The legal gambling industry in Virginia is about to undergo a drastic expansion. In addition to online sports betting, the state could see as many as five brick-and-mortar casinos pop up in the coming years. Adding those categories to a landscape that already includes a state lottery means many opportunities for the majority of residents and visitors of Old Dominion to enjoy gambling.
As with any other state, however, there will be a small number of Virginians who deal with compulsive gambling issues. That’s why the VA Lottery, which is responsible for regulating gambling in the state, is working on programs to aid people with such problems.
Some facets of this initiative are still developing, like a broad self-exclusion program. That doesn’t mean there aren’t resources for people with problem gambling issues in the state right now, however.
One of the primary steps toward the treatment of problem gambling is recognizing when a person has a compulsive issue with gambling. Although there are individual factors, there are a few common traits.
What is problem gambling?
Problem gambling is exactly what it sounds like. It’s gambling that has become a problem for either an individual or people that he/she/they are connected to like family members.
This can involve financial difficulties, strain on relationships, poor job performance, and even a fully-fledged addictive disorder. The important thing is to realize that a person with compulsive gambling issues needs counseling and support, not guilt or shame in their struggles.
How do I know whether I have a gambling issue? There are a few questions to ask yourself. Depending on your answer, you may want to seek help.
- Do you frequently gamble money that you can’t easily afford to lose?
- Have you ever borrowed money to gamble?
- Do you gamble when you feel stressed about other issues?
- Have you ever opted to not make important purchases or pay bills with your “gambling money?”
- Do you recall ever selling possessions for gambling money?
- Have you had trouble setting limits on how much money and time you will spend gambling?
- Do your family and friends ever comment that you spend too much money or time gambling?
- Have you ever skipped out on family commitments or work to gamble?
- When you aren’t gambling, do you feel depressed or irritable?
If any of these things are true for you, you might have a gambling issue. The state has free resources that can help you determine your best path forward.
Free resources for Virginians with compulsive gambling issues
In conjunction with the VA Council on Problem Gambling, the lottery maintains a confidential, free, 24-hour helpline. The number to call is 1-888-532-3500.
The VACPG website also has a chat function, which you can use anonymously if you wish. The trained staff members will help you formulate a plan to get your gambling back under control.
Additionally, the National Council on Problem Gambling has a wealth of free resources as well. Gamblers Anonymous is a support group for people with compulsive gambling issues. Gam-Anon is the same thing but for family and friends of such individuals.
One of the best ways for people with such issues to control their problem gambling is to bar themselves from gambling establishments and websites. That’s going to be an option for Virginians in the near future.
Self-exclusion from gambling in Virginia
While the VA Lottery has not yet finalized its regulations for casinos and sportsbooks yet, it may do that for sports betting as soon as Sept. 15. The draft regulations do include a framework for a self-exclusion program.
The rules prevent a sportsbook from even allowing a person on the list to open an account, much less deposit funds, or place wagers. Additionally, they bar future VA sportsbook operators from marketing themselves to people on the list.
It’s likely that if voters approve casino referendums, the lottery will require casinos to abide by similar rules. In most states, self-exclusion regulations require brick-and-mortar casino operators to remove persons on the list from the premises if they are found.
The tentative program gives Virginians three options on how long they can exclude themselves: two years, five years, or for the rest of their lives. People in VA who opt for either of the shorter time frames must complete a request for reinstatement after the prescribed time frames have passed.
It’s important to note the word “self” in this program. You cannot place another individual, no matter what your relationship with that person is, on the list.
There will be one type of gambling in VA that won’t participate in the program, however. That’s more because of the practicality of the situation rather than intent.
Responsible gambling and the Virginia Lottery
With thousands of retailers, it’s impossible to effectively enforce a self-exclusion program with lottery ticket sales. That doesn’t mean the lottery throws caution to the wind here, however.
As a matter of fact, the lottery funds and runs several campaigns each year aimed at encouraging responsible gambling. Additionally, the lottery requires retailers to post information about how to access problem gambling resources.
Another type of gaming currently popular in VA is daily fantasy sports. DraftKings and FanDuel, two of the most popular companies offering these contests online, have many resources for players to limit the amount of money and time they can spend playing DFS.
The same goes for online racebooks. For example, TVG offers tools for bettors to block themselves out after a certain period of time and control what funding sources they can use to make deposits.
Like with tools for any other purpose, however, they are worthless unless utilized properly. That’s where the initiative of the individual comes into play in this situation.
Wrapping up responsible gambling in Virginia
As the gambling industry in Old Dominion continues to mature, organizations that aid problem gamblers will learn more about how to best provide their services. The key to effective treatment is the participation of individuals, however.
There are robust resources available for Virginians with compulsive gambling issues right now. As gambling in the state expands, so will those methods of treatment.