CHARLESTON, W.Va. — While many questions still have to be answered about how exactly sports betting will be legalized in West Virginia, one part of the new law is clear.
Contact information for the Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia must be displayed at all betting locations, whether that be at one of the Mountain State’s five casinos or via the wagering apps those casinos will eventually run.
“We were very pleased that it was added,” said Sheila Moran, director of communications for the Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia, of the provision in the law passed months before this week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
In that ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act and opened up the potential for legal sports betting across the United States.
West Virginia is positioned to be among the states first out of the gate with the addition because of the law passed during the 2018 Regular Legislative Session.
While the West Virginia Lottery works to develop regulations, the counselors who take calls and online inquiries at the Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia will be trained over the next 60 days to address sports betting calls.
Counselors based in Charleston make referrals via the helpline to one of the network’s more than 60 trained gambling addiction counselors and support groups statewide.
Currently, Moran said, most people seeking assistance because of a gambling addiction through the Problem Gamblers Help Network are playing slot machines or video poker usually as a form of escape from depression, anxiety or other issues.
For people who bet on sports, the motivating factors are often different.
“Sometimes it’s people, who tend to be more likely to be male, sometimes they’re gambling with an idea that this is something they’re really good at, this is a way they’re going to make a lot of money,” Moran explained.
“When that doesn’t happen that can be really be hard to deal with and, in fact, we find that they’re somewhat less likely to call for help because of that.”
As sports wagering goes legal, Moran said it may appeal more now to people who had been reluctant to make bets illegally without regulatory infrastructure.
For others, the legalization will represent a different way to do something they’ve already been doing for years.
“We always say, it’s not just about how much money that you’re spending. It’s how much time you’re spending. It’s about how it’s impacting your life,” Moran told MetroNews.
The Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia offers a quiz about gambling habits at its website: 1800gambler.net.
Answers to a couple of questions can determine potential problem gambling.
— Do you ever lie to anyone about gambling? How much money you’re spending? How much time you’re spending? Where you’re going?
— Are you betting more and more? Did you start out with $5 bets and now they’re $500 bets?
With sports wagering as an option possibly as soon as this fall in West Virginia, “We will get more calls,” Moran predicted.