Carolyn Hawley Column: Spotlight on Problem Gambling | Columnists

By Carolyn Hawley

Foreclosure, job loss, divorce: these are just three potential consequences of problem gambling, often referred to as a “hidden addiction”. How do you know that gambling has moved beyond being a fun, casual activity to becoming something more like a craving or an obsession?

People with the most severe problems will show the following symptoms: increased preoccupation with gambling; a need to bet more money more frequently; restlessness or irritability when trying to stop; “chasing” losses; and loss of control manifested by continuation of gambling behavior despite severe and escalating negative consequences. In extreme cases, compulsive gambling can lead to financial ruin, legal problems, loss of career and family, and even suicide.

As March Madness fever sweeps our nation with parentheses and sports betting is the norm, the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling, in coordination with the National Council on Problem Gambling, recognizes March as National Gambling Awareness Month. problem. Governor Glenn Youngkin signed a proclamation supporting this month-long event to raise awareness for all Virginians.

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Problem Gambling Awareness Month was established in 2014. Over the past eight years, this month has continued to shine a light on problem gambling in the United States. It also aims to highlight the wide range of options that exist for prevention, treatment and recovery for individuals and their families.

In Virginia, the game has grown more than ever. Increased opportunities to gamble increase the risk of Virginians developing gambling problems. VCPG oversees the Problem Gambling Helpline, which has been funded by the Virginia Lottery since 1997. In 2021, the Helpline responded at 114% more calls than in 2020. Callers identified issues with games of skill, slot machines, sports betting, historical horse racing. and play the lottery.

As more Virginians need support when their gambling might get excessive, we also need to see treatment options expand in the state. Fortunately, the General Assembly created the Problem Gambling Cure Fund which regularly collects revenue from operators. However, the distribution of funds remains in the distance.

The Commonwealth not only needs funding for prevention and education, it also needs more trained counselors and peer educators. The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services will lead these important efforts. The Virginia Lottery continues to be a key state partner in helping VCPG raise awareness of this issue through its Play Responsibly initiatives.

And as a gaming-neutral non-profit organization, VCPG is grateful to the new gaming operators who have joined the council to support the cause: Bally’s, Barstool Sports/Penn National Gaming, Caesars Entertainment, Colonial Downs, FanDuel and Wynn Interactive.

In the meantime, VCPG can help Virginians solve their gambling problems in an encouraging and concrete way. The members of the organization recognize that it is essential to support individuals and their families. In 2021, when we checked with callers after six months, more than 70% reported a decrease in or quitting their gambling habits. Seventy-eight percent of callers had reduced their debt. These are just a few examples of real progress.

There is information and education available for anyone who might need it. If you or a loved one needs help with a gambling disorder, we encourage you to call or text (888) 532-3500, or visit vcpg.net to chat online. As we reflect on this awareness month, let us remain positive and hopeful for the future, and for the treatment and cure that is possible.

Dr. Carolyn Hawley is president of the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling. Contact her at: [email protected]


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