Since Virginia began its gambling expansion plan last year, state officials have implemented several measures to encourage responsible gaming.
Prior to the state’s online sports betting launch in January 2021, Virginian’s only form of gambling was the state lottery.
Now, they can bet on any sporting event that doesn’t include a Virginia college. Additionally, there will be four Las Vegas-style casinos in Old Dominion by the end of 2023.
In a state with more than 8.5 million people, even just a small percentage of them turning into problem gamblers will ruin a lot of lives. However, Virginia seems keen on making sure that number is as small as possible.
Defining problem gambling
First, let’s remember that problem gambling is simply another form of addiction. It’s somebody who can’t control a compulsion to gamble and will wager beyond his means.
By contrast, responsible gaming is someone who stays within their budget and only bets what they can afford to lose.
Here are some signs of problem gambling behavior, according to the Mayo Clinic:
- Being preoccupied with gambling, such as constantly planning how to get more gambling money
- Needing to gamble with increasing amounts of money to get the same thrill
- Trying to control, cut back or stop gambling, without success
- Feeling restless or irritable when you try to cut down on gambling
- Gambling to escape problems or relieve feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety or depression
- Trying to get back lost money by gambling more
- Lying to family members or others to hide the extent of your gambling
- Jeopardizing or losing important relationships, a job, or school or work opportunities because of gambling
The Mayo Clinic also laid out certain risk factors that may make someone more inclined to become a problem gambler.
It is more commonly found in younger and middle-aged people, especially men. As well as those with mental health or substance abuse problems.
The National Council on Problem Gambling designated March as Problem Gambling Awareness Month. March was chosen in part because of the uptick in gambling during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, which starts in March.
As Executive Director of the NCPG Keith Whyte said:
“March Madness is a time of year when we see an increase in gambling and more demand for our services. Too many people still don’t recognize they are exhibiting signs of this addictive behavior and are unaware of the help that is available to them.”
Virginia’s responsible gaming measures
One of the main steps in place to curb problem gambling in Virginia is the self-exclusion program. The Virginia Lottery, which regulates the gambling market, will allow gamblers to place their name on a list that will ban them from gambling activity for a designated time frame.
Virginians can self-exclude for a period of two years, five years, or a lifetime. Once you are on the list, you can not come off it until the time expired. The list is maintained by the state’s regulators and gambling operators are prohibited from taking action from anyone on it.
Furthermore, anyone on the list will not receive any “targeted mailing” from gambling companies.
Under Virginia law, targeted mailing is defined as an advertisement or promotional offer directed to an individual on the basis of a specific criteria. Many regular gamblers receive offers such as comps or free play to keep them gambling. Anyone on the list will not receive those “perks.”
In the current state of Virginia gambling, it’s relatively simple for operators to enforce the self-exclusion list. Online operators verify accounts beforehand and can easily deny access to anyone on the list.
However, in states with brick-and-mortar casinos, verification is a tougher process.
Easy access to help
Aside from the self-exclusion list, the Virginia Lottery will help gamblers get in touch with counselors that can help them treat their addiction.
Virginia instituted a problem gambling hotline that will connect a problem gambler directly with a counselor. If you think you might have a gambling addiction, you can call 1-888-532-3500 to speak with someone about your situation.
Talking to a professional can help the person understand any conflicts and psychological meanings of why they are gambling. Knowing why they are acting destructively can help alleviate the problem.
The website also links to Gamblers Anonymous, which is the largest and most recognized compulsive gambling help group on the planet.
Instead of only talking to a counselor, GA acts similarly to Alcoholics Anonymous where people with similar problems and stories come together and share them with one another. The sense of community and knowing that there are others with the same problems can help someone treat the addiction and stay away from gambling.
There are GA meetings all over the country. You can find a local meeting near you by searching GA’s website.