It has become increasingly easy for Americans to gamble away their money, as casinos continue to pop up and online gaming has offered a way to take a chance at home, or on the go.
With more casinos than any state but Nevada, Oklahoma ranks among the highest states for gambling addiction.
According to WalletHub, Oklahoma ranks fifth, behind Mississippi, Montana, South Dakota and Nevada. It also has the second-most gaming machines per capita.
The percent of Americans with some type of gambling problem is around 2.6 percent. It is a small percentage, but amounts to millions of people. And while gambling may be an issue for many, the local Cherokee Casino does not want clientele who have such problems. If addicts can't stay away, the Cherokee Nation wants to help.
Amanda Clinton, spokesperson for Cherokee Nation Businesses, said the tribe wants people to think of gaming as another entertainment opportunity, like bowling or going to see a movie.
"We want you to come enjoy our entertainment options," said Clinton. "If it's not fun anymore, then it's not entertainment, and we don't want you there if you're not having fun anymore."
The staffers at the Cherokee Casino are trained to notice signs that a guest might have a problem. They are not trained to diagnose or treat an issue, but General Manager Rod Fourkiller said they are the "first line of contact" with guests.
"Part of our employee training program includes noticing signs of compulsive behavior, and if a guest seeks help, guiding them to the 'Play Smart' program," said Fourkiller. "The 'Play Smart' program includes a confidential, 24-hour hotline and provides guests with valuable resources and information to help them make decisions that are best for them."
Those who visit www.cherokeecasino.com can click on the "Play Smart" link, which has a list of 10 questions regarding gambling behavior.
If people answer "yes" to questions like, "Have you often gambled longer than you had planned?" or "Have you made repeated, unsuccessful attempts to stop gambling?" it could be a sign the individual has a problem with gambling.
"[Cherokee Nation Entertainment] management also participates in national and regional conferences on issues pertaining to compulsive gambling, and revises training and policies as necessary to stay current with industry standards," said Fourkiller. "The company is a member of and provides funding to the Oklahoma Association of Problem and Compulsive Gambling. The OAPCG provides a voluntary self-exclusion program at all of its member casinos in Oklahoma, as well as access to free services. Counselors and other support services can be found at their website, www.oapcg.org."
As part of the tribe's gaming compact with the state, patrons who believe they may be playing games on a compulsive basis may request that their names be placed on an exclusion list.
"If a guest feels they are no longer enjoying themselves at one of our properties, they can elect to exclude themselves for periods ranging from one year, five years and permanently," said Fourkiller.
"That information is shared with other CNE gaming facilities and the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission. Self-exclusions are irrevocable until the exclusion period is up, and if a guest violates that exclusion, they are escorted off property."
Clinton pointed out many other establishments that could support unhealthy addictions don't offer the same policy.
"A liquor store is not going to let you exclude, a bar is not going to let you exclude, so at least we're more responsible than other places in that regard," she said.
While there are not many other services in Tahlequah to address problem gambling, Gamblers Anonymous meetings are available for people in Muskogee and Siloam Springs, Arkansas.
According to the Gamblers Anonymous website, there are meetings in Muskogee at the First United Methodist Church on Mondays, 6 p.m.; and King Cup Coffee Shop on Thursdays, 6 p.m. The Siloam Springs G.A. meeting is on Thursdays at the Borderline Clubhouse, 7 p.m.
The National Council on Problem Gambling has a helpline for people at 1-800-522-4700.
People can also call the Oklahoma Association on Problem and Compulsive Gambling helpline at 405-801-3329.