CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia casinos are shutdown and sportsbooks are dry during the COVID-19 pandemic and the state’s gambling addiction treatment group believes this will make problem gamblers go through rapid emotional withdrawals.
Officials with 1-800-GAMBLER want to let residents know that they are fully operational and offering help during the crisis.
“We can still get people treatment,” Sheila Moran with 1-800-GAMBLER told MetroNews. “We can get them to virtual groups, virtual self-help groups, get them some online resources. I think for people who have struggled with gambling addictions, we know there are a lot, about one in 50 in the state, this is a perfect time to get help.
“People are off for a couple of weeks. Take some time, get some treatment so when the gaming opens back up you don’t have this issue.”
Moran said that problem gamblers usually try to get their sanity back when losing by betting more to earn those dollars back. She said all the sudden closures will leave people in vulnerable places.
“If you’re going to a video poker parlor or a casino every single day and that’s your full socialization and it’s gone, it’s important that during this time you look at some things you can do to replace that,” she said.
“What we find is when people just abruptly stop gambling without any treatment, without any help, they get very angry and very irritable. People are already feeling those ways being home all day so this is something that could make things a lot worse.”
Jennifer Davis-Walton, the program’s director shared her concern that people stuck at home all day, and already reeling from job loss or financial distress, may fill their time with online gambling.
She noted in a release that even though most sports competition has ceased, one popular betting site was allowing people to bet on various elements of the recent Democratic Presidential debate. She said, “People who are already in a vulnerable position may end up in an even worse situation.”
The hotline and the online chat service, which can be accessed from 1800GAMBLER.net, is filled with helpline counselors that refer callers for an in-person appointment with one of the network’s 60 or more counselors.
The network’s counselors, who are certified in gambling addiction treatment, are now available via telehealth or telephone because of the outbreak. There are also several online support groups specifically for problem gamblers.