Lawmaker Wants Poker TV to Fight Addiction

On Bravo, it's "Celebrity Poker Showdown" (search). On ESPN, it's "The World Series of Poker" (search).On compulsive-gambling help lines, the real stakes emerge.

Now a New Jersey lawmaker wants cable networks that feature gambling to help gambling addicts by giving money to treatment agencies. Assemblywoman Joan Voss (search), a Democrat, on Tuesday called for a surcharge on state cable providers if the networks don't cooperate.

"Cable television channels that are heavily promoting the Texas Hold 'Em rage should be held responsible for some of the unglamorous side effects, like juvenile gambling addictions," said Voss.

New Jersey casinos kick in $600,000 annually for anti-compulsive gambling programs; it's only fair that poker networks contribute, according to Voss.

The broadcast media "have almost completely failed to provide any sort of health warnings, public service announcements or responsible gambling tips," said Keith Whyte, executive director of the Washington-based National Council on Problem Gambling (search).

In New Jersey, 28 percent of the nearly 20,000 calls made to the state help-line last year came from gamblers who cited cards or dice as their gambling vices, up from 4 percent in 2003, according to figures released Tuesday.

Voss said easy access to the television coverage by young viewers is dangerous. Whyte said poker-playing minors are increasingly calling the National Council's help line.

The surcharge, Voss said, would be imposed on cable providers who air poker tournaments, requiring them to collect the money from cable networks without passing on the charge to customers.

ESPN spokeswoman Keri Potts said the sports cable network needed to review the proposal before it could respond.

Dan Silberman, a spokesman for Bravo, said "Celebrity Poker Showdown" isn't really gambling, since the proceeds go to charity.