Helping problem gamblers avoid holiday pitfalls

Helping problem gamblers avoid holiday pitfalls
Published: Nov. 26, 2021 at 6:48 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Gambling can be a great source of entertainment, but insert the pressure of holiday gift buying and Sheila Moran says it can be a recipe for trouble.

“A lot of people think, ‘Well this is my chance. I’m going to win big, and I am going to payoff my debts, and I’m going to be able to buy everyone a big Christmas,’ and then what happens of course is that doesn’t occur, and it’s an insidious cycle.”

The Problem Gambling Help Network of West Virginia, more commonly known as 1-800-GAMBLER, can be a lifeline for those in trouble.

Moran, the group’s communications director, said the holiday season presents unique challenges. The number of calls vary each year, but the calls that counselors receive in December tend to be sadder and more desperate.

“We’ve had people tell us that they can’t afford to buy presents for their children because they have spent the money gambling,” she said. “We’ve had people tell us that they’ve had a spouse who has actually unwrapped presents they’ve had for their children and returned those to get money so they could gamble with.”

Moran’s advice is to remember that gambling is a recreational activity -- not a means of financial investment. She urged anyone lying about how much they’ve lost or needing to bet higher amounts of money for the same level of excitement to get help.

“It’s important to understand that this is a highly treatable disorder. We have free therapy, including telehealth, that we can help people through this with,” she said.

Another key is prevention. The state’s Problem Gambling Help Network urges adults to think twice before they give scratch-off tickets and online gambling gift cards as stocking stuffers, especially among children and teenagers.

Those needing help -- whether it be the gambler or their loved one -- should seek help from one of these resources.

In West Virginia and Kentucky, the Problem Gambling Help Network can be reached at 1-800-GAMBLER.

In Ohio, the Ohio Problem Gambling Helpline can be reached at 1-800-589-9966. Kentucky’s gambling resources can be found here.

Each state’s hotline also provides those needing help with an online chat option.

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