West Virginia’s Responsible Gambling Program Celebrates Its 20th Year

Written By Chris Imperiale on September 21, 2020 - Last Updated on March 20, 2023
Responsible gambling programs for WV casinos turn 20

Legal gambling in the Mountain State has come a long way. This September marks the 20th year in which the Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia has been assisting the state’s residents.

The network operates the 1-800-GAMBLER program that helps those in need.

Originally, the state legislature created the Compulsive Gamblers Treatment Fund, which then developed the helpline.

While these services were absolutely useful 20 years ago, they are needed now more than ever. With the way legal online gambling is expanding in the state, more residents are seeking help on how to responsibly gamble.

Besides online sports betting apps, WV now features online casinos, too. Both DraftKings Casino WV and BetMGM Casino WV are now live in the state.

More online sportsbooks have also launched in WV. William Hill Sportsbook, as well as the betly Sportsbook, made their debuts a couple of weeks ago.

The Director of Gambling Addiction Services, Jennifer Davis-Walton, spoke about how much has changed since the help network started up. According to The Independent Herald, she said:

“Twenty years ago, gambling options here were limited. Lottery tickets were available, and you could drive to one of the four casinos to watch horse and dog racing, or play the slots. No one even knew about fantasy sports. Now, most people have video poker available in their neighborhood, or they can bet on sports on their phone without leaving home.”

Whether there’s a global pandemic or not, online wagering is here to stay in WV and across the US.

Since so many more people have access to a betting platform right on their mobile device, problem gambling is more prevalent today.

Let’s take a deeper look at the Responsible Gambling Program and what resources those in WV have available to utilize.

WV Responsible Gambler Program’s 20th Anniversary

Both gambling and ways to prevent problem gambling have grown a lot in recent years. Today, issues surrounding betting are much more documented and regarded as a real addiction.

In 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual changed how it categorized problem gambling.

Instead of labeling it under the title “Pathological Gambling”, it changed to be known as a “Gambling Disorder.”

Apparently, this led to more people recognizing the seriousness of this illness.

Problem gambling was also reorganized to be regarded next to substance abuse disorders. It was previously classified under the Impulse Control Disorder umbrella.

Davis-Walton also discussed how most people view problem gambling as an actual concern in today’s society. She said:

“We are out in the community a lot talking to people about problem gambling. People used to just laugh, and ask if it was a real disorder or make a joke. Now, many share a story about someone they know who lost everything to gambling addiction.”

Even though there are only five WV casinos locations and just released mobile casinos, there are plenty of those who need help.

About one in 50 residents in the Mountain State might have a gambling problem according to the National Council on Problem Gambling.

There are even specific counties that are more impacted than others. This could have to do with their vicinity to a nearby casino or Limited Video Lottery retailers.

The following WV counties have been the source of the most 1-800-GAMBLER calls over the last few years:

  • Berkeley
  • Cabell
  • Kanawha
  • Ohio
  • Wood

Despite trends in other states that typically show men are the more frequent callers, around half of WV problem gamblers are women.

The Responsible Gambling Program helps around 500-1,200 bettors receive treatment every year.

Recognizing Gambling Problems

As online betting develops even more, the type of gambling associated with having an issue is changing.

While slots and video poker are still at the top of the list, online casino gaming is now being mentioned much more often. It wouldn’t be surprising to see online casino betting and sports wagering to join the leading reasons for callers.

Part of what the program is looking to do is be more proactive in trying to prevent problem gambling. By spreading awareness and education on the subject, people can have a better understanding of the concern.

This is especially true with kids.

Since many callers admit to starting to gamble when they were young, the program is targeting youth organizations. By examining the risk and possible outcomes that come with gambling at a young age, these kids are better equipped going forward.

One of the most difficult parts of problem gambling is recognizing that you might need help. The WV Gaming & Racing Association lists the following as signs that you may have a gambling problem:

  • You have often gambled longer than you had planned.
  • You have often gambled until your last dollar was gone.
  • Thoughts of gambling have caused you to lose sleep.
  • You have used your income or savings to gamble while letting bills go unpaid.
  • You have made repeated, unsuccessful attempts to stop gambling.
  • You have broken the law or considered breaking the law to finance your gambling.
  • You have borrowed money to finance your gambling.
  • You have felt depressed or suicidal because of your gambling losses.
  • You have been remorseful after gambling.
  • You have gambled to get money to meet your financial obligations.

If you feel that your gambling habits fall under one of these categories, then you should consider seeking assistance.

Problem Gambling Resources

There are more than enough resources to use in order to get the help you need.

Of course, the most convenient and easiest to remember is to call 1-800-GAMBLER. This helpline will put you in touch with an agent who is a specialist in gambling addiction.

They could recommend a meeting with a therapist, with a support group, or provide many other available resources. There are even certain tools that can be accessed online.

An alternative to calling is to use the website. You’re able to chat with an agent online at 1800GAMBLER.net.

Those in WV have many other services they can take advantage of, as well.

The Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia can be reached at 1-800-426-2537. There is also the National Problem Gambling Helpline. Its phone number is 1-800-522-4700.

There are a lot of places online that can also be useful. The National Center for Responsible Gaming includes support and referral sources on its website.

All of the following websites are great resources to help with problem gambling, too:

Chris Imperiale Avatar
Written by
Chris Imperiale

Chris Imperiale is currently the Managing Editor of Catena Media's US online lottery site, PlayiLottery. He used to be the Managing Editor of PlayWV, covering the sports betting and online casino industries in the Mountain State. He has a journalism degree from Rutgers University and was formerly on staff at Bleacher Report.

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