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Did you know that problem gambling affects six million people nationwide? Or that people grappling with problem gambling behaviors often experience social isolation, anxiety, stress, and depression, with 20% expressing suicidal thoughts? Unfortunately, the pandemic may lead to a worsening of those issues. While closures and quarantines may exacerbate social isolation, persons with gambling disorders may be less likely to have the health, social, financial, and recovery resources to persevere through a crisis. What’s more, people who suffer job losses, furloughs, and lost income may turn to gambling in an effort to win money.
The expansion of online gambling in Pennsylvania has combined with social distancing protocols to create a perfect storm for individuals already struggling 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, who are attracted to sports betting and e-sports.
As online gambling gains in popularity, cash-strapped state governments may realize profits from increased gambling revenues. But there is a downside. While many individuals may gamble without negative consequences, others 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.
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 may not be 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: