During the COVID-19 pandemic, people are being encouraged to isolate for our health and safety, but experts now warn that solitude may be a breeding ground for another big problem: online gambling addiction.
“Our purpose is to raise awareness that this can happen and that people need to be careful about how they participate in the games,” said Mike Stone, executive director of the Kentucky Council on Problem Gaming.
More time at home often means more time in front of a screen. The Kentucky Council on Problem Gaming said that’s where the odds of a problem can grow. The state hotline has seen an uptick in calls.
“The increase from last month to this month was about 20 percent, from June to July was about 20 percent,” Stone said.
Mike Rosen, the vice president of clinical services at Cincinnati’s Center for Addiction Treatment, said the data is still being collected. Right now, they’re not seeing signs of a major rise in addiction.
He said some warning signs to monitor in yourself and others include missing money, excess money and shifting moods surrounding online activities like video games, sports or TV poker.
“Once people start developing a deeper and deeper problem, it becomes more isolating in itself and more distancing then,” Rosen said. “The outside world just starts to go gray.”
He said while social distancing is key, isolation can turn a small problem into something critical.
“We have to be recognizing that as different people are experiencing this crisis in different ways, there’s this common thread still that says this is strange and this is new to us, so what’s it like for you?” Rosen said. “What ways are you coping?”
Ohio and Kentucky both have gambling addiction hotlines and online support available if you think you or someone you know has a problem.
In Ohio, call 1-800-589-9966. In Kentucky, call 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537).