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Gambling problems are on the rise following COVID-19, sportsbooks and gaming

Call 1-877-770-STOP (7867) if you or a loved one is experiencing gambling problems
Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 9:48 PM CST
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - When casinos closed during the pandemic, the Louisiana Association on Compulsive Gambling says it had a dramatic drop in callers. Now, those casinos are back in business, sportsbooks have opened across the state and online gaming is booming.

And all of that is causing more callers to dial in.

Studies prove that between 100,000 and 200,000 people in the State of Louisiana have some level of problem with gambling and that the number continues to rise.

People wasted no time before placing their bets when casinos opened their doors after COVID-19 restrictions were loosened. Now, concerned family members say bad habits got worse.

Janet Miller, Executive Director of the Louisiana Association on Compulsive Gambling, says they had an increase of callers in the last year.

“When life begins to come back to somewhat normalcy they’re used to, they may reenter some of their things with addiction,” Miller said.

Miller also says they have seen something interesting recently: the rise of young callers. She said the increase in gaming, like video games and computer games, of the younger generation is transferring into problems when they get older.

“Not necessarily just a hobby or a recreational activity with gaming but also how that could be a precursor for some personalities to get into gambling,” Miller said.

She says gaming problems can start in young people and turn into gambling once they are of age.

She said most of the time people don’t think of gaming as a “problem,” but it can quickly turn into a serious problem if it is not kept under control.

“You have that element with gaming that is that unreal fantasy world that you just push reset and you start again,” Miller said.

Miller says that “reset” is transferring over to real-life situations.

“People who just get another credit card, another line of credit, or they pay off something and then they can use it for something else - it’s all of the sudden like a reset,” Miller said.

During the pandemic, the non-profit began having younger callers, many of them male. She says that she expects to see this change for at least the next few months.

“That is some change that’s coming, but I think that in 6 months to about 18 months is when we’ll really see the more dramatic change,” Miller said.

The opening of the sportsbooks across the state also brought in some callers.

“Also, we’re seeing people who wouldn’t have normally placed a sports wager - because it was illegal - are able to do so now because it’s legal and it’s more accessible,” Miller said.

Miller says many times gambling addictions can go unnoticed.

“It’s so much easier to hide it and to have it as a secret than those who drink alcohol or use drugs,” Miller said.

She emphasized how important it is to get help if it becomes a serious problem. She said her best advice is to get help if you or a loved one is keeping the addiction a secret.

“Anything that you do hidden, or secret, or you lie about, you need to tell someone,” Miller said.

If you or a loved one is battling a gambling addiction and needs help, there are treatment options available.

Gambling treatment in Louisiana is free for any Louisiana residents.

For more information on The Center of Recovery (CORE) through the Louisiana Association on Compulsive Gambling, click HERE.

There are also licensed counselors in all 10 regions of the state who can provide free counseling for gamblers or family members affected by gambling addiction.

They also provide an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for people who cannot, or need not, participate in an inpatient/residential treatment setting. For more information on IOP, click HERE.

You can also visit The Louisiana Association on Compulsive Gambling website for more information on resources and training, along with numbers or chat links to hotlines that are available 24/7.

Hotline numbers for gambling problems in Louisiana:

- Louisiana Problem Gamblers Helpline (Toll Free):1-877-770-STOP (7867): A confidential information and referral line that assists individuals in the state of Louisiana who are affected by gambling problems.

- Northwest LA Suicide Prevention Helpline (Toll Free):1-877-994-2275: This is a 24-hour, confidential suicide prevention line available to anyone in crisis or emotional distress.

- Louisiana Substance Abuse Helpline (Toll Free):1-877-664-2248: This is a confidential information and referral line that assists individuals in the state of Louisiana who are affected by substance abuse problems.

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