Individuals with gambling problems may be impacted more severely by the covid-19 pandemic due to increased individual health risks, shifting gambling preferences and reductions in access or funding for problem gambling services. Below are a list of resources for everyone to use in this trying time.
Individual health risks may be exacerbated by this time of uncertainty and stress, and job changes and financial stresses may well play a role. Symptoms may include depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts, which may trigger an urge to gamble — especially for people in recovery or those with existing symptoms of gambling addiction. Access to treatment providers like professional counselors or self-help meetings may be curtailed due to social distancing and personal illness.
Counselors and self-help meetings may be available to help address individual health risks, using phone or online platforms – see below for links. Some counselors can offer tele-therapy using online or phone video sessions; in some states, these may be covered under health insurance or Medicare – be sure to find out first before you incur costs. The National Problem Gambling Helpline is always available as well: call or text 1-800-522-4700 or use ncpgambling.org/chat.
The lack of other favorite activities, liking going to the gym or a group sports activity, or seeing a movie or performance outside the home, may no longer be available. Exercise in particular has beneficial physiological effects on mood and mental processes, and people who feel the need should seek out safe alternative opportunities for exercise.
Financial stresses may occur as people experience job changes due to the covid-19 situation. People who gamble may be tempted to think that they can make money by gambling. They should remember that in the long run, only the ‘house’ is sure to win. They should not gamble with money that they need to pay for groceries, rent or mortgage, utilities, and other necessities of daily living.
Shifting gambling preferences may include a shift to personal games with family/friends or to online gambling, including with offshore, illegal operators. People who gamble under these circumstances, as with any gambling situation, should use only legal platforms that are licensed in their state or jurisdiction. They should set a limit of the amount of time and money they want to spend on the activity before beginning, and be sure to stick to it. Other tools for responsible gambling can be found here.
Gambling operators should configure their platforms to allow and encourage the use of these personal responsible gambling tools. Gambling operators will find additional information on NCPG’s standards and verification programs, including IRGS, iCAP, RGV and other responsible gambling programs, here.
Governments, like individuals and businesses, may see their revenue fall due to the COVID-19 situation. They may be tempted to use funds that were previously earmarked for problem gambling services to put toward other purposes instead. They may consider allowing online lottery or online gambling if they haven’t already, or consider adding to the gambling options of existing platforms. They may curtail inspections and regulatory work on existing gambling. NCPG urges governments to carefully consider the potential negative effects on people affected by problem gambling and to do everything in their power to prevent harm and mitigate negative effects, both short term and long term.
The resources below are for the general public, problem gambling service providers and people in recovery.
IF YOU ARE AN NCPG AFFILIATE, we urge you to contact your local or state government using our Call to Action Template!
For additional resources, go to www.ncpgambling.org. Resources include:
• Residential/inpatient treatment programs that specialize in gambling addiction
• International Certified Gambling Counselor (ICGC) directory
• Self help including Gamblers Anonymous, Gam-Anon
• Moderated peer support forum and online workbooks
Resources for Finding Help for Problem Gambling
• International Gambling Counselor Certification Board (IGCCB) resources including teletherapy
• Expanded GA telephone meetings: New option for GA members – Gamblers Anonymous
• Meetings by phone every night of the week 9-11pm ET (GMT-4) for at least the next 2 weeks.
• Online recovery meetings: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Blocking software: http://www.gamban.com
Articles, White Papers and Helpful Information Sources
• NCPG Statement on Potential Impacts of Coronavirus on People with Gambling Problems
• The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence.
Samantha K Brooks, PhD , et al. The Lancet. February 26, 2020: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30460-8
• Wall Street Journal article about shift to online gambling and dangers to public health
Online Gambling Stands Ready as Casinos Close, Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2020
• The Guardian article about the impact of gambling ads on children
• Article with Keith Whyte interview about Coronavirus and Problem Gambling
• Article by CDC Gaming Reports about Responsible Gambling during Coronavirus
• Article by Las Vegas Review-Journal about how problem gamblers could shift to online play following the shutdown of physical casinos due to covid-19
•Press Release by Project Worth about Problem Gambling recovery providers going digital https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/nevada-gambling-recovery-providers-go-digital-301032153.html
The National Council on Problem Gambling has developed this list as a starting point for those seeking help or information about gambling problems. Gambling addiction is preventable and treatable.
The information compiled by NCPG is intended to be a starting point for individuals to learn more about problem gambling — it is not a complete list of information or services. We encourage you to ask questions, gather information and conduct research on the type of help that is most appropriate for your situation. The information, resources and links on this page will be updated periodically.