Overview & Services

Residential gambling recovery program opening in Stowe

Thursday, February 07, 2008
By Gary Rotstein, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Bob Donaldson/Post-Gazette

Panfilo DiCenzo, right, executive director of Clean and Sober Humans Association Inc., and manager Lenny Hailo inside the organization's residence for people with gambling addiction.

Panfilo DiCenzo considers himself streetwise on addictions and people, among other topics.

He intends to use that knowledge by adding a recovery residence for addicted gamblers to Clean and Sober Humans Association Inc., the shelter program he started for alcoholics and drug abusers 12 years ago in Stowe.

A ribbon-cutting will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday for Arneault House, the remodeled residence at 821 Broadway Ave. sandwiched between tanning and nail salons. It will serve as low-cost housing for five to 10 people attempting to work out their gambling problems, said Mr. DiCenzo, founder and executive director of CASH.

It is a supplement to the program CASH has been running since its inception for people with drug and alcohol problems, which includes about 18 residents now.

Individuals will receive a bed at a sliding-scale cost while accepting a requirement that they attend support group meetings. They also will be linked to peer counseling and professional services, as needed, though CASH is not itself a licensed treatment center.

Mr. DiCenzo said it has been clear to him, as is also noted by research studies, that the type of people CASH serves for drug and alcohol issues are frequently problem gamblers as well. There have been no special programs for compulsive gamblers in the region, however, and the number of people with problems is expected to increase with the development of new casinos.

"It's no different from drugs and alcohol with the damage -- you lose your family, you lose everything," Mr. DiCenzo said. "We'll help put their life back together if they need it, but they have to work the program, to have the desire to change."

He is working with Gamblers Anonymous, which will add its weekly meetings later this month to those of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and other groups that regularly use CASH's facilities. CASH will also provide space and financial help for one or two therapists to counsel the gambling addicts individually and as a group, and a house manager will offer life-skills training on employment and other issues, Mr. DiCenzo said.

Jody Bechtold, a University of Pittsburgh social worker serving as a consultant to the project, said the effort is beneficial because so little help is available now to gamblers, compared to drug and alcohol abusers. Gambling addicts have special difficulties related to finances, relatives and other issues that may not be addressed in other counseling. Many people would not know how or where to find specialized services, she said, and Arneault House will make that far easier.

"It might be ahead of its time, given we don't have a casino open yet in Allegheny County, but at the same time, I don't think any individual should have to wait for worse problems to come up. There have been a lot of gambling problems going on for some time," said Ms. Bechtold, one of the few therapists certified in gambling treatment in the Pittsburgh area.

The new residence is named for Ted Arneault, president of the Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort in Chester, W.Va. He has been a supporter of the CASH programs since former Pittsburgh Mayor Bob O'Connor introduced him to Mr. DiCenzo several years ago.

A dinner by a West Virginia charitable organization to honor Mr. Arneault last year raised $40,000 for CASH to organize its gambling program. Half of that was used to remodel the Broadway Avenue residence next to the agency's headquarters, Mr. DiCenzo said, and half will be seed money to develop a home for problem gamblers in New Cumberland, W.Va., near Mountaineer.

Mountaineer is providing property it owns in New Cumberland for CASH to build the housing, and Mr. Arneault said it will help with additional fund raising for the project, which could cost $300,000. Mr. Arneault said no residential facilities specifically for gamblers exist in West Virginia.

"We recognize there can be [addiction] issues, and the benefit of having legal gambling, versus illegal, is the availability to provide solutions for it," Mr. Arneault said.

Mr. DiCenzo said he will personally evaluate applicants to the gambling residence to determine how committed they are. They will be expected to follow a program of meetings and therapy and abstain from making any bets. No one will be permitted to watch sports on the television in Arneault House because of the chance it could be tied to a wager, noted Mr. DiCenzo, a recovering alcoholic who said he also used to gamble excessively on sports and craps.

He expects several candidates to begin living at Arneault House as early as next week. For more information, call him at 412-875-0020.

First published on February 7, 2008 at 12:00 am Gary Rotstein can be reached at or 412-263-1255.

Arenault House 821 Broadway Avenue ~ McKees Rocks, PA 15136 ~ 412-875-0200