Louisiana has resources in place to treat gambling addiction as sports betting grows in popularity

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) — People across the state have bet nearly $1.5 billion on sports so far this year, according to Louisiana Gaming Board Chairman Ronnie Johns.

However, some believe that a major problem is brewing in the midst of this success.

“Right now, it’s the hype. It’s the hype. They bring them in and bait them. It’s the hype, but when it’s gone, look what happens,” Matricia Green said.

Green is a Licensed Addictions Counselor and a Certified Problem Gambling Counselor.

She says the growing popularity of sports betting will lead to more people falling into addiction, and she and other advocates are preparing for what’s to come.

“When you’re dealing with a compulsive gambler, and if you don’t know how, you’re going to have a problem,” Green said.

State officials say it was a problem they anticipated when sports betting was legalized, and they put the tools in place to offer help.

“They bring these programs together because they know it’s happening,” Green said.

The Louisiana Department of Health uses $2.5 million annually from the Compulsive and Problem Gambling Fund to fund various gambling addiction treatments statewide.

Resources, guidance, and support are free to any resident of the state.

“It’s hard to create awareness, until there’s a problem,” said Robert Henson of the Office of Behavioral Health. “We have the infrastructure in place, we are ready, it’s just to let Louisiana residents know that these services are available.”

Green is happy with the state’s work, but she wants to see more. She wants to see leaders open more recovery facilities, hire more clinicians and provide training to employers so they can recognize the signs of addiction.

As she continues to plead, she wants people to know there is light at the end of the tunnel.

“There is help,” Green said.

According to a 2016 study conducted by the Office of Behavioral Health (OBH), up to 280,000 Louisiana adults may be involved in problem gambling.

Click here for a list of gambling service providers.

Family, friends and those struggling with problem gambling are encouraged to call the Louisiana Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-877-770-STOP (7867).

For more information and resources on problem gambling, visit ldh.la.gov/AddictionRecovery.

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