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Did you know problem gambling affects six million people nationwide? Those with problem gambling behaviors regularly experience social isolation, anxiety, stress, and depression with 20% of individuals expressing suicidal thoughts. Closures and quarantines due to COVID-19 may exacerbate this social isolation. Persons with gambling disorders are already less likely to have the health, social, financial, and recovery resources to persevere through a crisis. In fact, job losses, furloughs, and lost income may lead to increased gambling in hopes to win money.
The expansion of online gambling in Pennsylvania and the social distancing required by the COVID-19 pandemic has created the perfect storm for the person with a gambling disorder. Online gambling has increased by 30% to 40% nationwide since the pandemic impacted the United States (National Council on Problem Gambling). Online gambling has also resulted in a shift to the 18-24-year-old male age group. This new group of gamblers are attracted to sports betting and e-sports. With the cancellations of major sporting competitions, such as March Madness, there is a greater likelihood that online gambling will become a chosen activity to deal with boredom and isolation.
Although cash-strapped state governments may realize profits from increased gambling revenues as online gambling gains in popularity, there is a downside. While many individuals may gamble without negative consequences, there are others who will develop a gambling disorder. As more individuals turn to online gambling to offset isolation, the number of persons with gambling disorders will grow. Like other addictions, a gambling disorder can have devastating consequences on the individual and the family. In these financially unstable times, the behavior linked with this disorder may wreck the family’s future due to uncontrolled online betting and gaming.
Problem gambling, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, can be prevented and treated. Fortunately, problem gambling prevention and treatment services are ready to respond to family members, friends, and individuals concerned with gambling concerns. While face-to-face counseling is not currently available, helplines and online support meetings are easily accessible in the privacy of the home.
By understanding the nature of problem gambling disorder, we can take the necessary steps to respond. Below you will find a handful of resource we recommend for more information: