The unfortunate truth about any expansion of gambling is that a potential expansion of problem gambling coincides with it.
With online gambling underway in West Virginia, the Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia is hosting a summit this week to discuss the effects on problem gamblers in the state.
The Sports & Gambling Summit will meet in Charleston’s North Business Park on Thursday. Attendees will spend the morning in sessions about both the current status of sports betting in West Virginia and the effects gambling can have on athletes.
Problem gambling a concern in WV
The group’s director of quality assurance, Sheila Moran, told WV Metronews that the summit springs from the group’s desire to understand the new avenue for problem gamblers.
“It’s very new, not just here but in most of the country, so there are a lot of unanswered questions,” Moran said. “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.”
The “folks” in question are three guest speakers who can educate PGHN counselors and personnel through their vast and diverse expertise. They are:
- Dr. Heather Chapman
- Clinical psychologist
- Nationally certified gambling counselor
- Board-certified clinical consultant for National Council on Problem Gambling
- Julie Hynes
- Certified prevention specialist
- Coordinator for Problem Gambling Prevention Program at Prevention Lane
- Lesa Densmore
- Owner, LD Coaching
- Provider for behavioral health consulting, coaching, and training services
- Specializes in problem gambling and other process addictions
Who is the Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia?
The Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia is a nonprofit organization funded by the Compulsive Gamblers Treatment Fund. The organization counsels problem gamblers in the Mountain State via their phone hotline, 1-800-GAMBLER.
The PGHN employs more than 60 counselors who are trained to work through gambling addictions. The organization also conducts support groups for problem gamblers.
Moran explained that part of the summit’s purpose was to standardize some of the available information about gambling addiction. That’s part of the reason that area athletic directors and student-athletes will likely attend the conference.
Sports betting is a reality of West Virginia life now
The summit is likely a prudent meeting to educate both responders to and potential victims of problem gambling. Understanding the problem inside and out will allow the counselors to guide patients to recovery, and perhaps the kids who attend won’t have a problem in the first place.
Like it or not, sports betting is here to stay in West Virginia. Two of the five casinos in-state offer sports betting. Two of the remaining three should open within a month or so.
Even the fifth casino, The Mountaineer, just signed a partnership with William Hill. It would be a surprise if all five casinos did not offer a sportsbook by mid-2019.
So, as people adjust to the new activity, some West Virginians will inevitably fall into a self-destructive pattern. It’s good that the PGHN is getting out in front of the issue.