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Gambling addiction on the rise during pandemic

Published: Aug. 7, 2020 at 4:03 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Gambling may become more of a problem because of the pandemic.

Just last year, the World Health Organization added “gaming disorders” as identifiable health disorders.

During the battle with COVID-19, we’ve been told to limit interaction with others as much as we can.

“The stay at home orders, the social isolation, are causing people to spend more time on internet searches and looking for activities to do,” says Mike Stone, executive director of the Kentucky Council on Problem Gambling.

The Kentucky Council on Problem Gambling says it’s seeing an increase in calls and texts to the problem gambling helpline, about both gaming and gambling excess.

Stone says there’s been an increase in calls and texts to gambling helplines from June to July. He says more people working from home or taking digital courses. In response, there’s more free time and less direction over online activity.

"People don't want others to know how much they gamble, well how much easier is that when you're always at home and not under any supervision," Stone says.

Stone says those most at risk are people with existing gambling problems. He says they may turn to the internet while casinos are closed. Even though the online gaming aspect seems harmless, Stone says it can go hand in hand with gambling issues.”

“There might be a pop-up ad that says you know you’ve been successful at this game, why don’t you try your hand over here at this online poker,” Stone says.

Stone says he’s not telling people to completely avoid online games or gambling, rather he wants to raise awareness on potential warning signs of greater problems. These problems could include ignoring other aspects of life or spending less time sleeping or taking part in healthy activities.

If you need help, you can call Kentucky’s Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-GAMBLER to speak to a trained phone counselor.

Copyright 2020 WKYT. All rights reserved.

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