Local gambling helpline spreading awareness for problem gambling month

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(WTAP) - For national problem gambling awareness month, a West Virginia help network is spreading awareness about its resources to help those struggling.

The Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia says there are several signs of gambling problems, but there are two quick questions to ask yourself or a loved one.

1. Have you ever lied about gambling?
2. Have you ever bet more than you intended?

If you answer yes to either question, they say it’s an indicator that you might have problem gambling behavior going on, and might want to reach out for help.

The help network operates a helpline at 1-800-GAMBLER.

“Gambling addiction, we call it the silent addiction.” Explains outreach coordinator Jeremy Smith. “It’s not something that somebody can see from the outside, it’s something that someone carries around with them themselves.” While the Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia has taken more than 14,000 calls from West Virginians seeking help, they say there are far more people who need help in the area but are not asking for it. Smith adds, “A lot of times somebody is too embarrassed to seek out help, or they really just don't do it until things have gotten extremely bad.”

The help network says follow-up studies show that the majority of callers are able to stop gambling within six months of entering treatment.

Smith says it’s no coincidence that problem gambling awareness month falls in March, as betting on March Madness basketball tournaments can turn into an issue for some people.

“West Virginia is unique because we have a lot more availability to gamble in West Virginia compared to other states.” Smith says. “We have the video lottery machine terminals that are available throughout the state. There's over 6,000 of those machines available. And then you can also bet at the casinos and then West Virginia was unique by expanding sports betting last year.”

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