March is problem gambling month so players are seeing numerous articles and news reports that are helping to promote industry awareness. With the rise in online and brick and mortar venues, it is a much-needed response to addiction and abuse.
Video lottery machines are a major culprit, resulting in an increase in calls to the Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia (1-800-GAMBLER). For almost twenty years, this has been a major resource in the Mountain State run by First Choice Health Systems. You can get help anonymously around the clock or go to www.1800gambler.net.
Counselors, based in Charleston, will refer calls to support groups and other resources statewide. Many avail themselves of the free two-hour consultations. If gamblers need assistance, funding is also available to cover treatment costs. According to Jennifer Davis-Walton, Program Director of Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia,
“We do get other calls from casino gamblers and even sports betting now that it’s become legal (in West Virginia); however, the majority of our calls are still folks who are still playing the machines.”
She notes that there are many opportunities and lots of places to go. Studies show that the majority of callers are able to stop within six months. The program has experienced a resounding success with more than 14,000 callers serviced since 2000. Clearly many adults have a gambling problem, as much as one in fifty in the state.
“For most people, it (gambling) is a form of entertainment, but for those that development the problem, that’s who we want to reach,” says Davis-Walton. “We want to let them know that there is help, there is hope and there is recovery.”
She warns that gambling should not interfere with one’s daily activities. It should be a recreational pastime at best. It is a question of how often one partakes. According to experts, it has become a problem if you have not been able to cut back or stop, if you continue to bet after major losses hoping to recoup your money, if you lie to family and friends, if you gamble to escape your problems, if you need to borrow money to continue or have upped the ante over time. In the worst cases, a gambling addition will wreak havoc with relationships and may cause depression and anxiety.
A version of this article first appeared at wvmetronews.com