Local help is available to treat gambling addiction
Gambling is estimated to be an estimated $12 billion industry in Virginia. Four major casinos are planned for the commonwealth. Research estimates 1% to 3% of people who place a bet would be classified as having a gambling problem.
Virginia Council on Problem Gambling cites nine symptoms to identify an individual having problems with gambling. Anyone with up to five of those symptoms has a “mild” addiction, while adding one or two more is classified as ‘moderate’ and anyone with eight or all nine is considered a severe addiction.
Willard Robertson is a problem gambling specialist at Highlands Community Services. He will focus on education and awareness. The position is not available at the Bristol Casino. Virginia's General Assembly approved legislation to make gambling awareness a requirement in public schools. It is also working on developing a curriculum. Many charitable organizations rely on slots-like electronic pull-tab machines to help with fundraising efforts. They are also more accessible than sports betting machines. There are many places where people can gamble. Some operators may not monitor players. For example, there are places like gas stations where one can place bets.
Robertson believes unregulated, untaxed "gray machines" offer the greatest opportunity to abuse the system in Virginia due to widespread accessibility without accountability. Robertson is asking for help to get the word out about the grey machines and how to help those who can't control their gambling addiction.
Gambling addiction or problem gambling is similar to alcohol and drug addiction. It can destroy families, be hard financially and emotionally. Suicide rate is higher among people with serious problem betting issues. There are chapters of Gambler’s Anonymous and Gam-Anon. There is also Gamblers Anonymous meetings held in Asheville, North Carolina and Princeton, West Virginia. and other locations in Tennessee and Virginia, and in Herndon and Richmond in Virginia and Chattanooga and Murfreesboro in Tennesse. The statistics show 61% of problem gamblers also have an alcohol issue.