The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling (FCCG) would like to spread a message of peace, harmony, and well wishes to those who need it most during this pandemic.
May is Mental Health Month and in 2020, that means more than ever. Over 47 million Americans suffered from diagnosable mental health disorders in 2018. These include depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, PTSD and a myriad of other issues. Compounded by these unprecedented times everyone is going through, it is ever more important to take care of yourself and your mental well-being while being mindful that people you may come in contact with could be experiencing serious difficulties.
For problem gamblers, the stress from isolation, unemployment, family conflict, or other problematic situations can lead to an increase in gambling activity, criminal behavior, and even suicidal ideation. It is no surprise that problem gamblers have a substantial rate of depression and anxiety and serious thoughts of self-harm. With an overall decrease in traditional supports available during the COVID-19 crisis, it is still vitally important that everyone knows there is still help available. From 12-step virtual/phone meetings to telehealth sessions with Certified Gambling Addiction Professionals to the FCCG’s expanded Peer Connect Program and much more, help is still very accessible through Florida’s 888-ADMIT-IT (236-4848) HelpLine to anyone that requests assistance.
COVID-19 is changing life as we know it, and it’s also leading to rapid developments in the gambling landscape. There are still many temptations for problem gamblers and many may feel the urge to step outside of their “normal” gambling behavior to stay in the action. Even though traditional facilities are still closed, gambling opportunities abound and are evolving to meet lifestyle shifts. In addition to lottery games, gamblers have turned to other options which they feel can help break up the monotony of self-isolation and stay-at-home orders. For those in recovery from or at risk for gambling addiction, the challenges are mounting. While stay-at-home and quarantine orders are enough to make anyone feel trapped, those who suffer from gambling addiction can easily be overwhelmed as they struggle to feed uncontrollable urges and replace go-to escapes.
Some of the newest gambling options include:
- Filling the void of live sports, the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) has started their professional season and will show multiple games a week on ESPN® (with Nevada and New Jersey taking odds). The networks reporters are actually giving play-by-play calls on these games.
- Recently, professional basketball players held a “stay at home” NBA 2K tournament. In the same vein, professional athletes and celebrities also held a Madden Football tournament.
- E-Sports operators have been touting sweepstakes opportunities where you can bid/bet on different packages such as having dinner with a professional athlete, going to a live game, playing sports with a pro, and many others.
- In the absence of traditional sports, FanDuel has turned the Survivor TV show into a gambling opportunity, where you can bet on the contestants much like a fantasy sports game.
- Finally yet importantly, here in Florida, sports have been deemed essential, and the UFC held its first matches on Saturday May 9, 2020, since being ordered to shut down. This is sure to ramp up quickly, as Florida is one of the few states to allow sporting events of this kind to operate at this time.
Of course, online gambling remains readily available, even though it is not legal here in Florida. There may be problem gamblers who turn to this option as well, which presents additional risks and far fewer protections.
Help and Hope are Still Available: 888-ADMIT-IT
These new options provide problem and at-risk gamblers an escape from unprecedented levels of stress and may even provide an additional rush through novelty. At a time when mental health issues are not being properly confronted and taken care of in a constructive manner, problems such as financial distress, domestic violence and family neglect could increase. It is never too late to open the channels of help and hope!
The FCCG wants everyone to know that no matter how you feel, you are not alone. The supports the Council offers are tailored to help anyone who depends on gambling to start on the path to recovery, be connected with others, and become a part of something healthy and mentally nourishing. If you or someone you know is having a problem with gambling, please contact Florida’s 24/7, Confidential, and Multilingual Problem Gambling HelpLine, which is reachable through phone at 888-ADMIT-IT (236-4848), texting to 321-978-0555, starting a live chat on gamblinghelp.org, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, and by connecting with the FCCG on social media.
 “Mental Health By the Numbers.” NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness, Sept. 2019, www.nami.org/mhstats.
 “ESPN to Televise Korea Baseball Organization Games.” ESPN, The Associated Press, 4 May 2020, www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/29132165/espn-televise-korea-baseball-organization-games.
 Helin, Kurt, and Dan Feldman. “Kevin Durant Tips off ‘NBA 2K Players Tournament’ Friday Night; Start Time and More.” NBC Sports, 3 Apr. 2020, nba.nbcsports.com/2020/04/03/nba-2k-players-tournament/.
 Heck, Jordan. “Madden NFL Players Tournament: Full Bracket, Rules, Entry List & Live Stream for Charity Event.” Sporting News, 1 Apr. 2020, www.sportingnews.com/us/nfl/news/madden-tournament-nfl-players-bracket-rules-live-stream/s7wu5jrzb7is1dp9bg8ire9kk.
 Kampis, Johnny. “FanDuel Turns to Non-Sporting Events in Age of Coronavirus.” OnlineGambling.com | OG News, 24 Mar. 2020, www.onlinegambling.com/news/fanduel-turns-to-nonsporting-events-in-age-of-coronavirus/.
 “UFC 249 in an Empty Jacksonville Arena: Best Photos.” USA Today, MMA Junkie, 10 May 2020, mmajunkie.usatoday.com/gallery/ufc-249-empty-arena-jacksonville-florida-coronavirus-photo-gallery-mma.