Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia hosts summit on sports gambling this week

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The new option of legal sports betting in West Virginia could lead to new kinds of gambling addictions and the director of quality assurance at the Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia said the Mountain State must be prepared.

“It’s very new, not just here but in most of the country, so there are a lot of unanswered questions,” said Sheila Moran.

On Thursday in Charleston, the Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia hosts the Sports and Gambling Summit at Northgate Business Park.

“We don’t have all the answers, so we found some folks that we know well and have done a lot of training for us in the past who do have a lot of the answers and know a lot about this subject,” she said.

Those scheduled to speak at the summit include Dr. Heather Chapman, a clinical psychologist and nationally certified gambling counselor, Julie Hynes, a certified gambling prevention specialist, and Lesa Densmore, a former NCAA Division 1 athlete who now owns LD Coaching which provides behavioral health consulting, coaching and training services with a special focus on areas of problem gambling.

Together and with others, they’ll be covering landscape, legalization, implications, risk, recovery and prevention.

“We’re bringing them to town so they can educate our counselors, educate anyone in the public who’s interested,” Moran said.

Counselors answering calls to 1-800-GAMBLER make referrals to one of the network’s more than 60 trained gambling addiction counselors and support groups.

Along with the counselors, those also scheduled to attend the Sports and Gambling Summit were some college athletic directors and kids in the education field.

“If you look at a junior high textbook for health class, you’re going to see a lot about alcohol, drugs, drunk driving. You’re not going to see a whole lot about gambling,” Moran said.

Thus far, two of West Virginia’s five casinos — Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races and The Greenbrier — have launched legal sports betting.

Mobile apps allowing for wagers to be placed off-site, but still in West Virginia are still in development.

Moran said those apps could potentially be especially attractive to kids.

“We want to make sure kids know that gambling is an adult activity,” she said.

Under the sports betting legalization law, 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.

West Virginia is one of the first states to legal sports betting after the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year struck down the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act and opened up the potential for legal sports betting across the United States.

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