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Sharp increase in callers to Kentucky gambling helpline likely linked to pandemic

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Posted at 1:18 PM, Aug 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-06 13:18:58-04

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — The 2020 coronavirus pandemic shuttered kids and adults at home, giving way for some individuals who gamble and game to become addicted to those activities.

The Kentucky Council on Problem Gambling reports seeing at 20% jump in calls to the state helpline from June to July for those struggling with gambling and gaming addictions.

Council Executive Director Mike Stone explained, "the isolation of the pandemic plays well with the typical secrecy and isolation of problem and addicted gamblers. And that could be the same with somebody who's excessively video gaming."

He said the World Health Organization started sounding the alarm for gaming disorders in 2019 and the pandemic accelerated it for hundreds of players of all ages.

Stone said the WHO defined a gaming disorder as "people that spent too much time playing video games to their own detriment in their families, in their own health." He added that they "have seen research that indicates that there's a transference of that gaming behavior that possibly could go into gambling."

Many gamers are young people. And this year, kids have had more time for gaming with many extracurricular activities canceled due to the pandemic.

"Parents and others need to just monitor what's going on with gaming,” Stone said. “If it becomes excessive, then it might be advisable to pay more attention to what the what the young person is doing."

Stone said he hopes players realize KCPA does not want to deter them from playing.

"No, we're not saying don't play video games, we're not saying ban them. We're not saying don't gamble. We're not saying to go in and ban all gambling activities,” he said. “What we are saying is, please be responsible in your actions. And if it's gotten out of control. If you can't game--if you can't play the video games, as purely entertainment if they become an obsession. If you can't gamble as entertainment. Then it--try to recognize that and then reach out for help.”

Stone noted that 1-800-GAMBLERS is open 24 hours a day, and it's completely confidential. Its operators are ready to help anyone who reaches out across Kentucky.

"There are trained telephone counselors who have been trained about gambling addiction and how to talk to people who are who are gambling ethics or families with gambling addicts or somebody that's concerned about a gambling problem,” he said. “And they're starting to learn the basics of how to talk to people about gaming as well. They do have resources that they can refer people to all across the Commonwealth at the community mental health centers."

All in all, Stone explained there is one particular warning sign gamblers and gamers need to look out for:

"The number one, one thing, I believe, is if it's no fun anymore. If what you're doing is something that you're being driven internally to do. And you're not really enjoying it. That is when he said you need to get help.”