Along with the usual resolutions to lose weight, stop procrastinating, and get organized, helpline staff on the state’s 1-800GAMBLER program hear people with a different type of goal this time of year. People who call the helpline are desperately trying to stop gambling. Studies show that about 1 in 50 West Virginians may be dealing with a gambling problem. By the time someone calls the line, they are often deep in debt and have alienated their family.
Sheila Moran, Director of Communications for Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia, says this year may pose more of a challenge for those trying to quit than usual. “Risk factors for problem gambling include experiencing depression and anxiety and feeling isolated. We know that during the pandemic many people are reporting increases in mental health issues. Certainly, people are more isolated now.”
Moran notes that another issue that may make it more difficult to stick to that resolution is the availability of online and mobile gambling. She said, “In the past, callers have told us they would change their driving route so they wouldn’t go past the place they gambled. Now, more people are gambling using their phone, so avoidance is more difficult.” She noted a significant increase in people who are calling about online day trading and mobile apps for sports betting and casino games.”
Moran urges anyone who wants to stop or decrease their gambling to call 1-800-GAMBLER, where they can get immediate assistance. Callers to 1-800-GAMBLER speak with a helpline counselor based in Charleston, and they are referred to one of the network’s 60+ specially trained gambling addiction counselors. They receive a free two-hour consultation. Funds are available for those who do not have insurance to pay for additional treatment.
More information is available by calling 1-800-GAMBLER or visiting www.1800gambler.net.