in March and April, but then jumped back up in May and has increased steadily since, she said.

When the Delaware legislature approved slot machines as medicine for the state's ailing racing industry, it also stipulated that 1 percent of the state's share of slots' profits, or $100,000, whichever is larger, goes to Pertzoff's council.

Pertzoff said profits are so high she probably will receive about $400,000 this year.

The Delaware Council on Problem Gambling spends its money on education and awareness (Pertzoff said compulsive gambling is a treatable disorder), training health professionals in the detection and treatment of problem gamblers.

This fall, Pertzoff said, the council will sponsor training sessions with workers at Delaware Park and Dover Downs to help them identify and assist problem gamblers.

Valerie C. Lorenz, executive director of the Compulsive Gambling Center in Baltimore, said slots are "the most addictive form of gambling. It's so instantaneous. There're no distractions. It's just you against that machine.

"My gamblers tell me it's like a trance. It blocks out their environment, their reality."

Lorenz's association also has a toll-free number: (800) LOST-BET.

Remembering a veteran

A tribute to veteran horseman Vinnie Moscarelli, who died last week of a heart attack while attending the races at Delaware Park, will be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow at the Moscarelli farm in Warwick.

Moscarelli, 66, a longtime partner with the entertainer Burt Bacharach, and his wife Suzanne and family recently had moved to the northeast Maryland farm from West Virginia.

On their Country Road Farm near Charles Town, they bred such champions as Heartlight No. One, Afternoon Deelites and Soul of the Matter.

Suzanne Moscarelli said their horse operation will continue in Warwick. But first, she said, family and friends will pause for tomorrow's tribute in the farm's garden.

The Warwick farm is on Old Bohemia Church Road between Routes 213 and 299.

"Vinnie loved it here so much," Suzanne said. "This was the place where we were going to live out our days. It just caught up with Vinnie too soon."

Laurel artist is sued

Michael Geraghty, a 34-year-old artist from Laurel, and two other artists are being sued by the firm that is marketing Allen E. Paulson's superhorse, Cigar.

CMG Worldwide Inc., the Indianapolis firm with similar marketing rights to Ruffian and Secretariat, is trying to rein in artists making a buck off Cigar.

Geraghty paints horses, including Cigar, and sells limited-edition prints.

Geraghty said CMG has demanded that he pay an unspecified license fee to paint Cigar and then turn over 5 percent of retail and 10 percent of wholesale revenues. He refused, and CMG sued.

"I'm reporting with a paintbrush just as you're reporting with a pen," Geraghty told The Sun. "We're both protected under First Amendment rights for that."

But Mark A. Roesler, chairman of CMG, told The Sun that Geraghty and other artists "are profiting off a horse they don't own. They're unfairly profiting off what someone else has built up."

Roesler said his firm is evaluating case-by-case all artists and businesses dealing in Cigar merchandise. Paulson has stipulated that CMG donate all profits from the sale of Cigar products to horse-racing charities.

Geraghty said he would have no problem donating a small portion to the charities, but not the amount demanded by CMG.

"If they knew what I made in this business they'd see they're wasting their time," he said. "What in the world are they going to extract from me?"

Geraghty said he can't afford to hire a lawyer to fight CMG and Paulson, who is fabulously wealthy. Geraghty said he's not sure what he's going to do.

"I just want to make a living and raise my two young children," he said. "If this all wasn't so ridiculous, I'd cry."

Miscellaneous

In the race that may decide horse racing's 3-year-old championship, Louis Quatorze and Skip Away battle today in the Grade I Woodbine Million. That race and two from Belmont Park are part of an ESPN telecast beginning at 4 p.m. . . . Although Bill Mott, trainer of Cigar, said he doesn't dwell on the Maryland-bred's loss last month, he admitted it's hard forgetting how badly Cigar seemed to feel after losing for the first time in two years. "He was despondent," Mott said. "I don't know if a horse can have the emotion -- they probably can't -- but it was almost like he was embarrassed. We'd try to give him a mint and make everybody feel better, and he'd just turn away. I felt sorry for him."

Pub Date: 9/15/96

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