CHARLESTON, W.Va.¬†—¬†Problem gambling tied to video lottery machines still leads the way in calls to the Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia, the operator of 1-800-GAMBLER, which is nearing its 20th year in operation in the Mountain State.

“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,” said Jennifer Davis-Walton, network program director.

“There’s a lot of machines out there. There’s a lot of places they can go.”

March is National Problem Gambling Awareness Month.

Davis-Walton said as many as one in 50 adults currently have a gambling problem.

“For most people, it (gambling) is a form of entertainment, but for those that development the problem, that’s who we want to reach,” she said. “We want to let them know that there is help, there is hope and there is recovery.”

Signs that gambling activity has gone beyond recreational activity include the following:

– You’ve tried unsuccessfully to cut back or quit.
– After losing money, you return as soon as possible to get even.
– You lie to family members of friends about your gambling.
– You need to bet more and more money each time you gamble.
– Gambling helps you escape your problems.
– Others have provided you with a bailout.
– You think about gambling often.
– Gambling has jeopardized relationships and opportunities.
– You feel restless or irritable when you quit gambling.

In general, Davis-Walton said healthy gambling does not interfere with daily activities.

Free, anonymous screenings are available 24/7 by calling the helpline or going online at www.1800gambler.net.

Helpline counselors are based in Charleston and can refer callers to one of the Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia’s more than 60 specially-trained counselors or support groups statewide for free, two-hour consultations, according to Davis-Walton.

Funding is available to help people who do not have insurance to pay for any necessary additional treatment.

In follow-up studies, helpline officials said the majority of callers who entered treatment via 1-800-GAMBLER were able to stop gambling within six months.

Since its launch in 2000, more than 14,000 calls have been made to the 1-800-GAMBLER helpline which is run through First Choice Health Systems.

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