This is National Problem Gambling Awareness Month, and as March comes to a close and legal gambling expands in Virginia, now’s the perfect time to look at the help and resources that are available.
The Virginia Lottery has overseen the commonwealth’s official lottery since 1987. It also expanded its offerings with online lotto play beginning in 2020.
Additionally, lawmakers have tasked the agency with overseeing the new Virginia sports betting market. It will also regulate casino gambling when the first Virginia casinos begin to open in 2022 and 2023.
If you’re a Virginia resident, games of chance have never been so accessible.
However, when the fun stops and gambling becomes a problem, help is available. And it comes in many forms.
How to recognize a gambling problem
If you think you or someone close to you has a gambling problem, it’s important to notice the signs. After all, gambling addiction affects people from all walks of life. In all, 2-3% of U.S. adults (4 to 8 million people) would be considered problem gamblers, and 1% (2 million) estimated to meet the criteria for pathological gambling.
It’s also important to realize compulsive gambling issues require professional help, including counseling and support.
Many folks may feel guilt and shame. As a result, they may try even harder to hide their problems or be reluctant to seek out help.
PlayVirginia has a lengthy section of this site devoted to responsible gambling in Virginia. For example, it has a list of questions to ask yourself if you’re concerned about a possible gambling problem that’s affecting you or a loved one:
- Have you borrowed money, stole, or sold possessions in order to gamble?
- Do you have trouble setting limits for your gambling?
- Are your personal relationships or job suffering because of your gambling?
- Do you feel depressed or irritable when you aren’t gambling?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s time to find help that’s thankfully easily available.
Resources available for Virginia gamblers
The Virginia Council on Problem Gambling has an array of resources available. Most notably, the VA Council on Problem Gambling has teamed up with the VA Lottery for a confidential and free 24-hour helpline: (888) 532-3500.
The nonprofit organization’s offerings also include fact sheets, Q&A with gambling addiction experts, and literature for educators and professionals.
The website for the National Council on Problem Gambling is also a fantastic resource. It includes:
- A “Help by State” section with Virginia resources
- Self-help resources, including information on Gamblers Anonymous
- Problem gambling assessment tools
- A certified gambling counselor directory and treatment facility list
By law, all sportsbook operators in Virginia are also required to prominently display responsible gaming links. You can find them from the sportsbooks’ desktop site and app.
Voluntary Exclusion Program also available
Problem gamblers can also take a proactive step with the Voluntary Exclusion Program.
This self-help program allows individuals to exclude themselves from gambling activities throughout the commonwealth. The exclusion period can last two years, five years, or permanently.
The self-exclusion will include:
- Account-based lottery play (but not retail sales)
- Sports betting
- Casino gambling
- Gaming activities administered by the Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs, including charity bingo, pull-tabs, and Texas hold’em
- Gaming activities administered by the Virginia Racing Commission, notably live horse racing at Colonial Downs
More information on the self-exclusion program can be found on the VA Lottery’s website.