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“Each Sunday before worship I say, ‘OK, God. Let’s see what you can do this morning,’” he said.

The slogan for Recovery Worship is “the perfect place for imperfect people.” “In this congregation, there is no pretending that life is good, and there’s no embarrassment in the fact that your life has been messed up,” Mr. Roberts explained.

About half of the people at Recovery Worship on any given Sunday are regulars. The other half is a more transient group, composed of people who are in town to receive treatment or just visit.

Although Roberts doesn’t formally keep track of what happens to worshippers who return from Fargo to their home communities, he said many have churches waiting to receive them.

A safe environment

According to a 2014 study commissioned by the American Gaming Association (AGA), “Casino visitors are a portrait of America.” Nearly half of the gamblers surveyed were college graduates and two in three regularly attended church services.

AGA’s message was that the population of people found in casinos parallels the variety of men and women who gather at other, less polarized entertainment venues.

Problem gamblers form a similarly diverse group, and people in treatment programs can be young or old, atheist or ordained pastors. “Anyone who gambles can develop problems if they are not aware of the risks and do not gamble responsibly,” the National Council on Problem Gambling’s website explains.

Gambling addicts can’t be typecast, which further complicates the efforts congregations must undertake to provide a place of healing.

“One of the first places (recovering addicts) go internally is to a deep level of shame and embarrassment,” Mr. Roberts explained. He said that people need to feel like they’re in a safe environment where they can express their suffering.

“I think a lot of churches hope that they’re that safe environment, but they’re not,” he said. “There are going to be people in that church who will gossip … and that will prevent someone from returning.”

Ms. Cronin suggested the churches could hold support groups for congregants of all kinds. An open question like, “Where does your pain come from?” addresses recovering addicts without singling them out.

“A pastor may know of a couple of other people (in recovery) who could support each other, even if it wasn’t a formal group setting,” she said.

The key is that former gamblers know there’s a place for them in the church community.

“It’s authentic, loving welcome that is absolutely needed,” Mr. Roberts said. “We all believe that’s what Christ calls us to do. And we’ve all experienced the pain of not receiving that.”