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NEW HAVEN, Conn. - In her books, Amy Blackmarr writes about finding peace, often secluded in faraway cabins. But wherever she goes, from the heartland to the South to New England, a casino is never far away.
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Whenever she finds that inner peace, whenever she tells herself she is through with the flashing lights and lost hours, she's been drawn back to the comfort of a cushy chair at a nearby video poker machine.
"I can't get away from them. They're everywhere," says Blackmarr, author of such books as "Going to Ground," "Above the Fall Line" and "House of Steps," and one the nation's estimated 8 million compulsive gamblers.
With an explosion in legalized gambling around the country and more than 800 casinos in 28 states, the days when gamblers headed to only Las Vegas or Atlantic City are long gone.
These days gamblers such as Blackmarr are inundated with specialized marketing materials in the mail geared to their preferred gambling. TV commercials highlight the fun and excitement that await them at a casino. Gambling is a click away on the Internet or, in many states now, at the corner store that sells lottery tickets.
Researchers want to know whether the proliferation leads to more problem gamblers.
"The need for a study to look at the impact of new types of gambling on problem gambling prevalence rates is sorely overdue," said Rachel Volberg, a gambling researcher and past president of the National Council on Problem Gambling.