We are still in the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, and with the correlating increased risks for problem gamblers, there has never been a more important time for widespread public awareness that there is help and hope available through the 888-ADMIT-IT HelpLine – especially for those who are suffering alone right now, in silence.
Anyone needing problem gambling help should know that Florida’s 24/7, Confidential, and Multilingual Problem Gambling HelpLine remains fully operational, with support continuing uninterrupted and accessible, including by calling 888-ADMIT-IT (236-4848), texting to 321-978-0555, starting a live chat on gamblinghelp.org, and reaching out to the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling (FCCG) on Facebook or Twitter.
In response to quarantine guidelines, we have also expanded our Peer Connect Program availability, which gives problem gamblers and concerned loved ones the opportunity to speak directly with an individual in recovery for gambling addiction, providing invaluable perspective and insight in understanding this hidden addiction and how to move forward. HelpLine callers can now schedule Peer Connect calls for weekday mornings and evenings, as well as during the weekend.
The FCCG has also identified telephone, online, and other distance or remotely accessible problem gambling supports in March that can aid those in need during these special circumstances. Updates include gambling addiction mental health treatment and counseling options as well as virtual self-help support group meetings. In addition, new and enhanced crisis services developed in response to COVID-19, such as the Florida Blue HelpLine, and Disaster Distress HelpLine, are also available as resources for anyone experiencing feelings of stress, anxiety, trauma, and grief due to the current health crisis.
Why the Crisis Affects Problem Gamblers More Than Most
Research has shown that social isolation, anxiety, stress, and depression are all associated with higher rates of gambling problems, and current COVID-19 closures and quarantines will only exacerbate these issues. Recent financial related impacts from job loss, furloughs, and lost income may lead to more gambling of all types in hopes of winning money just to survive. Stimulus checks once received, may also be viewed as an unexpected “big win” for at-risk and problem or recovering gamblers. Problem gamblers are also less likely to have health, social, financial, and recovery capital, which makes them less likely than others to recover from a crisis like this.
The risk for relapse is high right now, especially for those in early recovery, many of whom are being bombarded by ads for online gambling. Nationally, there have been reported increases in online gambling as many gamblers shift from casino or other gambling types to online gambling and social casino or gaming sites. There have been reports of surges in online gambling participation in regulated U.S. online gambling states (note that online gambling has not been legalized in the State of Florida). So far, online poker has been the most frequently cited gambling type, with the biggest increase in the United States, according to data collected to date by the National Council on Problem Gambling.
Are exotic bets on unusual sports, or politics, or entertainment, or the weather, the new normal? There are a lot of sure bettors who used to gamble on only skill-based games or “sure” things, and they are now betting on these “exotic” and “futures” bets that are not typical, simply because that is all that is available to them.
Confidential Help & Hope Continue to Be Available 24/7 Through the 888-ADMIT-IT HelpLine
The month of March 2020 marked the beginning of the end of life as we had previously known it. People around the world are all grappling with new restrictions, requirements, and regulations designed to limit the spread of COVID-19. For many, these sudden and dramatic lifestyle changes are resulting in increased stress, anxiety, and boredom.
A point of comfort is that Florida’s 888-ADMIT-IT HelpLine is actively adapting to the situation to continue to provide the most effective and relevant resources available for problem gamblers and their loved ones. Help and hope are just a call away. The HelpLine can also be reached by texting to 321-978-0555, starting a live chat at gamblinghelp.org, and reaching out to the FCCG on Facebook or Twitter.
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